The Fall 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Valkyrie Drive -Mermaid-
Review: So what does it mean for the Fall 2015 season when its final debut is easily the trashiest series of the season? Probably nothing, but this certainly isn't a case of saving the best for last. (Unless, of course, you've been lamenting a relative dearth of series focused on big-boobed babes.)
Mermaid is apparently the anime branch of an original multimedia franchise which will eventually be joined by a PS Vita game and an iOS/Android social media game. In terms of content it looks like a cross between Cross Ange, Queen's Blade, and the older series Elemental Gelade (a series about a special race of young women who could transform into weapons when they bonded with a wielder) and makes no bones about the fact that it is going to be both an erotically-charged fan service fest and a dedicated yuri title, albeit in the latter case aimed much more at a male audience than a true lesbian audience. If neither of those factors holds any normal appeal for you then you're best off not wasting your time on the first episode, as it does not offer enough merit beyond those factors to entice on-the-fence viewers.
The first episode is heavily-focused on heroine Mamori, whose last name has an unfortunate tendency to be read as “virgin” in printed form (this is, of course, an attempt at a running joke), so we do not learn much about the setting; no one is initially willing to explain anything to her, either. Apparently, though, in this world special girls/women exist who are classified as either Liberators (think Meister from Soul Eater) or Exters (think Weapon). Once classified, they are captured and shipped by torpedo to Mermaid, a force field-screened tropical island where many are gathered for as-yet-unknown reasons. (It does not entirely seem to be a penal colony, but that may be one aspect of it.) Cute, delicate Mamori is clueless about all of this when she awakens on Mermaid's beach and soon meets a pair of bikini-clad women who were sent to test her. Mamori is flummoxed when one of them turns into an exotic gun aimed at her, but a second new arrival – the bigger, bustier Mirei – arrives just in time to protect her with fantastic combat moves. Unwttingly, Mamori achieves a Drive reaction with Mirei and turns into Mirei's weapon, a large sword, which signifies that they are going to be partners even though she does not understand that yet. Soon the pair finds a castle where another challenge – a woman with a masochistic girl as her partner – awaits under the watchful eyes of a crowd of schoolgirl observers. That challenge is also met by a transformation and battle skill whose potency surprises everyone.
Left unsaid in the above synopsis exactly what needs to be done to trigger the weapon transformation for Exters: apparently they have to be sexually aroused by their partners for it to happen. In other words, someone concluded that Testament of Sister New Devil wasn't going far enough and decided to push the envelope even more in the hentai direction, and what's shown does not leave a whole lot to the imagination. However, the effort to excel in the fan service department is hampered by this being only a mediocre artistic effort overall. It certainly strives for some dynamic bursts of action but only sporadically achieves them, and these are not top-of-the-line sexy character designs. (And I think that's a fair statement even if your tastes do run on the large side for breasts.) Just as important is that lead character Mamori is almost irritatingly pathetic and helpless. Right now she seemingly exists just to be taken advantage of. Fortunately she's paired with a minimally-conversant hard case who seems like she will not needlessly do so, so that balances it out a little bit.
On whole, the first episode is corny, cheesy, and somewhat dumb. It isn't total disaster, but boy, it could have been handled better. Cross Ange proved that a messy start for a trashy series like this could be survived and improved upon, and indeed the action component already isn't bad, so I will give this one some time to see if it shows merits. Right now, though, it isn't looking too promising.
Valkyrie Drive -Mermaid- is available streaming at Funimation.com
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