Once again, I remind you all that this is a golden time for manga lovers. The reprinting of the legendary Rumiko Takahashi classics is only one reason to celebrate! As I mentioned in my review of Maison Ikkoku, I’d read some of her work earlier. Like, way back in the day, Ranma One-Half and Mermaid Saga. Before Inuyasha even came on the scene. I actually still have some of those issues: randomly found issues in the comic book style floppies of those manga series that were pubbed in the ’90s.
I loved those stories. I mean, I couldn’t make much sense of them since I was reading the issues out of order, but I loved the fantasy elements in them. The way magic was woven through the pages. In Mermaid Saga, there was definitely a supernatural aspect in the storytelling along with an element of darkness that I remember vividly.
The manga follows Yuta, who became immortal when he unwittingly ate mermaid flesh, and now he seeks a way to become human again. He longs to have a normal life once again where he can one day, die. The world keeps changing and everything and everyone he once knew is mostly gone. His will keeps him sane while he follows rumors and truth to achieving his goal. Hundreds of years later, he encounters a determined and quite volatile young lady named Mana. Her mysterious origins lead him deeper down a rabbit hole that the mermaid myth has roots in several places in Japan and he’s nowhere closer to saving his humanity.
Balancing the horror and romance genres nearly perfect with a supernatural flavor, Takahashi plays up the traditional mythical creatures of her homeland. With a narrative that covers generations, Yuta and Mana are characters thrown into this tale of tragedy and misfortune and the lives of both humans and those not touched by the curse of the existence of mermaids. With each chapter, they find new faces but also more breadcrumbs of where to go and new vessels filled with the horrible cocktail of emotions caused by being in the proximity of being near any parts of a mermaid of old.
There is a revolving door of minor characters; some lured in by the promise of immortality, others changed into monsters in human form by jealousy or hate, others bystanders with little to no agency to truly help those in need. The interaction of these characters not only flesh out the chapters but the overall story. No matter where our duo goes–there’s bound to be someone touched by the stories of the mermaids. Mixed in with all of this are the hi-jinks, the comedic bits (Mana and Yuta’s banter each chapter) that made me chuckle through reading. It is very much the Rumiko Takahashi formula of ‘giving you a bit of everything’ in yet another story that will captivate you and stay on the brain well after you finish reading.
For a manga from the 80’s, the book does seem to have aged well, thankfully. Newer manga fans might find her artwork a bit on the plain side but for folks like me who have a history with her work will probably feel right at home in familiar territory. Reading from page to page draws me back to that artwork that is so familiar–these black and white panels with that element of darkness deliciously flavoring this story. Mana, once confined to a secluded village and kept away from the outside world goes from barely being able to even walk to exploring Japan with Yuuta, confronting wicked men, and even standing up to protect those whose lives have been wrecked by circumstances related to the elusive mermaids. It’s that old tied and true Rumic Theatre ‘plucky heroine ‘that I love in her work that I refuse to apologize for.
There are tales of young love never realized, sisterly obligation turned obsessive, and more than one plight of someone wishing to obtain in death what in life they desired most. In short, this series is a saga in itself and worth rereading. This newer Collector’s edition features a beautiful cover and –ten pages of fully colored illustrations that are almost too gorgeous to look at. A definite treat to enhance this new reprint of a loved classic from a master. Having longtime translator Rachel Thorn onboard for the English translation is only a plus in my book!
At all most 400 pages, the first volume is a two in one, perfect for long time fans and new fans alike. The Viz website notes that the rating is “Teen+”. Manga published by them in that category usually is more suitable for older teens and adults. For example, may contain intense and/or gory violence, sexual content, frequent strong language, alcohol, tobacco and/or other substance use.
This volume should be suitable for an older teen who loves manga versus a tween just now becoming a teenager. There’s more than a spot of female nudity than there was in Maison Ikkoku, obviously because of the nature of mermaids, but nothing that would push this into the category of those manga that get shrink-wrapped in plastic at the bookstores. There’s slight gore, blood, and violence, but not enough to be overwhelming. Not enough to fly into the mature category, a la Berserk.
Legendary manga creator Rumiko Takahashi, who was finally honored with an induction into the Eisner Hall of Fame back in 2018 pushes her stars evermore into the spotlight, which means newer manga fans today get a taste of this veteran’s brilliance. Who is this manga for? The folks who want an older, established series with a horror-slash-supernatural flair, the “vintage” manga lovers, and most certainly fans of Rumiko Takahashi. Mermaid Saga has been a recommendation that I’ve passed on to mermaid lovers who also love comics for such a long time, even before the iconic series found its way to being reprinted this year.
Mermaid Saga Collector’s Edition, Vol. 1 is now available through Viz where most manga is sold.
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