Recap #179: Mermaid Saga Parts 8-9: Mermaid’s Promise by Rumiko Takahashi
Title: Mermaid Saga Parts 8-9 – “Mermaid’s Promise”
Author/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi
So we’ve reached the last of the stories that feature Yuta AND Mana. The following, which will be the last recap, takes place during Yuta’s past.
I’m not sure how to feel about this because we get a glimpse at what happens when Yuta gets too close a normal human, but unlike with Rin it wasn’t cut off soon enough.
Unfortunately, the story tends to cut back between the present day and the past a LOT, which can be jarring while trying to recap. I apologize if it causes any confusion.
And of course Mana continues to be a badass and a delight.
We start with a flashback to a valley where a large group of birds are flying and cawing overhead. A young woman with black hair done in two braids is talking to Yuta about mermaid’s ashes, something that’s been her family’s secret for generations. Standing in a field of gorgeous red flowers, the girl says she’ll tell Yuta about the ashes if he promises to take her with him when he leaves to search for a mermaid.
Fast forward to the present, where Yuta and Mana appear to be in the modern day version of that valley. The birds are still there and noisy as ever, much to Yuta’s annoyance, as he explains he wants to visit a grave in the area. The two stop by the local police station where Yuta’s told the place he’s looking for, Misaki Village, doesn’t really exist anymore. The officer does point him in the direction of a large apartment complex atop a hill saying that’s where the only pre-war graveyard is left in the area.
The grave in question turns out to be a small roadside memorial for the Kogure Family. Mana inquires as to whose grave this is, and Yuta explains it belongs to Nae Kogure. Yuta knew her while he was living in the area for a bit, saying she was always nice to him. Kind, sweet, beautiful. Mana, like any rational person responding to hetero romance in fiction, flatly states she’s bored and decides to look around the area.
At a nearby construction site, a group of dogs is chasing after a barefoot woman and attack her. A man in a black suit and sunglasses calls the dogs off and starts smacking the woman, screaming she’s a pain in his ass and threatening to kill her if she runs away again. Mana sees this and tries tackling the man to save the woman. The woman tries to cover her ears to block out the sound of the birds as the man swats Mana away. But then suddenly, the woman picks up a large rock and bashes the man’s head in.
The mystery woman serenely asks if Mana’s okay. Mana’s a bit astounded and replies the man’s dead when a car pulls up. Two more guys in suit, a short one and a hulk who looks a cross between Frankenstein and the Terminator, emerge looking for the woman. But they aren’t happy to see Mana at all.
Yuta’s looking for Mana but isn’t too worried since she hasn’t been gone long and figures she’s off playing somewhere, having no clue at this moment she’s being buried in the backyard of a walled-in mansion. She’s got bruises on her neck, implying she was either strangled or the big guy snapped her neck. The mystery woman, referred to as Nae, is watching from a second story room. An elderly, frail looking man in glasses tells Nae not to worry about the girl’s death; he’d do anything to keep her safe and asks she not wander off again. Nae says nothing.
By nightfall, Yuta’s still looking for Mana and is searching the apartment complex grounds. Suddenly, a severe looking older man (not as old as the man with Nae) rocking a rather prominent unibrow shines a flashlight in Yuta’s face. He demands to know what the seemingly young man is doing, but as the man gets a good look at him he recognizes Yuta!
We flash back to when Yuta first met Nae Kogure. He was working with several men clearing some trees when Nae approached him alongside a young boy (sporting a prominent, familiar unibrow). She’d heard about Yuta’s inquiries regarding mermaids and seems intrigued. Nae wants to know if Yuta intends to gain immortality through the mermaid’s flesh. Yuta replies she’s got it backwards.
Some time later, Yuta gave Nae his backstory and she was amazed to learn of his immortality. She’s so amazed she mentions she knows a thing or two about mermaids. Nae decides not to tell Yuta right away. She motions to the boy, Sokichi, and says she’ll send him to fetch Yuta when she’s ready. Sokichi’s the child of one of her family’s servants, and she trusts him to keep secrets.
