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Yuta is over 500 years old, a former Japanese fisherman who caught and ate the immortality-bestowing flesh of a mermaid. Though it killed his fellow sailors or turned them into feral "Lost Soul" mutants, Yuta has stayed forever young, and now he wanders modern Japan in search of others like him. One such person is Mana, a girl whom Yuta rescues from mermaid crones who intend to restore their own youth by eating her. However, she is also kidnapped by a human woman who has been deformed by ingesting mermaid's blood in an attempt to cure an illness.
Mixing Japanese Folk Tales with a modern vampire analogy seemingly informed by Highlander (1985), the original 1988 Mermaid's Forest manga is one of the darker works from Urusei Yatsura-creator Rumiko Takahashi. Though parts of the original manga concentrated on Yuta's early wanderings, the anime sequel, Mermaid's Scar (1993, Ningyo no Kizu), opted for another modern tale. This time, Yuta and Mana arrive in another seaside town where they suspect that another woman living in another secluded mansion (coastal Japan being littered with them, it would seem) is another eater of mermaid flesh. In this they are not mistaken, since the slightly crazed Misa has recovered her beautiful looks with suspicious rapidity after the boating accident that killed her husband. Though at first believing her to be abusing her young son Masato, the pair discover that Masato is the 800-year-old manipulator of a succession of adult foils-Misa, a bereaved mother to whom he fed mermaid flesh during the WWII bombing of Tokyo, is only the latest. However, as happened in its predecessor, Mermaid's Scar's brooding Gothic soon collapses into a succession of gory fights. Its chilling premise is reduced to the straightforward rescue of a damsel in distress, and it suffers somewhat from the same inconsistencies that dog Vampire Princess Miyu-Masato's supply of 800-year-old mermaid flesh seems both inexhaustible and unperishable. Furthermore, the blurb on the box claims that Yuta is tired of immortality and searching for a way to die, though everyone already seems agreed that decapitation or immolation would both do the job nicely. One of the Rumic World series based on Takahashi's short manga tales; other entries included Fire Tripper, Laughing Target, and Maris the Chojo. Compare to its contemporary 3x3 Eyes.
The story was resurrected for the 13-part Rumiko Takahashi Theater: Mermaid's Forest (2004), directed by Masaharu Okuwari-eleven episodes screened on TV, and the two final ones available only on video. This follows Yuta's wanderings through the world seeking a mermaid who can set him free to live as a normal human again. He finds a companion, Mana, who was kept prisoner by mermaids who intended to eat her-this is how mermaids, like Countess Dracula, keep their youthful looks. Mana, too, has eaten mermaid flesh and joins Yuta on his quest. Although they do not age, they can still feel pain and can be killed. They can never stay in one place for long or risk drawing too much attention to themselves, but Yuta's memories and past experiences draw them back to his old haunts and bring them in touch with a few survivors of those experiences. Many of the stories refer back to events in the manga and video release. Although a well-crafted, well-written series, the TV MF doesn't really give the viewer anything different from the original. Yuta's mixed feelings about his own immortality and his constant need to reaffirm himself and his humanity, and the easygoing adaptability that has enabled him to survive 500 years of change and turmoil, remain the same, so it's one for Takahashi completists. NV