Manga Review: Mermaid Saga Collector’s Edition Volume One

Mermaid Saga Collector’s Edition Volume One collects the first nine chapters of the series into one volume. It appears from this release that VIZ Media is breaking down the volumes the same way the second English releases did in 2004. In other words, this volume collects the first two volumes of the second English release.

Mermaid Saga Collector’s Edition Volume One
Written by: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: November 17, 2020

The focus of the series is a man named Yuta, an immortal who has lived for 500 years after eating the flesh of a mermaid. He’s become tired of his immortality and is on a quest to find a mermaid. It’s said that a mermaid is able to help someone who has eaten the flesh of one to become a normal human being again.

In the first two chapters, Yuta comes across an isolated village surrounded by mountains. There, a young woman named Mana is being raised and protected by elderly women. But it turns out that Mana is being raised by a village of aging immortal women who made her eat mermaid flesh. Mana is intended to be a sacrifice so her flesh can be used to rejuvenate the older immortal women. Yuta saves her, and the two start out on a journey so Yuta can find the help he needs to become human again.

The third and fourth chapters appear to be set in a time before Yuta met Mana. This wasn’t entirely made clear in the chapters themselves, but since Mana isn’t in the story at all, I have to assume this was some backstory in order to develop Yuta a little more as a character, as well as to provide a little more context about Yuta’s quest to become human again. In these chapters, Yuta meets a young woman named Rin, who is leading a band of pirates after her father falls ill. Yuta was hired by another band of pirates to find a mermaid for them, but he hasn’t let on that he has already eaten mermaid flesh. Yuta falls in love with Rin, but after the adventures they have in these chapters, he decides he has to leave her behind and continue on his journey to become a normal human. A big part of the plot of these chapters has to do with a secret Yuta learns about the wife of the leader of the band of pirates that he’s working for.

The next two chapters return us to the present, where Yuta and Mana are on their journey. In this chapter, Mana decides to wonder off and ends up getting herself into some trouble. This appears to be a running theme in the remaining chapters of this volume: Mana wanders off and Yuta has to save her. In these chapters, Mana is hit by a car and taken in by a doctor (who thinks he’s taken in a corpse and is quite surprised when she revives). When Yuta finds where the doctor is to try to rescue her, he encounters a mysterious girl and a very grotesque dog. This story has several twists and turns to it, and the ending is a bit twisted, with the true villain not being able to exact the revenge that they had been planning.

The next story is resolved in one chapter. While Mana and Yuta are separated, it’s not due to Mana wandering off on her own. But while they are separated, Mana encounters a “lost soul” (someone who has eaten the flesh of a mermaid but ends up not staying human). However, unlike the other lost souls that have been encountered up to this point, he can still speak. But this lost soul seems to have fallen for Mana, but she’s not interested. She just wants to be reunited with Yuta. At the end of the chapter, Mana is able to do something important for this lost soul. I thought it was an interesting idea to have a story that explores the “lost souls.” While they had been seen previous to this point in the manga, they were all basically just grotesque and out of control beings. I appreciated how this story showed that there could be more dimensions to these “lost souls.”

The last two chapters see Yuta and Mana returning to a location Yuta had lived at 60 years earlier. These chapters allowed the reader to get a little more backstory for Yuta and the journey he has undertaken for the past 500 years. The characters from this town that appear in these chapters are important people from Yuta’s past. Yuta and Mana find themselves caught up in a bizarre story that involves these people from Yuta’s past. It must have been surreal for Yuta to come back 60 years later and see how much the people in this town had aged while he was gone.

After reading this volume, I thought this series had an interesting premise going for it, and it kind of made me think of the quest for the Shikon Jewel shards in Inuyasha. Also, the emphasis on the supernatural also made me think of Inuyasha. The main differences, here, though, are the fact that there’s no time travel involved and that the main character isn’t able to age. Also, there’s only two people on this journey, unlike the party that develops around Kagome and Inuyasha.

The one thing that kept bothering me, though, were the character designs for Yuta and Mana. Yuta’s face looked a lot like Ranma Saotome, and Mana’s face was reminiscent of Ukyo Kuonji from Ranma 1/2. I know that both of these series were created and drawn by the same person, an that Mermaid Saga came out before Ranma 1/2. But already having the familiarity with Ranma 1/2 did make reading this manga a little more challenging, because I had to keep reminding myself that these characters were not, in fact, either Ranma or Ukyo.

If you’re a fan of Rumiko Takahashi, especially of her Inuyasha series, then you will likely be able to appreciate Mermaid Saga.

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