Back to the present day, Yuta’s shocked to realize the old man is Sokichi. Sokichi’s currently the manager of the apartment complex, but he wants to be sure Yuta is who he thinks he is. He pulls out a knife and asks Yuta demonstrate his regenerative abilities. Yuta’s not thrilled to be treated like a sideshow act, but complies and cuts his arm.
After watching the wound heal, Sokichi’s convinced and has an important question for Yuta. Did he run off with Nae (whom he still refers to as “Miss Nae”) sixty years ago? Yuta has no idea what Sokichi’s talking about.
Since their first meeting, it seems Yuta and Nae got closer than Yuta usually allows in these situations. He kept trying to break it off, but Nae constantly asked him to take him with her when he continued his search. She wanted him to promise.
Yuta repeatedly explained to Nae he couldn’t take her with him because he wasn’t a normal human. He still hasn’t gotten over what happened when he outlived his wife. That and Nae already had a guy she was engaged to. At that moment, Nae’s fiancee (who happens to be a guy in glasses) asked Sokichi where she was. Sokichi lied and said he didn’t know. The fiancee griped about getting time off from school and she wasn’t around. Even though the guy’s a star student at the Imperial University and sweet, Nae doesn’t seem to really love him. Her one wish is to find a mermaid so she can be immortal like Yuta. That way she can run off with him.
Yuta reminds Sokichi he was there when Yuta left the valley, and he saw Nae wasn’t with him. Back then, Sokichi asked why he wasn’t taking Nae with him. He said Yuta promised to meet Nae in Crimson Valley. Yuta left without saying goodbye because he knew Nae would follow him regardless if he told her not to. When he returned to the area a few years later, he’d heard Nae was dead.
Sokichi informs Yuta that Nae is still alive and explains what happened to her. Immediately after Yuta left, Nae disappeared. The same day, in fact. Everyone originally believed she ran off with Yuta, but her fiancee Eijiro refused to believe she’d do that. The entire village searched for Nae, but found no trace of her. They held a funeral without a body. But Sokichi swears Nae is alive, looking exactly as she did six decades ago.
Well, it’s Nae Kogure’s BODY at least.
Back at the mansion, Nae is wandering the grounds in her perpetual daze. The shrimpy goon who helped bury Mana asks Nae to come back to the house when suddenly, Mana bursts out of the ground! And she is NOT happy. Mana’s brought to the old guy, wondering who the fuck is this filthy girl stinking up his house. Mana screams at the guy for being treated like garbage. I mean, getting killed is one thing but getting buried in his backyard?! Do you know who she is, good sir?! Mana orders them to let her go so she can find Yuta. The old guy is not happy to hear that name.
Mana’s allowed to clean up and eat, stuffing her face with her usual gusto while the old guy muses on Yuta’s return. His hands tremble as he calmly tells Mana that Nae’s current state is Yuta’s fault. Mana recalls the name and starts connecting dots.
While lounging in his study, the old man offhandedly tells the shrimpy goon the only way to kill Mana for good is to chop off her head. Mana reconvenes with Nae on the balcony of her room. But Nae can only respond to Mana’s questions with “I don’t know.” She doesn’t even know if name really is “Nae” or not. That’s when the goons get Mana’s attention.
Sokichi is leading Yuta to Nae’s old home through the now overgrown path they used to take back in the day. He explains the mansion is now owned by Nae’s ex-fiancee, Eijiro. A few years after Nae’s death, Eijiro married into a wealthy family and struck it insanely rich. The business expanded during the boom days of the war, and he’s spent the last few years buying up all the land in the area. Sokichi suspects Eijiro’s reasons for doing so involved Nae.
