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[ café reviews ]

Ningyo no Mori
(Mermaid Forest)

Copyright: © 1985 Shogakukan / Kitty © 1992 US Manga Corps.
Genre: Action / Adventure / Occult
Length: 55 minutes
Rating: NR, Parental Guidance Advised
Format: Original Japanese Dialog, Subtitled (VHS), English Dubbed (VHS)

Director: Kanemura Katsuyoshi Screenplay: Okubo Masaichiro Music: Kawai Kenji

[ rated m ]


Parental Guidance Advised

  • Profanity: None

  • Sex/Nudity: There are a few scenes of upper body nudity as well as a bathing scene

  • Violence: Several scenes of blood, violence and killing. Due to the immortal nature of the two main characters, there is a fair amount of violence and fighting.

[ plot summary ]

vhs jacket

The year is 1936 and Yuta is finally tired of travelling by himself throughout Japan and has decided to look for a fellow traveller like himself. 500 years is a long time to live and travel by oneself afterall. Unfortunately, Yuta's wanderings have attracted the attention of the police and when trying to escape from the police and the militia, ends up getting shot and killed. However, when the clean-up squad arrive, they find only a bloody set of footprints heading off into the distance. He was dead... wasn't he?

At the same time, in the Noto Hanto area, a young lady lay dying at home. Her younger sister, Sawa, determined to save her older sister gives her sister medicine from the Mermaid Hill. However, the effects are anything but what was expected. Her sister's right arm changes into a monstrous claw. The medicine? Mermaid's blood. Legend has it that mermaid's flesh can grant eternal life, so what could a mermaid's blood do? Unfortunately, unknown to most who seek immortality is the fact that mermaid's flesh is poisonous and most people who eat it die. The lucky ones that is. The unfortunate ones usually end up poisoned and forever changed into monstrous creatures. Very few end up as normal people with life eternal.

Fifty years later, Yuta has found himself a travelling companion, Mana. Wandering the seaside, Mana slips from a cliff and plunges to her death. Thinking to use the freshly dead body to aid Towa, Dr. Shina takes the body up to the mansion on the hill where Sawa and Towa live still. Sawa is an old woman of 70 years; Towa a young lady still unchanged from 50 years earlier.

Looking for his companion, Yuta wanders into the Kannagi estate. However, things are not all as they should be...

[ capsule review ]

Rumiko Takahashi, the author of popular anime titles such as Ranma 1/2 and Maison Ikkoku as well as OAV animes Fire Tripper and Laughing Target brings us the mermaid OAVs from Rumik World. Takahashi delivers a fairly straightforward plot in this horror story; but added to the hunt for immortality is also a love story as well as a story of long-sought revenge. The idea of hunting for immortality is nothing new as a general story plot line, however the addition of unreliable results adds an interesting twist to the old story.

For some reason, horror stories tend to be fairly uncommon in anime. Decent story line and characters combined with overall direction and music is a rarity. Unfortunately, Mermaid Forest doesn't quite qualify overall either. It does have a decent story and plot line, but the music tends to be quite unremarkable in this OAV. Likewise, the animation is more akin to TV quality anime. The backgrounds tend to be fairly static and simplistic although the clean lines and simple designs helps to develop a dark feel to the story.

Yuta's character has a decidedly experienced "been there, done that" feel and certainly he seems to be quite familiar with mermaids and people who have sought immortality. Mana on the otherhand is a bit odd and asks questions which one might expect of a 5 year old rather than a young lady who is immortal. Unfortunately we have no indication of when she ate mermaid's flesh but, one can certainly assume that she is older than 5. The attempt to make her seem innocent just doesn't sit well and makes her sound rather simple and stupid instead. A definite problem with the script-writing and the voice acting here; perhaps a touch more thoughtfulness in her lines would have made the questions more philosophical instead were that the intent. Unfortunately, since the story does follow-up on these (maybe philosophical?) questions, it does tend to leave a hint of an unpleasant feel overall.

The one problem I do have with the story is the idea of hanging all ideas of scientific knowledge for the sake of a Frankensteinian story. This is an all too common event in horror stories (let alone science fiction), where they try to use some form of not science, but popular science. Unfortunately popular science and reality are generally far from being one and the same.

Another problem I have with the story (regardless of the scientific objections) is that if cutting off the head of a being which has eaten mermaid's flesh is supposed to kill it, how did Towa expect to switch bodies with Mana? Never mind the total lack of any equipment, sanitary conditions, anaesthesia??

However, for those who are able to accept the storyline as given and are looking for a horror OAV, this makes for a decent watch. Overall, the translations while fairly literal are well done although there are a couple of awkward translations as well.
- JYN, 00.05.29

[ café rating ]

Original: Subbed: Dubbed:
Story: N/A 4 stars N/A
Direction: N/A 4 stars N/A
Acting: N/A 3 stars N/A
Animation: N/A 3 stars N/A
Music: N/A 4 stars N/A
Translation: N/A 4 stars N/R
Overall Rating: N/A 3 stars N/A

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