Recap #125: Mermaid Saga Parts 10-11: Mermaid’s Scar by Rumiko Takahashi
Title: Mermaid Saga Chapters 10 & 11 – Mermaid’s Scar
Author/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi
Cover Summary: N/A
For Wing’s birthday I’m recapping the best part of Mermaid Saga by far. I know it’s my favorite, certainly. It gets to showcase how freaking awesome Mana is. [Wing: This month is full of fun recap surprises for me. I’m thrilled!]
This is the second story besides Mermaid’s Forest to be adapted more than once, receiving an OVA in the 90s and included in the TV series from the 2000s. Personally, I feel the OVA is the better of the two adaptions, sporting rather beautiful early 90s anime art.
I only defer to this version when I need commission reference for Mana and Yuta.
I’ve watched the English dub, which used to be on Youtube, but you can still find the original version online somewhere. They still haven’t released it on an official DVD, but luckily I’ve got the complete soundtrack on CD. What shocked me about the dub was learning Yuta’s voice actor was Jason Gray-Stanford, who also voiced Sherlock Holmes in “Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century,” and was RANDY DISHER, the dorky police detective, on “Monk.”
This is also one of the bloodiest stories in the series. And, keep in mind, this is one of those stories where we, the readers, know more about what the villain is really up to before the main characters do. Also, a bit of clarification. One character never got a name in the actual story, but the OVA dubbed her “Misa,” so I’ll be referring to her by that name.
It’s a sunny day, and Yuta and Mana are traveling on a train. They’ve struck a conversation with a young boy sitting across from them. The boy, Masato, says he’s going to be living with his mother from now on. The immortal companions watch and smile as Masato gets off the train and eagerly runs to his mother.
Misa, however, does not seem too happy to see him…
We then fast forward to two years later. It’s nighttime at a rather opulent home. Inside, Masato slowly leaves a room. He’s covered in blood. Then he looks behind him…
And as you’ll notice, Masato’s the one holding the knife. Masato later returns to wash up the blood around Misa’s body, then showers off. Dry and clean, he goes back to Misa’s body and kneels beside her. [Wing: THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY. Or, maybe not super quickly, because two years, but in the reading of it, THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY.]
The next morning, Yukie, the housekeeper and Masato’s nanny, arrives and bids him a cheery good morning. Yukie asks Masato if his mother’s up yet. Well…
[Wing: Wait what.]
Meanwhile, Yuta and Mana’s travels have brought them back in the area and they’ve found employment with a nearby construction crew. Yuta learns from one of the crewmen about a strange occurrence that happened the previous year. They found a dead body floating in the harbor, but it was like nothing anyone had seen before. The arms and legs looked human, to a degree, but it had a distorted and grotesque face like a fish. Before anyone could retrieve it, the body was swallowed up by the water. Color Yuta concerned.
Mana is helping prepare lunch in the kitchen, of course she has no idea how to DO that (you know, being raised in captivity in all) and gets her boss, Mrs. Suzuki, pissed off when she dumps a container of hot water inside a box of tea bags. Yuta comes in just as Mana’s getting chewed out, which is not a rare event apparently, although Mana doesn’t really give a shit about the mess she made. Yukie stops by, apparently friends with Mrs. Suzuki, to say hi while grocery shopping, and has Masato with her. Mana recognizes Masato from the train (her first train ride), and Yuta eventually recognizes him too. Yuta’s a bit surprised Masato is still as small as when they first met, but asks if he’s happy living with his mom. Masato says “Yeah…”
Mrs. Suzuki asks if Masato’s been enrolled in school yet, to which Yukie reveals his mother hasn’t looked into it. For that matter, Yukie admits she’s a bit scared of Misa. After Masato and Yukie leave, Mrs. Suzuki tells Yuta and Mana about the rumors surrounding Masato’s mom. Misa was the second wife of a rich old guy, but then a few years ago the couple were in a really bad boating accident. The husband died, and everyone believed Misa was going to die from the burns that covered her body. She was even pronounced dead… but then mysteriously, she came back to life! Not only that, when she returned home she looked perfectly fine, even though one of her maids swore there was no way someone THAT badly burned could’ve healed so quickly. Yuta starts to make connections between Misa’s recovery and the body they found in the water.
Meanwhile, Misa is at her bedside mirror inspecting her recovery from the previous night, and she doesn’t like what she sees.
Misa quickly stands when she spies Masato in the mirror, and grabs a pair of scissors. Downstairs in the kitchen, Yukie hears some noise in the hallway, opening the door to find
Misa screams at Masato about mermaid’s flesh. Masato frantically cries he doesn’t know what she’s talking about when Yukie throws herself at Misa and tries to get the scissors away from her. Misa wrestles from Yukie and chases after Masato out the front door, raises the scissors, and prepares to stab him-!
