Thursday, May 15, 2014

One Volume Wonder: SELFISH MR. MERMAID

Today's series is just one of the many piles of one-volume yaoi manga brought to us by DMP, but it has to be easily one of the strangest I've seen.  It was so strange that I had to read and review it just to show it to others.  The very title begs the question: how do you have gay sex with a merman?

SELFISH MR. MERMAID (Wagamama na Ningyo-sama), by Nabako Kamo.  First published in 2006, and first published in North America in 2008.

Kanan is a weepy and deeply insecure young man.  He comes home one day to discover that the apartment above his isn't so much leaking water as it pouring forth a waterfall past and onto his own.  Kanan goes to confront his neighbor only to find a half-naked man unconscious in the bath.  The man, Kaioh, was merely napping - he apparently is a mermaid prince, and soon enough he moves himself into Kanan's place so he can take advantage of a bigger bathtub and a loser to serve him as a companion and servant.

Kaioh is rude and domineering, but he soon grows fond of Kanan and his sensitivity.  Things become complicated when Kaioh is beckoned home by his family for a royal event, and those who oppose them decide that the best way to lash out at Kaioh is through Kanan.

So, it turns out that the answer to "How do you have gay sex with a merman?" is "Like everyone else, because mermen are no different than any other human."

I had issues with this from the moment I read the title.  This may be purely pedantic, but shouldn't this be called Selfish Mr. MerMAN?  I know that it's a fairly literal translation of the original title, but the "maid" in "mermaid" is supposed to be referring to "maiden" - that is, a lady.  It makes no sense when the character in question is a dude.  On the other hand, he barely qualifies as a merperson in general.  He doesn't have a tail at any point, seems perfectly comfortable in the human world, and doesn't even so much as change his clothes when he returns to his underwater homeland.  Aside from the fact that he can breathe underwater and cry tears of pearl, he is the very model of your average normal seme.  In a way, I feel almost cheated by this.  I'm always game for anyone who dares to shake up the yaoi plot and character formulas, so I was kind of eager to see how the creator would work around sex when one partner is half-fish, or how living in two different ecosystems would affect a relationship.  Instead Kamo got completely lazy, drew a bunch of normal people underwater, and called it a day.  If you're going to come up with something like gay mermaid sex, either commit to the concept completely or give up!

Mind you, Kamo was lazy with far more than just the mythology.  Kaioh and Kanan might as well be portrayed by wooden planks labeled "UKE" and "SEME," for all the depth they display.  Kanan is a bore who distinguishes himself solely through his ability to cry at the slightest bit of kindness or offense.  That's still more emotional range that Kaioh displays, because his default mode is Vaguely Pissy, even during his supposed moments of tenderness.  Too bad that his idea of 'tenderness' is SURPRISE! BUTTSEX!  Too bad then that Kanan is so weak-willed that he immediately surrenders to the Stockholm Syndrome and believes this to be love. 

There's not even any sort of pay-off for these two after they get together.  You'd think that the story would be about Kanan becoming less of a cry-baby, but that doesn't happen.  You'd hope that it was about Kaioh learning to treat others better or get in touch with his own inner sensitivity, but that doesn't happen either.  It's genuinely sad that I was more invested in the ending side story about a giant clam professing his love for the story's villain like some sort of lovesick puppydog.  This story truly can be called a shipwreck if a bivalve shows more depth and interest than the freaking lead couple.

I didn't have many kind words for the story, but I have fewer still for the art.  Even by the low, shoujo-addled standards of yaoi artwork, this ranks amongst the worst.  Everyone here is both weirdly bobbleheaded with popcorn kernel shaped heads.  The faces can't fit properly on such misshapen heads, so everyone's eyes look too wide-set while the rest of their faces are weirdly small and pinched.  These bizarre heads sit upon giraffe necks, which in turn rest on overly gangly and often off-kilter bodies.  Worse still is that too many of the characters look just like Kaioh, to the point where I didn't recognize that a side character was meant to be Kaioh's sister.  As far as I could tell, she was just another weird, pointy-chinned, pissy-looking, flat-chested dude.  With bodies so strange, it should come as no surprise that the sex is just as awkwardly drawn as anything else and contains all the raw sensuality of a tuna fish sandwich.  I can't believe something so amateurishly drawn would get published, much less licensed overseas.

This manga fails to deliver on its unusual premise, instead delivering both story and art that are beyond amateurish.  I wanted something weird and wacky, but instead got nothing but a cookie cutter story with art that would be laughed off of DeviantArt.  I can see why this only lasted for two volumes in Japan, and frankly not even this one should have been brought over.

This volume was published by Digital Manga Publishing.  This series is complete in Japan, with 2 volumes available.  This volume is currently out of print.

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