The two reach the mansion’s perimeter so Yuta can get a look at Nae, but Sokichi warns him to watch out for the security system. Inside, Mana’s trying to fight back against Eijiro’s goons before they kill her again. Nae’s standing there, still in her daze, as Mana screams for Yuta. Yuta hears Mana calling his name and blindly hops into the mansion yard, activating the alarms. Realizing Yuta’s nearby Mana makes a break for the balcony, her arm going through the glass in the doors. Nae starts having a panic attack as Eijiro screams for his men to disable the alarm, knowing it will frighten her.
And by frighten her, I mean her eyes go blank as she grabs a piece of broken glass and looks like she’s gonna start stabbing everyone. In the yard, Yuta’s fighting his own battle when he sees Nae on the balcony. Nae turns to face Yuta and both are shocked by recognition. Unfortunately, that leaves Yuta open for a sneak attack and he’s knocked out.
In Crimson Valley, Nae walks through a field of red flowers and tells Yuta the story of the mermaid’s ashes. A long time ago, a travelling nun came to the village and brought the ashes with her. Nae’s ancestors were kind to the nun, and in return she gave them some of the ashes. She demonstrated their power by using the ashes to make plants and trees grow. Nae adds she took some of the ashes and sprinkled them over the flowers, so now they bloom bright red all year round.
Crimson Valley is Nae’s secret place. The only other person who knows about it is Sokichi. And now Yuta knows as well.
Yuta awakens in a storage shed at a construction site, his hands cuffed together. Sokichi’s not happy Yuta’s blundering got him caught his well. Eijiro appears with Frankenthug by his side, explaining he refused to let Yuta be under the same roof as Nae. Eijiro bitterly blames Yuta for everything that’s happened and wants to know why he came back. Yuta angrily demands to know what Eijiro’s done with Mana and Nae. Eijiro goes ballistic, beating Yuta with his cane as he screams Nae died because of him!
Sokichi and Yuta are both shocked as Eijiro sinks to his knees, sobbing about “Poor Nae.”
Back at the mansion, Mana’s tied up and the goons discuss what to do with her. They decide not to decapitate her right off since she’s so good looking. Instead, they’re gonna have some fun with her. Mana starts angrily screaming at the two goons to get off her when Nae enters the room.
Holding a knife.
Blood splatters as the scene cuts back to the construction site, Yuta is asking how Nae died, Sokichi wanting to know who the Nae in Eijiro’s house is. Yuta asks if Sokichi remembers the legend of the mermaid’s ashes, and adds there was a darker version of the legend. Because of course there was. In the extended version, one of the villagers killed the travelling nun and stole the ashes. However, traces of the ashes remained in the nun’s corpse and she came back from the dead. Only now the nun lacked a soul and she went on a killing spree throughout the village. Sokichi angrily refuses to believe someone as gentle as Nae would become a soulless monster…
While at the same time, Nae is holding a bloody knife and standing before two dead corpses. Mana is more confused Nae saved her than she slaughtered two guys. Nae smiles as she remembers a promise and Crimson Valley. She leaves to see Yuta in Crimson Valley, Mana following behind her.
The shrimpy goon rushes to inform Eijiro of Nae’s departure. He orders the shrimp to find Nae before anything happens to her. Eijiro doesn’t care what happens to Mana; he’s more concerned about Nae being in the outside world.
Mana continues to follow Nae, figuring she’ll find Yuta if she does.
Yuta and Sokichi figure Eijiro used the mermaid’s ashes to resurrect Nae. That’s why he bought all the land, so he could find the ashes. Eijiro smiles, recalling when he discovered Nae’s dead body. He found her several years after she disappeared, buried in Crimson Valley. He eerily mentions Nae looked even more beautiful in death.
While trying to figure out what happened to Nae, Yuta tenses as he recalls Nae tried to make him promise to meet her in Crimson Valley. Eijiro begins to leave, ordering Frankenchump to chop off Yuta’s and Sokichi’s heads. He’ll do ANYTHING to protect Nae. Yuta lunges at Eijiro, but Frankenchump brings him down with one giant knee to the chest.
