Mermaids legacy is a
DRAWN & QUARTERED
EVERY CULTURE has fables about gaining immortality. In Japan, the promise of eternal life centers on the flesh of a mermaid.
This legend is the basis of "Mermaid's Scar," a horror anime based on the manga by Rumiko Takahashi.
"Mermaid's Scar" is actually one story out of a series by Takahashi that makes use of both historical and modern settings. The stories revolve around Yuta, a seemingly normal 20-year-old. He ate mermaid flesh 500 years ago, and since then he has been searching for a way to regain mortality.
On his journeys, he saves a teenage immortal girl, Mana. She has been sheltered and spoiled all her life, and so she is naive, headstrong and sometimes rude.
But immortality is not without its price. As Yuta explains in "Mermaid's Scar," mermaid flesh is a poison that transforms the body's physiology. Very few survive the transformation.
Those who don't die outright become monsters called Lost Souls.
And for those who successfully become immortal, their lives are necessarily lonely. Because they can never stay in one place too long without arousing gossip as to why they never grow old, Yuta and Mana must constantly take to the road.
In "Mermaid's Scar," the two are in modern-day Japan, traveling to yet another part of the country by train. They meet Masato, a timid 8-year-old boy who is going to meet his mother. But their reunion is a curiously unhappy one.
At their destination, Yuta takes a job as a laborer while Mana works as domestic help in the laborers' camp. The foreman's wife tells Yuta and Mana of the strange happenings in the house where Masato lives.
The tales concern the boy's mother, Misa, who apparently returned to life after a boating accident.
Misa is like a shade, with a toneless voice and surrounded by an evil atmosphere. She is obsessed by a scar on her body. When Masato finds her examining the scar, she flies into a rage and tries to kill the boy.
Yuta and Mana intervene, but when they visit the house later, they find a new danger: a Lost Soul. Yuta fights it off while Mana and Masato escape.
Left with Yuta, the wounded Misa says her "son" has been feeding mermaid's flesh to various women in an effort to replace his dead mother.
Now Masato is up to his tricks again, which explains the presence of the Lost Soul.
Yuta resolves to stop the boy, and their no-holds-barred attacks make up the most bloody scenes in the anime.
As gruesome as "Seven" and philosophically probing as "The Matrix," "Mermaid's Scar" is chilling as it explores the darker aspects of eternal life. It melts the sugar-coated image of eternal youth as it reveals the trials of people bored by immortality.
Masato's lost innocence and ruthless personality elicit more pity than anything else. He shows himself to be an 800-year-old child who has killed his emotions and cares only about his own survival.
But "Mermaid's Scar" is also a tale of love, as Yuta and Mana risk their lives to save each other, in a complete contrast to the pragmatic Masato.
Despite its macabre storyline, "Mermaid's Scar" is absorbing from its opening scene to its end credits, complemented by a wrenching, somber soundtrack (which unfortunately is impossible to find).
The anime is available in an English-dubbed version from Viz Video.
Comic-wise, the English translation of "Mermaid's Scar" was originally a series of four, which is now difficult to find. The stories were also collected into an anthology, also titled "Mermaid's Scar," with four other Mermaid stories by Takahashi.
Wilma Jandoc covers the universe of video games
and anime for the Star-Bulletin. She can be emailed at