Misa looks up, and sees Yuta’s shielded the boy with his arm, getting slashed in the process. Yuta demands to know what the hell she’s doing while Yukie slinks to the floor, briefly overcome by shock.
Misa’s been sequestered in her room while Yukie bandages Yuta’s arm, thanking him for his arrival. Yukie thinks they should call the police, but Masato begs her not to because he doesn’t want anything to happen to his mom. Yuta goes to talk to Misa alone, and unveils to her behind the bandage that his injury has already healed. Misa demands to know who Yuta is, and he explains he’s also eaten mermaid’s flesh and gained immortality. Yuta believes Misa’s got more mermaid’s flesh on her, mentioning the dead body he was told about and explaining it was a Lost Soul. Yuta spells it out for Misa that Lost Souls are the unlucky few who neither gain eternal life or die when eating mermaid’s flesh, which is something Misa genuinely wasn’t aware of. But before their conversation can go further, Masato enters the room asking Misa if she’s okay and what “mermaid’s flesh” is. Misa quietly tells Yuta they’ll talk more when Masato isn’t present. Yukie and Yuta both ask if Masato would rather stay with one of them for the night, but Masato doesn’t want to leave his mom. Up in her room, Misa watches Yuta leave, thinking about what he said. Caressing the scar on her chest, now knowing mermaid’s flesh doesn’t grant everyone immortality, she’s more determined than ever to find the flesh before she dies.
(Misa by Yoen-Kyung Cha)
The next day, Yukie’s got some good news to share with Mrs. Suzuki. Her boyfriend finally popped the question and they’re getting married. She’s even got the ring! But discussing it with Yuta, Yukie says she doesn’t feel comfortable leaving Masato alone in his situation. Yuta thinks she’s a genuinely good person. With Mana, Yuta talks about what they plan to do about Masato and Misa. Misa’s not likely to join their travels, but Yuta thinks they’ve got an obligation to help Masato. Yukie meets with Misa about her engagement and leaving the household. Misa offers her wish that Yukie be happy, but now Yukie has to break it to Masato. Masato knows she’s leaving, and Yukie apologizes saying she wishes she could do more for him. So, before she leaves, Masato asks Yukie to try something…
Downstairs, Misa hears a noise.
Outside, Yuta and Mana arrive just in time to see something shatter the window of Masato’s room. Rushing inside, they get the chance to see Misa being clawed across the chest by a Lost Soul towering over a terrified Masato.
Yuta lunges at the Lost Soul to keep it off Masato while Mana dashes to the kitchen and grabs a big knife. Mana stabs the Lost Soul in its side, but it smacks her away, scratching her cheek in the process. Yuta orders Mana to get Masato away, when Misa, bleeding pretty badly, struggles to get up. She lunges at Masato, screaming he’s not getting away from her, and sinks her teeth into his shoulder. Yuta is momentarily distracted while Mana kicks the woman away asking what the fuck is wrong with her. Mana flees with Masato while Misa crawls to the stairway screaming for them to get back. Once Mana’s taken Masato to a safe distance she declares she’s going back to fight alongside Yuta. Masato is shocked when she rubs the blood from her face, revealing her cheek’s healed.
Yuta continues fighting with the Lost Soul, grabbing the kitchen knife and plunging it through the Lost Soul’s mouth and head as it bites his arm. The creature dies, falling forward on top of Yuta. As Yuta pulls his arm out of the monster’s mouth, he notices something glittering on the floor. A broken wedding ring. One he saw earlier in the day. Yuta runs into the hallway where Misa’s still on the floor, and orders her to explain what happened to Yukie (I mean, he obviously knows the WHAT, but not the WHY). Misa, trembling, realizes Yukie was going to be her replacement. She then explains to Yuta she hadn’t met Masato until WORLD WAR II.
A shocked Yuta listens to Misa’s life story, how her young son was killed during one of the worst bombings Tokyo endured. Her husband was a soldier who died in battle a while before, and she was gravely injured in the bombing. Waiting to die, it was then a young boy appeared to Misa and offered her something to eat. Over time, the boy started taking care of Misa, bringing her food and supplies, never asking for anything, and Misa began to see him as her son. For a few years they lived happily as mother and child… until Misa began to realize neither of them were aging, and whenever she was hurt the wound would heal instantaneously. Growing afraid, Misa asked Masato just what, exactly, he was. Masato told her about the mermaid’s flesh, how he’d eaten it and became immortal, and now Misa was the same.