Frankengoon takes off his jacket and whips out a fucking CHAINSAW to behead Yuta. Sokichi grabs a metal pipe and whacks the goon in the head; he shrugs it off and punches the old man away.
As Frankengoon holds Yuta up, Yuta shatters the nearby window. Sticking his feet out, Yuta’s braces himself against the wall and manages to throw the giant fucker out!
Yuta and the big goon fall a few stories to the ground. Sokichi screams from the window if Yuta is dead or not, to which Yuta responds he’s not dying just yet. His thoughts are on stopping Eijiro from getting to Mana and Nae.
It’s morning again and Mana is still following Nae. The two are in a local park while some of Eijiro’s goons are on their tail with those dogs from the first part. Mana’s telling Nae to hurry before they get caught. Nae stops, concerned she’s going the wrong way and ignoring Mana’s complaints. Seeing the goons are nearby, Mana grabs a recycling container full of cans and throws it at their pursuers. She berates Nae, saying she won’t find Yuta if they get caught. Nae only repeats she made a promise, which Mana’s getting sick of hearing.
Sokichi’s driving around with Yuta, trying to find the women. Yuta’s blaming himself, saying if he’d gone to Crimson Valley Nae wouldn’t have died. Sokichi recalls Nae told him she was going with Yuta because of their promise. He asks Yuta why he didn’t meet Nae if he signaled he would. Sokichi reminds Yuta of the system the two used to meet up; they kept three stones behind a roadside monument. When Yuta could see Nae, he’d remove the stone in the middle. Sokichi still remembers the middle stone was removed that day when Nae said she was going with Yuta.
Yuta insists he didn’t move that stone, so who did? Sokichi figures it’s likely someone else knew about Yuta and Nae, so a third party could’ve definitely known about the signal. Which means Nae headed into Crimson Valley falsely believing Yuta would be there.
Nae and Mana are trying to lose Eijiro’s goons in a department store. Well Mana is, Nae’s looking at a tube of lipstick and wonders if Yuta would like it. Mana tells her to take the fucking thing, ordering the sales lady to bill the goons. FINALLY Nae is bringing Mana on the right path to Crimson Valley, trekking through the woods in the hills. Nae appears happy until she hears the birds cawing and has another panic attack. Mana recognizes Nae is afraid and holds her, trying to assure her it’s okay.
And then Eijiro had to show up and ruin everything. He’s “disappointed” Nae would come here after all this time. He tells Nae she has to come home, but the shrimpy goon warns him Nae is in one of her moods. She always loses control when the birds frighten her. Eijiro is confident Nae would never hurt him.
She bashes him in the head with a rock.
Eijiro is bleeding, but not dead. He’s shocked to his core at this betrayal and screams he brought Nae back with the ashes. Nae ignores Eijiro’s ranting and continues onward to Crimson Valley, Mana behind her. Eijiro then orders the goon to kill Nae and Mana, insisting soulless monsters like them must die.
Yuta’s carrying Sokichi on his back through the woods to Crimson Valley. They’re discussing who could’ve signaled Nae, and Yuta thinks it was Eijiro. Sokichi’s not sure; it makes more sense Eijiro would let Nae think Yuta WASN’T coming. Why would he make her think otherwise? I mean, Yuta was leaving anyway. What would be the point?
The shrimpy goon’s got his hands on Mana and is strangling her. She bites his hands and tells Nae to keep going without her. Nae hesitates but obeys Mana, but the moment she turns around Eijiro stabs her in the shoulder with the blade hidden in his cane.
Oh but he’s crying as he does it, so that’s okay. Even with the blade in her shoulder, Nae keeps going. Mana is disgusted at Eijiro while he tells the goon to cut off her head. The goon whips out a pocket knife and plans to slice off Mana’s head when Yuta hurls a giant rock at him.
