Recap #167: Mermaid Saga Parts 13-14: Mermaid’s Gaze by Rumiko Takahashi
Title: Mermaid’s Saga Parts 13-14 – Mermaid’s Gaze
Author/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi
We’ve come to one of my favorites in the series, but it’s sad because this story’s never gotten an animated adaption.
We’ll also be visiting another twisted sibling dynamic like the Kannagi Sisters from “Mermaid’s Forest,” but this goes much differently than you’d think.
There is, however, talk of suicide in this.
We open with what appears to be a brief flashback of Yuta, a young woman, and a beautiful Western-style mansion. Based on the woman’s clothes, it appears to be around the beginning of the 20th Century. The young woman, referred to as Miss Akiko by Yuta, thanks Yuta for his concerns but tells him it doesn’t matter anymore because “It’s all [Her] fault.” Yuta tells Akiko that isn’t true, but she calmly repeats it doesn’t matter anymore.
We then overhear somehow shouting for help, that Akiko and someone named Shingo have committed suicide.
It now moves forward to the present, New Year’s Eve 1991, at what appears to be the same mansion in the flashback. An old woman, Mrs. Kiryu, is begging a young man to stop harassing her. Whoever this guy is, he’s been bothering Mrs. Kiryu over some doll. When Mrs. Kiryu feebly threatens to call the police, he agrees with her.
The guy smiles before promising to see the old woman again, and stumbles backwards into the river by the mansion. Terrified beyond belief, Mrs. Kiryu falls to her knees and begs for someone to help her.
Yuta and Mana have arrived in the city, obviously having no place to stay at the moment, and are hanging out with a couple of homeless guys living beneath an overpass. The two guys are talking about a haunted house in the area; Mana’s been to haunted houses before, and she’s not talking about funhouses.
The first story of the Kiryu Mansion involves a young woman that can be seen through the front window of the house’s second story. She’s beautiful, but seems very sad, and all she does is gaze out the window all day, without even blinking. Like she’s waiting for something.
The second story is about a man that keeps dying and coming back to life. The widow Kiryu called the police saying she once killed a man, but they couldn’t find any evidence or a body to prove she was telling the truth. And short while later, the supposedly dead man reappeared before Mrs. Kiryu and the police officers with no injuries whatsoever.
The next day, Mana asks Yuta if they’re checking out the Kiryu place to see if this mystery guy is an immortal like them or an actual ghost. Yuta definitely wants to check the place out, mentioning he worked at that house for a while. At this point, Mana’s not surprised. When the two arrive at the Kiryu house, Mana bluntly tells Mrs. Kiryu they wanna ask her about the ghost. Yuta can only blankly stare at Mana’s lack of tact, but before Mrs. Kiryu can tell them to leave, the guy from New Year’s Eve shows up. Mrs. Kiryu is silently terrified as the guy assures her he’s perfectly fine when someone inside the house starts screaming for the guy to leave. Inside the house is another old woman, Sugiko, but she seems frailer than Mrs. Kiryu and hasn’t aged as well as the widow. Sugiko clutches the staircase banister, screaming the man is a devil planning to kill them all. She then grabs a vase off a table and throws it at the man, but he’s not fazed in the slightest. Sugiko runs to Yuta and begs him to make the man leave. The guy asks what business Yuta has being here, and smirks when Yuta says he’s interested in the stories about a man who comes back to life. The guy warns Yuta to leave before Mrs. Kiryu murders him too.
Nearby, a young woman asks “Keni” if they can leave yet. The guy tells Mrs. Kiryu he’ll be leaving, but makes sure she gets a good look at his girlfriend. He adds his gal looks a bit like their doll, and wants Mrs. Kiryu to remember what she looks like. Sugiko warns the girlfriend to get away before she’s killed, and then the guy kicks the old lady to the ground telling her to shut up. Yuta helps Sugiko and shoots a look of pure disgust at the man and his girlfriend as they leave. Sugiko mutters that man is “Master Shingo,” come back to kill them all.
Yuta helps bring Sugiko to bed, but Mrs. Kiryu still wants him and Mana to leave. She’s tired of telling people about what’s been going on because no one believes her. Mana notices the look of intense thought on Yuta’s face and asks what he thinks is going on. Yuta thinks the guy they just met might be someone he knows.