The two needed to keep moving every few years before anyone noticed they weren’t getting older and, becoming increasingly scared of Masato, Misa once strangled him. It didn’t work, obviously, so when she finally had the opportunity Misa fled. She met the aforementioned old guy and they got married, but their happiness ended with the boat accident. Misa believes Masato tracked her down after learning about the accident, and fears she’ll never be free of him. Only, her wounds haven’t been healing as fast as they did before. When Masato found out, he figured it was time to replace her. Misa ends her tale, revealing in a terrified voice to Yuta that if they don’t stop Masato he’s gonna keep finding women to try and turn immortal so he’ll have a new mom. Ruining lives again, and again, and again.
[Wing: This is such a creepy, glorious story.]
Meanwhile, Mana is following Masato somewhere, having convinced her he’s got poison to kill the Lost Soul. Deep in the woods, Masato and Mana have come to a little hideout Masato’s constructed. He then asks Mana if she thinks Yuta and Misa are dead by now. Mana grabs Masato and demands the poison when she sees the bite marks on his shoulder are gone. Masato takes advantage of her shock, whipping out a stun gun and subduing Mana.
Yuta frantically tries to find Masato but doesn’t know where to look, while Masato decides the only way to keep Mana is kill Yuta.
In the second part, we begin with a dream sequence, where a little boy shows his mom some mermaid’s flesh. The boy eagerly says it’s pretty good and suggests his mom try some too. The mom smiles…
And then the dream becomes a nightmare, the boy crying for his mom as he’s chased by a Lost Soul.
Masato wakes up, having nodded off for a bit. He looks down and sees Mana, who went past “Beyond pissed” ages ago. Which makes sense, considering he tied up her arms and legs with BARBED WIRE. [Wing: Holy fuck, kid.]
Amused at Mana shouting she’s going back to Yuta, Masato announces he’s gonna bring back Yuta’s head for her if it’s the only way she’ll accept she’s his new mom.
Yuta, unable to find Mana, goes back to the house where Misa and the sadly deceased Yukie are. Misa hasn’t woken up, and Yuta wishes she’d heal faster in case she might know where Masato took Mana. Masato surprises Yuta, saying Misa doesn’t know anything. Masato smirks recalling how the mermaid’s flesh didn’t completely turn Misa, figuring he’ll chop off her head now that he’s done with her. Yuta, equally as pissed as Mana, prepares to beat the shit out of Masato when the boy whips out a slingshot and almost blinds Yuta. [Wing: You know, Yuta’s supposed to be this great survivor, but Masato is truly kicking everyone’s ass.] Yuta chases Masato down the stairs, getting shot at again and tripping on some marbles. As Yuta falls, his cheek gets sliced, and he sees Masato’s strung up piano wire all across the hallway. [Wing: This kid is all about the murder house. I like it.] Masato mutters he knew it wouldn’t be that easy, and pulls out a loaded gun. Firing at Yuta, Masato snarks he found it during WWII and admits he’s only doing this to keep Mana from running away. Yuta grabs Masato’s throat as he shoots him again, and starts lecturing the kid about the 500 years he’s had to endure. All that loneliness and hardship. Masato tells Yuta to get it over with and just kill him, shocking Yuta enough Masato takes the opportunity to GOUGE YUTA’S EYE OUT WITH HIS FINGERS.
[Wing: JESUS KID. YOU ARE A BLOODTHIRSTY LITTLE FUCK.]
Licking the blood from his fingers, Masato derides Yuta, saying he didn’t live 800 years to get lectured by some oversized punk who hasn’t had it nearly hard enough. Yuta, still reeling from getting blinded, is thrown through a loop realizing he’s, for the first time, knowingly encountered an immortal older than him.
Masato decides to tell Yuta HIS life story, starting from how he’s not sure if the first person he gave mermaid’s flesh to was his original mom. Yuta’s disgusted learning Masato still give mermaid’s flesh to other women knowing what it did to his mom. Masato continues, saying for the first couple of centuries he wandered around by himself, and sometimes people would take him in. But he always outlived his new families, who died from pestilence, famine, or war. After a while, Masato decided to make someone immortal like him, to have a companion, so he went looking for more mermaid’s flesh. [Wing: You know, his story is kind of heart wrenching, and he’s more sympathetic than a lot of the villains we get around here.] He went through several women, but Misa supposedly lasted the longest. She was even pretty nice at first. Yuta’s outraged that he went after Yukie, knowing she could turn into a monster, even after how nice she’d been to him. Masato simply doesn’t care, feeling people like him and Yuta can’t care about other people. [Wing: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand here’s where his sympathetic bit ends, really.]
