OOM #14 – Ningyo no mori (1991)

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Since the Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness didn’t focus on a film today, I moved forward on time from ‘Gremlins’ (1984), which on my personal list lead me to this OVA, translated as ‘Mermaid Forest’. What will happen now in this October Overlook’s Madness?

Horror anime is a difficult thing to master, particularly because the animation style in itself tends to favor other genres, more action-oriented than what the horror needs. Nevertheless, when it manages to creep or scare, sometimes there’s nothing better than a truly disturbing and engaging anime horror film. ‘Mermaid Forest’ is an OVA, a format that was used by animation houses to adapt popular mangas without the need to compromise themselves on doing full series or seasons of animated work, thus focusing entirely on one or two or three stories maximum, as a way to react to something popular. None of these surpassed the hour mark, and the differ from mini-series by being stand-alone products mostly released on VHS or eventually on DVD. This was part of a series of videos released overseas around the themes of the supernatural, but this might be among the most popular, as it’s based on the manga novels created by Rumiko Takahashi, which revolved around the concept of mermaids being real creatures, that when caught and eaten had the possibility of granting you immortality. But, since you were killing something so beautiful, there was an awful curse attached to it.

This OVA has a 90s feel that never manages to shake off, but it does eventually turn horrific when it features the blood and carnage that one comes to expect of a story that revolves around hunting and cutting up pieces of mermaid for eating. This opens with Yuta, a man who ate mermaid meat 500 years ago, and being confronted with the military, only to be killed on the spot under a suspicion (thus where the times that Japan lived under… whenever this takes places), the amount of blood and the force of the images shocked me a bit, specially considering the current situation in my country (Chile), but that’s just a tease for what’s coming. A young sick lady drinks mermaid blood to avoid her death, and 55 years later still lives somewhat young, trying to find a cure for her illness that hasn’t disappeared, or trying to work around the curse of drinking that blood, which has given her a monster hand.

The designs are a bit stock, which gives it that 90s feel, but the last 20-30 minutes of this are absolutely enthralling when it comes to the way that it tells stories, layers its twists, puts stories from the past, present and even a wrap-around structure that tries to frame it all. While not all of it works, the final confrontation and sacrifices done actually affect the viewer, who’s had little time to come to know the characters, but manages to find their pleas understandable. A quite decent horror OVA for the time.

7/10

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