Mermaids hold a special place in many hearts. However, most Western fans are introduced to them through The Little Mermaid.
But like any magical creature, they can be horrific! My first exposure to Rumiko Takahashi’s Mermaid Saga came from the OVA version of Mermaid’s Forest with Japanese subtitles on VHS.
This might have been my first time seeing anything from Rumiko Takahashi, and I loved it! This review focuses mainly on the manga, but you can’t go wrong with the OVAs or the entire animated series.
Just be warned, you might not be able to enjoy the Disney version of The Little Mermaid after this!
What is Mermaid Saga?
Mermaid Saga is a collection of nine stories over 16 chapters involving Yuta and Mana. Viz Media released the manga in two collector editions, two OVAs, and an anime adaptation by Central Park Media and TMS Entertainment, respectively.
Legend says that if you eat mermaid flesh, you’ll live forever. But there’s more to it than that. If you’re lucky, you’ll die.
If not, you’ll either turn into a monster, called a Lost One or Deformed One, or you’ll have your life extended without knowing when it’ll end. Yuta has been alive for 500 years, and he’s looking for a way to turn back into a normal human.
Mana was raised in a mermaid village so they could eat her and retain their youth. The two will encounter mermaids, other immortals, Lost Ones, and other unfortunate victims.
Taken separately by the story, each tale has a solid foundation. You learn the horrors of mermaid flesh and witness the aftermath of humans/immortals willing to risk everything to achieve their goals.
But for those who like to binge, specific questions keep popping up. For example, how much flesh do you have to eat to gain immortality?
Yuta only ate a bite before watching his companions either transform or die. But other characters ate a bite, and they got different reactions.
Are mermaids going extinct? Most of the mermaids we see outside Mana’s backstory are dead or soon killed.
We never see a merman, so why do the mermaids try to kill Yuta? Immortality doesn’t mean you can’t be killed, so producing offspring should have been a factor at some point.
The perfect treat for a horror fan
What’s the worst thing that can happen when you eat mermaid flesh? What if you don’t eat the meat but drink some mermaid blood?
Or be exposed to mermaid ashes? All of these and more are explored in Mermaid Saga. We even encounter someone older than Yuta!
But I wish there was more! We never see Yuta achieve his goal, and there’s the strongly hinted romantic interest between him and Mana.
Mermaid Saga can easily be expanded upon, and I would love to see Yuta and Mana again. I’d recommend Mermaid Saga to anyone who likes Inuyasha.
The ocean is deep, and there’s more to discover! Just be careful if someone asks you to eat something and won’t tell you what it is!