While all this is going on, Mana, who’s still tied up with barbed wire, has struggled and crawled like a worm through the woods and slid down a rocky hill. She lands by the side of the road, surprising a couple riding on a motorcycle who’ve stopped at a red light. She orders the two to fucking untie her, because she’s gonna DESTROY Masato. [Wing: MANA. <3]
Yuta is still weak from blood loss, which Masato’s making worse as he repeatedly tries to chop his head off with an ax. Masato gets in a few good hits in Yuta’s back as Yuta crawls into the living room. Masato takes the gun out again, but all Yuta thinks about is Mana… who has reached the house and bursts through the living room window. Mana is enraged by what Masato’s done to Yuta, so Masato shoots her. Mana falls back, and Masato takes the ax and sinks it into Yuta’s neck. However, Masato hasn’t severed Yuta’s head because he’s not strong enough, so Mana leaps on top of Yuta as Masato brings the ax down again. The blade goes into Mana’s arm, but she doesn’t care. Mana tackles Masato and punches him in the face, declaring if he kills Yuta she’ll spend the rest of her life hunting him down like the dog he is and KILL HIM.
Because if Yuta died, it’d be the only thing left for her.
Masato seems legitimately terrified of Mana, but unfortunately her blood loss and injuries catch up to her and she passes out. Masato’s decided Mana’s too horrible for him, and goes back to where Misa is resting saying she’s earned a few more years. Masato’s surprised to learn Misa’s dead for real though and, seems actually sad for a moment?
It doesn’t stop him dousing the living room in gasoline and setting it on fire. Mana awakens as the fire starts to burn, Masato taunting her from the doorway with the mermaid’s flesh in his bag. Yuta’s still unconscious, so she has to choose between chasing Masato or getting Yuta out of the fire. Mana grabs Yuta by the shoulders and drags him through the living room window, while Masato has hotwired Misa’s car and is unsteadily driving away from the burning house.
Mana’s brought Yuta to the cliffs by the sea, his head resting on her lap and her hand on his chest waiting to feel his heartbeat. It seems like they’ve been there for hours when dawn starts to emerge. Mana’s growing increasingly despondent waiting for Yuta to wake up when she finally senses his heartbeat. As Yuta stirs, he slowly opens his eyes and sees tears are streaming down Mana’s face even as she smiles. Mana says they have to go after Masato. Thankfully, they don’t need to exert the energy.
Because while Masato was able to DRIVE the car, he couldn’t see very well over the steering wheel. Or he would’ve seen he was in the wrong lane, as well as that big truck coming towards him. [Wing: Huh. I’m not sure how I feel about this oh so convenient ending.]
Mrs. Suzuki and the neighbors believe Yukie and Misa died in the fire during the night, while Masato died playing with the car. Honestly, they’re kind of right.
Yuta still has Yukie’s broken ring, feeling regretful for her death. Yuta then asks if Mana was crying because she was scared, because it seems that was the first time Mana EVER cried. Mana explains she just felt really happy Yuta was alive.
Yuta jokes it sounds like Mana’s got a crush on him. Mana, of course, has got no clue what a “crush” is, so she misses the joke. Mana asks what a crush is, Yuta tells her not to worry about it.
I actually think the OVA is better than the manga, not just because of the art. There’s no two year skip so they remove the coincidence of the immortals finding Masato again, and they inspect the car wreck themselves to see is Masato’s really dead. They keep the part about Mana explaining how happy she felt that Yuta was alive but removed the joke about her falling for Yuta. Instead, Yuta muses on Masato’s idea that people like them can’t care about others, to which Yuta calls bullshit on.
[Wing: Good, I’m glad someone calls bullshit on that. And while it makes the ending a little better if they inspect the car wreck, I’m still not sure how I feel about his death coming from a car accident. It just seems far too convenient, really.]
I’m including in this, however, the sublime ending theme from the OVA, “Beads of Tears,” by Maki Mochida.
And, also, I was kinda on the fence about this but Wing said it was okay, I’m including a couple of the commissions I mentioned. But, and this hasn’t come up on here before and I hope it doesn’t seem BAD creepy, I have a thing sometimes when I commission male characters.
(Mana and Yuta by dottydoodle)
Yeah, I like em big, smooth, and cuddly.
[Wing: I love that picture of Mana and Yuta. It’s adorable.]
Well, the thing is, they don’t find a body or anything, so there WAS a slim chance he survived.
But since the series ended a few chapters later, nothing came from that.