Mrs. Kiryu prepares tea and starts with her side of the story. The man, Shingo, appeared a year prior demanding a doll. It turns out the Kiryu Family has owned a large and rather magnificent doll for decades. Sugiko used to work for the Kiryus when she was a child, and remembered they had the doll way back then. Sugiko came back to work at the mansion as an adult after her family died. When Mr. Kiryu passed away, the widow and Sugiko decided to place the doll inside the sunniest room in the mansion rather than leaving it shut away in the dark. Mana’s disappointed it wasn’t a ghost after all.
Sugiko turned into a nervous wreck when Shingo first appeared. She became terrified, ranting it was the ghost of Master Shingo, and hid the doll somewhere. Mrs. Kiryu explained to Shingo she had no idea what happened to the doll, so of course he broke in one night. Shingo attacked Mrs. Kiryu and, in a moment of panic and self-defense, she grabbed a small candelabrum and bashed Shingo in the head. Mrs. Kiryu passed out from shock at what she’d done, but the next morning Shingo’s body and the bloodstains on the floor were gone. Mrs. Kiryu called the police, and as she was giving her statement Shingo reappeared with no wounds at all.
Mrs. Kiryu has reached the point where she’s not sure if she’s gone mad or not from how absurd the situation is. Yuta decides to show Mrs. Kiryu something interesting; Mana immediately grabs a pair of scissors and hands them to Yuta, knowing exactly where this is headed. Yuta does his usual “Rapid healing wound” routine for Mrs. Kiryu, and then explains both he and Mana have become immortal due to mermaid’s flesh. Yuta then tells Mrs. Kiryu about the Shingo Kiryu he knew back when he worked at the mansion just before the Russo-Japanese War.
Shingo Kiryu was, for all intents and purposes, a monster. He indulged in sadistic tendencies, setting fires, killing animals, beating children and young women to within an inch of their lives. More than one young woman was found dead in the nearby river, and it was no guess how she got there. Since the Kiryus were wealthy and influential, they covered up Shingo’s crimes. Akiko Kiryu, Shingo’s older sister, repeatedly begged Shingo to stop what he was doing, but Shingo would smack her away blaming her for his actions. Yuta tried to help Akiko, but she repeatedly asked him not to mention how Shingo treated her. Even worse, she DID believe it was her fault for Shingo’s behavior.
And then her fiancé died.
That must’ve been Akiko’s breaking point, because a short while after her fiancé died, Akiko and Shingo’s bodies were found. Yuta left the Kiryu household after the funerals.
Suddenly, everyone hears Sugiko running down the hallway and shouting they have to lock up Shingo “Again.” Yuta and the others find Sugiko in the basement, kneeling in front of what appears to be a prison cell. Sugiko reveals that she’s the one who let him out.
Mana’s excited the two get a free place to sleep for the night, and Yuta’s marveling at what it takes to faze Mana. Yuta adds he wants to make sure if the guy harassing Mrs. Kiryu and Sugiko really is Shingo Kiryu. See, there’s a big difference between Shingo Kiryu and this Shingo. Shingo Kiryu was missing an eye, and mermaid’s flesh doesn’t repair body parts that were already missing before it’s consumed (like the Sakagami Captain’s missing eye).
Elsewhere, Shingo has just murdered his girlfriend in the city park. Shingo says she looked too much like his sister, when he suddenly covers his eye. It appears he’s seeing something that’s not quite there. Shingo is left pissed off wondering what Mrs. Kiryu and Sugiko did with his sister.
The next morning, Shingo returns to the Kiryu mansion and runs into Mana first. Mana’s playing with a stray kitten (she really seems to gravitate towards cats) when Shingo says she’s cute. Mana’s response is “Yuta said you’re dangerous so go eat a dick” and goes back inside. Mrs. Kiryu is preparing breakfast while discussing with Yuta why Shingo wants a doll. Sugiko mutters “The poor thing” when a report about a dead young woman appears on the news. Yuta and Mrs. Kiryu recognize the dead woman when Shingo walks in with the morning paper. In a scene I think is pretty adorable, Mana and Sugiko both immediately flock to Yuta.
Shingo sees the news has reported the crime as well, and promises Mrs. Kiryu he’ll be back if he finds someone else who looks like the doll. Yuta grabs Shingo and demands to know if Shingo recognizes him. Shingo whips out a pocket knife and slashes Yuta’s hand, which pisses Mana off more than Yuta. Shingo comments he can’t keep track of everyone he’s pissed off and departs. Mrs. Kiryu is shaken by the young woman’s death and pleads with Sugiko they should give Shingo the doll. Sugiko earnestly believes Shingo will kill them all if he gets the doll. Yuta promises Sugiko he’s not gonna let anything happen to her or Mrs. Kiryu, and asks to see the doll for himself. Convinced Yuta’s sincere, Sugiko brings everyone to the cellar BENEATH the cellar. Mrs. Kiryu didn’t know it existed as Sugiko explains it was dug and built as an air raid shelter during World War II. Sugiko shows them the doll, but Yuta’s not prepared for what the doll actually is.
