Mermaid Forest–Anime Review

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3 Stars
Rumiko Takahashi is surely the most successful living manga artist, and the most influential since Osamu Tezuka. Just about every anime fan is familiar with at least some of her work, including popular series like Inuyasha and Ranma 1/2. This one is less well-known. It is much shorter than most of her other works, and also much darker. (Inuyasha has some dark moments, but it alternates them with much lighter material.)

Takahashi’s success is largely due to the fact that she is a good storyteller (though she tends to have trouble bringing a long series to a conclusion in a reasonable amount of time.) This is evident here: the stories are unsettling but compelling.

  • Original Title
    Ningyo no Mori
  • Demographic
  • Genres
  • Contents
    13 episodes on 4 DVDs
  • Languages
    Japanese with subtitles, English
  • Based on
    A manga by Rumiko Takahashi
  • Director
    Masaharu Okuwaki
  • Character Design
    Masaki Sato
  • Art Directors
    Junichi Azuma, Toshiyuki Tokuda
  • Story Editor
    Yunichi Miyashita
  • Animation Studio
    TMS Entertainment
  • Broadcast
  • Region 1 Publisher

This is often described as an incomplete series. In my opinion it is complete–it has an ending that is as satisfactory as the premise allows. By the end of the first episode it is clear that Yuuta will never find what he is looking for. By the end of the last episode he has found something that is arguably just as good.

In any case, 13 episodes are enough. These are entertaining stories, but by the end of the last one it is sufficiently clear that the desire for immortality will corrupt humans and lead them to commit depraved acts. I don’t need to see any more variations on that theme.


This is one of the series that was orphaned when Geneon withdrew from the North American market. However it is still in stock at most of the usual online stores, and can also be rented from Netflix.

Parental Advisory

This is unsuitable for children due to dark themes and extensive bloody violence. Teenagers and adults only please.

Premise and Characters

Mermaid with MoonAccording to legend a man can gain eternal youth and immortality by eating the flesh of a mermaid.
Monster TransformationWhat the legends don’t make clear is that this is almost impossible. Mermaid flesh is a deadly poison; most humans who eat it will die or become monsters. Only a tiny number, perhaps 1 in 100, will actually become immortal.
Uncute MermaidsAlso, mermaids are not cute.
Yuuta Eating500 years ago a fisherman named Yuuta ate some mermaid flesh. He lucked out and became immortal. However as all the people he knew grew old and died, he came to see this as a curse. He set out to find a way to become a normal human again so that he could live out a normal life.
Yuuta with MapI find Yuuta a rather frustrating character. It seems to me that he should be much more interesting than he is. He may have started out as a simple fisherman, but I would think that in the course of his 500 year quest for mortality he should have traveled around the world several times, studied at the feet of great teachers, made and lost several fortunes, and participated in epochal historical events. Instead he seems to have stayed in Japan, hanging around the fringes of society, avoiding notice and supporting himself with menial work.
Conversation with BoatsAs he travels around following rumors of mermaids, he meets people who have also encountered mermaids, invariably with unfortunate results.
Mana Leaning on TreeMana is a 15-year-old girl who was raised in isolation and tricked into eating mermaid flesh. She also ended up immortal. Her background has left her very naive and ignorant about the world. Yuuta allows her to travel with him since she seems likely to get into deep trouble without his protection.
Mana with YuutaThough naive, Mana is strong-willed and determined. She doesn’t know whether immortality is really a curse. She hasn’t lived long enough to experience what life has to offer, and she wants to keep on living.


ANN Encyclopedia entry.

Wikipedia entry (spoilers.)