The Spring 2018 Manga Guide
What's It About?Little mermaid Rune's first encounter with human was...unique. A middle school boy named Riku drops his porno magazines into the sea and that's when she first discovers that human mating is far and away more intimate than the all business fish reproduction she's learned about so far.
Rune becomes fascinated with human sex and sets her sights on the Riku (now a man) as her future partner. The elder sea witch gives Rune legs to head into the human world and she quickly works her way into Riku's home to make good on sexual longing. Unfortunately, her human body has one catch: she fin reappears whenever she becomes aroused. Rune has one year to do the deed or she's stuck a mermaid forever.
Peach Mermaid is an original manga by Haru Akebono and is available as a digital-only release from Kodansha Comics.
Is It Worth Reading?Lynzee Loveridge
This the second of the two mermaid focused manga for Preview Guide and while Mermaid Boys was the genderbent variation of Hans Christian Andersen's story, Peach Mermaid is the horny take. Specifically, the horny take written for ladies. This manga runs in Kodansha's Dessert magazine, home to the likes of Real Girl and Say, “I love you.” so while Rune definitely wants to get down to business, her sexual desire is supposed to be something the reader relates to personally. Akebono rarely draws Rune from Riku's perspective and she never lingers on her curves or employs the techniques you usually see in male fanservice manga. The author's notes hints that wasn't entirely her intention though. Apparently shojo manga taboos prevented her from drawing Rune with exposed nipples. Anyway, despite the fact this is a story with sex as a central theme, the manga seemed measure in its gaze.
That said, Rune is kinda a ditz. The story treats her fascination with sex as a result of her immaturity about social norms. Sort of like Ariel combing her hair with a fork but instead she's trying to feed her boyfriend aphrodisiac tea. Akebono acknowledges Rune's child-like disposition to some extent by putting Riku in an emotional conflict. He doesn't know whether he's attracted to Rune or simply wants to protect her in a guardian type role.
The manga's chapters are very short, just three to four pages, and primarily focused on setting up some kind of sexual joke with loose continuity. This isn't a shojo drama with multiple suitors or some kind of love triange, at least not yet. The first volume is more concerned about our central couple and building some unique lore to accompany its mermaids instead of pulling all of it from the classic fairy tale. Akebono turns to the mating and life cycles of actual fish, in this case the Asian Sheepshead Wrasse and its ability to change its physical sex depending on the needs of the population.
Peach Mermaid is a little bit cute, a little bit sexy, and a little bit funny. As a light read, its central couple is fun, not too dramatic, not too deep and it adds just enough twists to the mermaid girlfriend stories to venture outside predictable territory into some new waters.
Peach Mermaid, by Akebono's own admission, shares some elements with typical shonen romance fare, such as the beautiful (often otherworldly) girl hanging all over the average protagonist. Aside from the art style, this series seems to be devoid of most shojo/josei sensibilities. The shifted expectations about genre aside, Peach Mermaid is repetitive but still manages to retain the reader's interest throughout. Rune wants to have sex with Riku, and though he's sometimes open to the idea, her tail keeps popping up when she's aroused. There's some muddling of characterization in Riku, who sometimes feels put-upon by this beautiful stalker, who sometimes seems open to having sex with her, and who other times acknowledges her naiveté and thinks of her like a kid. Maybe the fact that a beautiful woman is throwing herself at him may “tempt” him, but before readers can really root for them as a couple, he needs to start viewing her more romantically—and as more of an equal, even if she still has a lot to learn about the human world.
The most memorable secondary character, Riku's younger sister, Saki, makes a pretty good foil. She doesn't know her brother's “girlfriend” is a mermaid and drops by to deliver the tsukkomi reaction to Rune's airheaded ways. Rune's older brother/sister doesn't show much character outside of his concern for his sister and his desire for her to become a merman like him, but the volume does end on an intriguing prospect thanks to his appearance, lending more importance to Rune's quest to get laid besides her simple interest in human sex.
Akebono draws beautiful people with a shojo flair. Even Riku, who isn't supposed to be too bishonen necessarily (Rune is said to be out of his league), comes across as fairly handsome. The fact that everyone's attractive aside, there's at least some differentiation in character designs so everyone stands out. The background art is truly sparse. True, much of the narrative takes place in Riku's small apartment, but there are meager furnishings or white space for most panels. Akebono uses screentones frugally, giving the whole manga a bright, cheery look, which does at least suit Rune's personality.
Peach Mermaid volume 1 isn't the funniest or most romantic romantic comedy, but it does the job. With a clock ticking down on Rune's ability to stay human, the volume adds some much-needed stakes by volume's end. It's not the most amazing fish-out-of-water tale, but Peach Mermaid is a fluffy, lighthearted escape.
Who knew mermaid sex comedies were a thing? Peach Mermaid, where the word “peach” is quite possibly meant to be an indication of female sexuality, as that's a commonly used fruit for that purpose, is exactly that: the story of a sex-starved mermaid and her attempts to get it on with her human love. He's not nearly as enthusiastic as she is, which is a nice subversion of more typical shoujo manga tropes; we see the sexually enthusiastic heroine a lot more in shounen romances, which is what makes the bonus chapter in the back of the book that ran in Dessert's brother publication especially entertaining.
All of Peach Mermaid is pretty fun when you get right down to it. Heroine Rune is a spoof on Hans Christian Andersen's famous Little Mermaid, a girl who falls in love with a human man and gets a special potion from a sea witch to transform into a human. But her caveat is a little different – if she doesn't have sex with Riku, she'll lose her legs permanently and when she returns to the sea she'll become a merman. The problem? Every time Rune gets aroused, her legs turn back into a tail, robbing her of the requisite anatomy for, as she puts it, “doing the sex.” That Riku is somewhat relieved by all of this, albeit concerned that she might turn fish in public, makes Rune's goal to do the sex much more difficult, which is where much of the comedy comes from.
Riku's not fully immune to Rune's charms, of course, but he is resisting them pretty hard, to the point where he begins to think of himself as her guardian rather than boyfriend. His attitude does make sense – not only is she not human, but he seems like a basically quiet, introverted guy, and Rune's a very in-your-face girl. Their will they/won't they dynamic is therefore based less on whether or not they'll have sex and more whether they can reach an emotional compromise. That tempers the more outrageous humor nicely, and although Rune can be annoying, we can see that actual feelings are at play beneath the surface for both characters. The pleasant art, with some really pretty outfits for Rune even if backgrounds are barely present, helps to make this an enjoyable read as well. Peach Mermaid could get annoying if it tries to go on too long, but this first book is worth checking out as a nice, light read.
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