Geneon // 2003 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Byun (Retired) // April 13th, 2006
Get ready for more gothic horror, Japanese style!
In Bitter Flesh, the second volume of Rumiko Takahashi's (Ranma 1/2, Inu Yasha) moody horror series, Mermaid Forest, our heroes Yuta and Mana -- a young man and woman who are older than they appear, having become immortal from eating the flesh of a mermaid -- continue their journey to find a cure for their condition, and to find others of their kind. As with the previous volume, Quest for Death, this disc offers three episodes:
* "Mermaid Forest (Part I)" and "Mermaid Forest (Part
Fans of the 1991 OAV release of Mermaid Forest will recognize this two-part episode as more or less a retelling of that story, though this version is more faithful to the original manga. Mana is run over by a truck while following a stray kitten into a road, and disappears after being taken to a local doctor. The doctor claims she wandered away after he treated her, but Yuta suspects he's up to something. Yuta's search for Mana leads him to an old mansion deep within a forest, inhabited by two women, one old, the other young (but white-haired). A story that vividly embodies the "gothic horror" theme of the series, "Mermaid Forest," like many of the stories, is all about twisted family relationships, dark secrets from the past, and sheds more light on the frightening and unpredictable effects of eating mermaid flesh.
* "The End of the Dream"
In this story, reminiscent of Frankenstein and King Kong, Yuta and Mana encounter a Deformed One, a beastly humanoid creature wrapped in bandages from which two huge, grotesque eyeballs protrude, that has been terrorizing the nearby village for decades. When the Deformed One kidnaps Mana, Yuta and an old man from the village -- who lost an eye trying to kill the monster years earlier -- set off to rescue the girl. Naturally, the monster doesn't turn out to be quite what he seems. This tragic episode is one of my favorites of the series so far, but suffers from trying to fit an epic tale into less than half an hour.
As a fan of Takahashi who greatly enjoyed the earlier (and woefully incomplete) OAV series of Mermaid Forest, I find this new series to be quite a treat. Not only is there simply more of the story, being a complete adaptation of the manga, but the animation and character designs do justice to Takahashi's distinctive style. The series clearly wasn't made on a top-shelf budget, though, and the artwork tends towards the run-of-the-mill, lacking nuance and detail. And while the English-language voice acting has grown on me since the first volume, it's still a little colorless; I'd be hard pressed to recognize either Yuta or Mana without seeing their faces, something I wouldn't have said about Ranma 1/2.
Mermaid Forest, Vol. 2: Bitter Flesh, like the previous volume, provides a clear, clean transfer, free of major defects. The color palette in this series is brighter and more vivid than I remember the OAV being, and the DVD presents the colors quite well; while the artwork is certainly not the major draw of the series, it's pleasant to look at. English and Japanese audio tracks are provided, in Dolby Digital 2.0, and both tracks are clean and bright. Extras, once again, are minimal, with just an art gallery and set of three previews for Geneon titles.
The archetypal "wandering hero" premise never seems to get old, as it provides endless possibilities for stories of all kinds. Mermaid Forest is no exception; it's a reliably entertaining series with appealing protagonists, intriguing mysteries, and a truly creepy, ominous atmosphere that often blossoms into full-on horror. This being the creation of Rumiko Takahashi, though, there's an impish sense of humor that offsets the otherwise serious tone.
Mermaid Forest, Vol. 2: Bitter Flesh is cleared of all charges, though the court must reprimand this series for putting it off of sushi for a long, long time.
Review content copyright © 2006 Bryan Byun; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Production Art Gallery
* Geneon Previews