Geneon // 2003 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Byun (Retired) // April 13th, 2006
A monster who survives by eating the fresh livers of living animals. What is the world coming to?
Unquenchable Thirst, the third collection of Rumiko Takahashi's (Ranma 1/2, Inu Yasha) moody horror series, Mermaid Forest, continues the quest of Yuta and Mana, a young man and teenage girl cursed with immortality from eating mermaid flesh, which can grant eternal life...or transform the unlucky eater into a mindless monster. This third and penultimate volume contains three episodes:
* "Bone Princess"
A flashback episode from Yuta's past, this story finds a wandering Yuta rescuing a young girl from a monk, who is intent on killing her. The girl, Natsume, and her father are street performers; as part of the act, Natsume is seemingly mortally wounded, only to miraculously heal her injuries. This, of course, raises Yuta's suspicions, and he's only mildly startled to find that the father is selling, of all things, mermaid flesh to his gullible audiences. One of the benefits of having a main character who's 500 years old is that there's a great deal of room for flashback stories, and this is a quite enjoyable, straightforward tale, with a poignant finale.
* "The Last Face (Part I)" and "The Last Face (Part
Yuta and Mana come across a young boy who has narrowly escaped a kidnapping -- by leaping out of a moving car -- and is able to heal his wounds instantly by taking some kind of mysterious medicine. Yuta believes the "medicine" may in fact be mermaid flesh, and he and Mana befriend the boy in order to figure out what's going on. They meet the boy's family, an elderly grandmother, and a younger woman who claims to be the boy's mother -- something the grandmother angrily denies. Is the woman in fact the boy's mother? What is the grandmother hiding? And what's the connection of the man who kidnapped the boy to this monumentally dysfunctional family? "The Last Face" is a complicated and genuinely puzzling mystery, a supernatural family melodrama with some truly horrific moments. (There's a scene involving a woman and a face she keeps in a box that made me turn away from the screen.)
This new Mermaid Forest series is part of the "Rumiko Takahashi Anthology" collection by Geneon, and for any fan of Takahashi's earlier works, like Ranma and Maison Ikkoku, it's a delight to see some of these older, shorter stories brought to DVD. While this telling of the Mermaid Forest story isn't nearly as dark and gloomy as the earlier OAV, which did a better job of making Yuta's immortality feel like a curse and not just a useful superpower, it's also not as oppressively depressing, a quality which has caused me to drop out of other horror-themed anime series. Of course, this new series is also less visually impressive than the OAVs, with a more generic look, and corners have obviously been cut with the animation. Still, since I never expected Mermaid Forest to ever be continued in any form since the two VHS releases over ten years ago, I'm happy to be watching the complete series at all.
Geneon presents Mermaid Forest, Vol. 3: Unquenchable Thirst with a lovely, nearly flawless transfer, with bright colors and clean lines. The animation may be run of the mill, but it's well represented and adequate to the task of bringing the moody, spooky stories to life. English and Japanese audio tracks are offered in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, and dialogue is clear and the music and sound effects are energetic and fairly active. Special features, once again, are the bane of this set, with just an art gallery and Geneon previews provided. Given that there are only three episodes on each of the first three volumes, it's disappointing that Geneon didn't fill that extra space with supplements.
If there's one major disappointment with the Mermaid Forest series, it's that the series isn't longer. There's clearly the potential here to create a much longer story, on the scale of Maison Ikkoku or Inu Yasha, but for whatever reason, Takahashi moved on to other projects, leaving the tale unfinished and its potential sadly wasted. Still, this is one of Takahashi's most memorable stories, and an interesting change of pace from her wackier, more action-oriented work.
Mermaid Forest, Vol. 3: Unquenchable Thirst is found not guilty, though hefty fines will have to be levied for the deplorable lack of extras...and for that nauseating "face" scene.
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