They say big things come in small packages, and I can’t think of a better idiom to describe how I feel about Mermaid Saga. For such a short series, it’s filled to the brim with unique stories, interesting lore, hair-raising horror, exhilarating action scenes, and existential questions. The second volume of Mermaid Saga built upon the groundwork the first volume laid down, honing its strengths even further.
In Volume 2, Yuta and Mana continue to travel the world. It’s now modern times, and they’re still looking for a cure to become human again. Like the first volume, the manga is made up of individual narratives that tie into an overall plot. Along the way, Yuta and Mana run into several paranormal occurrences. Each time they investigate, it turns out mermaid’s flesh is involved. The magical flesh creates strained family relationships, a resurrection gone wrong, an overprotective mother, and a 100-year-old cold case. The ongoing theme of life and death is potent in all of the chapters, making the reader question immortality’s “benefits.”
In my first review, I mentioned that Takahashi is good at creating creepy scenarios without making them too scary. I spoke too soon because the horror elements in the second volume were much stronger. More violence, more blood, and more heebie jeebies. I also got a bit ahead of myself when I said the writing needed more work…that she focused on action instead of explaining complicated background information.
In these story segments, Takahashi seems to have perfected the balance between her storytelling and action scenes. Although some were more complex than others, the plots were more straightforward, requiring less explanation. In turn, I didn’t get as confused and enjoyed the manga more – particularly the action sequences! I found myself gasping when something exciting or shocking happened, and I’m not the kind of person who normally sits at the edge of their seat. It takes a lot to get me there.
Even if I liked the plot better in this volume, there is one major thing that bothers me. The manga doesn’t really have a conclusion; the last short story comes to a close… and that’s it. We never find out what happens to Yuta and Mana, if they are ever relieved of their immortality. It felt abrupt, my brain screaming “What happened to them?! I need to know!”
There are three reasons why I think Takahashi may have done this. Here are my theories:Mermaid Saga was never a definitive series to begin with. There are overarching themes and storylines, but she intended to always keep it as short stories.The series was published sporadically with large gaps in between (sometimes years), so it may have been difficult to put everything together. Maybe Takahashi wasn’t sure if it would continue or not.She did this on purpose. Maybe she wanted to keep it a mystery and play into the overall theme of immortality and its equivocal nature.
I’d like to imagine that both Yuta and Mana found peace and were able to grow old like normal people. But then again, even if they did find a cure, they’d probably still be alive today since the last story takes place in the 1990s. A new installment of Mermaid Saga during the last few years would be amazing – 2020 Edition perhaps?
It’s a shame the series isn’t a little longer because I think it’s one of Rumiko Takahashi’s best. However, its length is part of what made it so great. The manga is short, sweet, and to the point, unlike some of her other series. The brief size is a double-edged sword – just like immortality itself. Whether you’re a long-time Takahashi fan, have never heard of her, or just like horror manga, Mermaid Saga is a quick read that packs a ton of compelling material in its sixteen chapters.