Yuta recognizes right off this is indeed Akiko Kiryu. Mana believes it’s a wax-covered corpse, but Mrs. Kiryu thinks that’s absurd saying a corpse would’ve rotted away years ago. Yuta believes the mermaid’s flesh perfectly preserved Akiko’s corpse, but is at a loss for why Shingo would want her body.
Across town, Shingo is shamelessly squatting in his dead girlfriend’s apartment and thinking about the past. He remembers Akiko telling him they both just ate a poison that’s been in the family for generations.
“It’s all right. I’ll be with you all the way, Shingo.”
And then Akiko died, their father screamed Shingo should’ve been the one to die, and then had Shingo locked up in the basement cell.
Shingo has no clue what Akiko fed him, and then remembers he HAS met Yuta before. He once told Yuta to stop hanging around his sister, and then tried to kill Yuta after Yuta snarked about him acting like a human being for once. Realizing he’s run into another immortal, Shingo feels things have gotten interesting.
Yuta and Mrs. Kiryu discuss giving Shingo Akiko’s body, but Yuta agrees with Sugiko it wouldn’t be a smart decision. The lights go out in the Kiryu mansion, and the sound of a creaking floorboard while everyone is in the same room convinces Yuta Shingo has come back. Yuta has Mrs. Kiryu and Sugiko hide in a laundry closet while he deals with Shingo. Mana wants to join Yuta, but he has her stay and guards the two older women in case Shingo gets to them first. Mana suddenly asks if Yuta was in love with Akiko Kiryu; Yuta stammers now’s not the time for that. Yuta leaves with a brief warning for Mrs. Kiryu the house is gonna get messy.
Sugiko’s sure everyone’s gonna get dead.
Yuta arms himself in the kitchen, creating a makeshift lance with a kitchen knife and a broom handle among other weapons. Yuta figures he has to put Shingo down now, knowing Shingo’s a maniac who won’t stop killing.
Upstairs, Shingo is armed with a gun and searching for Akiko’s body.
In her subterranean room, Akiko Kiryu waits.
Yuta drops a vase from the stairway, surprising Shingo. Having caught the bastard off guard, Yuta evades Shingo’s bullets and disarms him with his lance. Licking his wounds, Shingo confirms for Yuta he’s definitely Shingo Kiryu.
In their hiding spot, Mrs. Kiryu tries to make Sugiko stop saying they’re all gonna die and asks Mana if they should call the police. Mana feels there’s nothing the police can do to help them (and considering all the supposed false alarms, they probably wouldn’t come anyway).
Shingo asks Yuta if Yuta knows why he’s unable to die. Yuta realizes Shingo has no idea about the mermaid’s flesh, explaining its potential to turn people immortal or kill them the way Akiko died. Shingo recalls his sister telling him they were going to die, and now understands she had no clue what the “Poison” might do to them. Shingo calls Akiko a nuisance for ruining his life, which really pisses off Yuta. However, Shingo pulls out his trump card and reveals A GODDAMN ASSAULT RIFLE hidden under his coat.
Yuta charges at Shingo even as the bastard opens fire. Slashing at Shingo’s arm with his lance, Yuta grabs Shingo’s rifle and tackles him down the stairs.
Outside, some neighbors hear the commotion, but brush it off as nothing.
Having pinned Shingo to the floor, Yuta rages that all this was Shingo’s fault. He ruined Akiko’s life and drove her to suicide. Yuta remembers what Akiko told him before she died, finally explaining why she thought it was her fault Shingo acted the way he did. When the Kiryus were both little, Akiko tried to stop Shingo from torturing a small cat with a knife. In the struggle, Akiko accidentally stabbed Shingo in the eye. Since then, Shingo always blamed Akiko for his actions, and it’s why Akiko constantly begged their father not to hurt Shingo. Yuta snarls Akiko had nothing to do with Shingo’s behavior, that he was always a monster beyond redemption.
Unfortunately, Sugiko has a panic attack and runs out of the closet, screaming they have to lock Shingo away again. Mana chases after Sugiko and tries to bring her back, but once Shingo sees the two, he pulls the rifle trigger and shoots Mana. Yuta gets distracted by Mana’s injuries, giving Shingo room to kick Yuta off him. Shingo pulls out his second ace, a fucking sword, from his coat and proceeds to slash and stab Yuta’s chest. Mana rushes to Yuta, putting her arms around him; the two glare down Shingo. Shingo stops, clutching his head as the vision returns. He asks Yuta what needs to be done to kill someone like them… because he believes Akiko is still alive.
