What would you do or what price would you pay to become immortal? That’s the question that Rumiko Takahashi’s most experimental and darkest manga sets out to examine and explore. In this manga, we follow a certain protagonist named Yuta after he ate the flesh of a Mermaid accidentally hundreds of years ago. A man completely out of time and all he can do is wandering Japan to find a Mermaid to change him back.
One thing, out of many, that Mermaid Saga is good at is establishing the rules of gaining immortality. For instance, there is a small chance of that happening. Most people who partake in mermaid flesh become monsters or you can kill an immortal by cutting their heads off. There are plenty of cases of where partial immorality happens by the partaker only gaining youth on the outside. All of which plays into the episodic adventure of this manga.
This manga volume is nine chapters long and each location at least takes up two chapters. So we get the adventure of Yuta going from place to place and the inherent greed of people around him. It’s a little jarring seeing similar things happen again and again in different villages and towns just to see the human greed again and again. Yuta shows up “dead”, gets captured or the immortal girl Yuta found Mana, gets captured. It is a little annoying seeing it happen again and again.
Still, it allows the story to be Rumiko Takahashi’s darkest yet, so I can see why the manga goes this route. So that gets a pass. When looking at humanity and the search for immortality, darkness is naturally attached to this sort of content. Dig deep it does. Some of her humor does make it through but it’s minimal at best. Everything about this manga is grounded and the only super natural thing are mermaids and mermaid flesh. Sounds minor, but as we’ve seen, it does so much. It’s crazy and pretty solid.
The second selling point on top of the exploration of humanity is Mermaid Saga’s art. It’s so good, holy crap. You can tell that this was one of Rumiko Takahashi’s passionate projects, because her drawings are incredible. Her character designs are her characters designs, but the background art. Man, if I could live off the mood and art from the towns she creates, I would. In fact, I would just want to live in them. It works with the grounded story Rumiko is telling too. Everything is put into creating this project.
I will say that this manga is a good read. It has some faults with repetition in terms of story, but it digs into human themes by examining greed and deceit underneath a microscope. I’m very curious to read Volume 2 when it appears. It’s just so beautiful in it’s own way.