Mana and Yuta are extremely relieved to see each other, and now Yuta can grill Eijiro on what happened to Nae. Yuta firmly believes Eijiro tricked Nae into going to Crimson Valley…
And he’s right.
Sixty years ago, Nae went to Crimson Valley expecting to see Yuta. Instead, she found Eijiro, extremely disappointed she answered the phony signal. As Nae in the present day heads to the valley, she starts to recall what happened that day. She remembers as Eijiro grabbed her throat and screamed he’d take her away from the village. She begged him to stop.
Reaching Crimson Valley for the first time in ages, Nae’s memories have semi-returned. She recalls Eijiro killing her, but the cawing of the birds overwhelm her again. She sinks to her knees, covering her ears, thinking over and over again how Yuta never came for her.
Sokichi demands to know if Eijiro planned to murder Nae the whole time. Eijiro responds that wasn’t his idea, but he didn’t take kindly to being friendzoned. He makes it sound like it was Nae’s fault because she didn’t regret going to the valley that day. Right after he strangled her, Eijiro promised he’d find the mermaid’s ashes and revive her. What he didn’t know was Nae had hidden the ashes. Yuta admonished her for using the ashes on the flowers, explaining it’s dangerous to use anything made from a mermaid’s body. Nae took Yuta’s complaints totally seriously, and offered to hide the ashes without telling her father.
Eijiro freaked out because he’d be a murderer if he couldn’t revive Nae. Yuta asks if he was unaware of what happened with the murdered nun, how she came back as a soulless monster. Eijiro knew, but figured the benefits outweighed the negatives.
If Nae didn’t have a soul, he could do whatever he wanted with her.
Eijiro finally found the ashes a couple of years ago, and immediately brought them to Crimson Valley. Nae’s body was perfectly preserved in the ground, most likely due to the ashes she spread on the flowers and earth. He emptied the entire jar into Nae’s body, and she quickly came back to life.
Now Eijiro feels he brought a monster to life, but Mana argues he’s wrong. She knows Nae remembers Yuta and the promise they made. She’s waiting for him in Crimson Valley.
Mana, Yuta, and Sokichi drag Eijiro to the valley, where Nae has her back to them. Sokichi warns Yuta to be careful or Nae might kill him. Mana reminds Sokichi that Yuta’s immortal, while Eijiro mutters the woman’s a monster. Yuta approaches Nae, his arms open, wanting Nae to forgive him for not showing up that day. Nae turns around and raises the cane blade above her head…
And then she drops it because she’s just so relieved to see Yuta! Nae happily tells Yuta she’d just woken up from the worst nightmare, not realizing how shocked he is to see the REAL Nae Kogure after all this time. She hugs him and tells Yuta how, in her “dream,” he never came to Crimson Valley and Eijiro attacked her. Boy, good thing it was just a dream right?
Yuta tells Nae they can leave the village together…
As he remembers the very last part of the legend. The villagers chased the nun into the mountains, where she stayed until the ashes wore off a few years later and she died all over again.
Yuta holds Nae’s body, tears in his eyes as he thinks about how he couldn’t live with her or die with her.
Eijiro harumphs, saying Nae was never alive to begin with. Sokichi grabs the bastard, stating Nae was only having a bad dream. But what HE did was no dream.
Yuta and Mana are leaving the area when Yuta stops to look back. Mana warns Yuta she’ll leave him behind if he doesn’t keep up with her. She can take care of herself just fine, thank you very much. Yuta muses Mana might be feeling jealous; she has no idea what “jealous” is.
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T KEEP IT IN YOUR PANTS, YUTA.
Though I will admit Mana being absolutely done with all this romance bullshit was extremely enjoyable and how she refuses to engage with anyone outside of her level. Gets killed and buried like trash? FUCK YOU I’M GOING BACK TO YUTA.
But I still feel bad for Nae.