Shingo tells Yuta his left eye is for real, and he got it from none other than his sister. Sugiko trembles as she explains he plucked the eye from poor Akiko, shocking Yuta. Shingo recalls how his father tried to kill Shingo following Akiko’s suicide, screaming Shingo should’ve died. The siblings were buried together, but Shingo dug his way out sometime later. Mr. Kiryu had Shingo locked in the basement cell and unearthed Akiko’s coffin. Akiko didn’t come back to life, but she didn’t decay, so Mr. Kiryu kept her in the house. He couldn’t stomach the idea of burying or cremating Akiko. Some decades later, Shingo’s meals were brought to him by Sugiko, who at the time was a young girl. Shingo begged Sugiko to free her and, feeling sorry for Shingo, she did. Shingo attacked the girl but didn’t kill her, and savagely ripped one of Akiko’s eyes out the moment he saw her. After escaping from the Kiryu mansion, still clutching Akiko’s eye, Shingo got curious and placed it inside his empty socket. Miraculously, the eye attached itself and worked perfectly, but came with a gruesome bonus.
Now, whenever Shingo kills someone, he sees the image of himself reaching to rip out Akiko’s eye. Shingo is convinced Akiko is really alive and has been watching him this whole time. He begs Yuta to explain how he can kill Akiko for good. Yuta doesn’t give a shit about Shingo, but is horrified at whatever kind of agony Akiko’s been trapped in all these years. A prisoner of her own body, forced to do nothing but stare into the darkness. Powerless as her own brother mutilated her. Yuta asks Mana to help him get to the basement, while Mrs. Kiryu tries to protect Sugiko.
Down in the sub basement, Shingo says hello to his sister for the first time in decades. Shingo is sure Akiko is giving him a look of contempt. Yuta orders Shingo to give him the sword, saying he’ll end Akiko’s life. Yuta’s sure Akiko will never rest if Shingo’s the one who kills her. Yuta looks at Akiko, and mentally promises he’ll take care of Shingo before silently, quickly, Yuta cuts her head off.
Yuta then turns to Shingo and declares it’s now he dies, attacking him with the sword. Shingo still has the assault rifle and fires on Yuta, but Yuta continues slashing at Shingo to get his head off. Mana yells for Yuta to let her do it, but this is personal for Yuta and he wants to end Shingo once and for all. Shingo hisses he’s not going to die after finally getting rid of Akiko…
Except he’s once more assuaged by the vision of himself reaching for Akiko’s eye.
Shingo falls to his knees and crawls towards Akiko’s head, screaming why isn’t she done with him yet? The only response is the glass eye falling out of Akiko’s socket and shattering. Forced to comprehend that he will forever be seeing his ghastly self for eternity, Shingo concedes defeat to his sister and chops off his own head. Yuta slumps back into Mana’s arms.
The next morning, Mrs. Kiryu is comforting Sugiko, assuring her the doll “Has taken Master Shingo away.”
Yuta and Mana are on their way out of the city. Mana expresses her thoughts that, maybe, Akiko really was dead this whole time, and what Shingo was seeing was his guilty conscience, his “Ghost.” Yuta’s willing to except that just so he doesn’t have to consider what kind of Hell Akiko might’ve been in. It dawns on Yuta Mana’s trying to make him feel better.
“Gee, you don’t have to do that.”
“It’s no problem.”
So we have a kind of foil for Towa and Sawa Kannagi. Sawa Kannagi blamed herself for the state Towa was in, but was pretending it happened because she tried to save her sister and not because she was a cowardly bitch who used Towa for a guinea pig. Akiko Kiryu believed it was her fault Shingo was such an animal, when she had nothing to do with it but he used her guilt until it finally destroyed them both. Not only that, but both selfish siblings, Sawa and Shingo, ruined their respective sister’s lives for their own selfish needs and it ended up biting them in the ass.
Poor Mrs. Kiryu though, who obviously had no idea what the fuck she was getting when she married into this family. I did enjoy how she obviously cared about Sugiko’s well being and didn’t see her as just “The help.” Sugiko was right not to let Shingo have Akiko’s body, since he proved he would’ve gone on being a remorseless demon once he didn’t have to worry about seeing himself from his sister’s perspective anymore.