Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Aug 2nd 2010
My Bride Is a Mermaid
Season 1 DVD Part 1
While visiting his grandma in scenic Seto, Nagasumi Michishio drowns. It's a predictably unpleasant experience. That is, until a beautiful mermaid rescues him. No one believes him vis-a-vis the mermaid until the mermaid, one Sun Seto, visits him on land to tell him that mermaid law requires he be killed for glimpsing a mermaid's true form. His one escape from certain death is to become part of the mermaid clan; namely, to marry her. It would be the perfect beginning to a patented anime romance were it not for one teensy problem: Sun's relatives are murderous half-fish gangsters who would rather see Nagasumi sleep with the fishes than with their precious heir.
You don't need to do everything well, the saying goes; you only need to do one thing well enough. The makers of My Bride is a Mermaid took that To Heart. It throws everything it has into high-energy humor, knowing full well that neither its plot nor its characters can carry it. And for the most part, it works.
It often feels like it shouldn't, though. Other than the fish-gangster angle, My Bride is a Mermaid avoids newness and novelty with a studiousness usually reserved for the avoidance of things like tapeworms and death. The plot and situations are cribbed from any number of magical-cohabitating-girl anime, personalities are borrowed from sources both animated and live-action, and even the designs are on the sloppy side of been-there-done-that. Heck, its originality-avoidance is so pervasive and obvious that the series actually makes a running joke of it, drawing constant attention to things like white-clad filthy-rich sword-wielding romantic rival Kai's resemblance to a certain white-clad filthy-rich sword-wielding rival from Urusei Yatsura. And tellingly, the joke works.
My Bride is a Mermaid is a pretty miserable romance—the mindless worship of moldy rom-com tropes ensures that—but it's a pretty good comedy. Wielding a powerful combination of demented family dynamics and shameless physical humor, the series turns staples like dates on deserted islands and co-ed cohabitation into breeding grounds for fishy yakuza mayhem like mollusk hitmen and mail-order mermaid brews that, when drunk, turn you into a mindless giant whom your in-laws can immediately launch to the moon. It's quite unhinged, totally mindless, and lots of fun. Yes, you must come to terms with Nagasumi and Sun's dispiriting lack of chemistry, and yes the preponderance of two-faced witches kills any outside romance, but when Terminator look-alikes start coming out of the woodwork and yakuza food-stands start handing out chocolate-covered pistols, that hardly matters.
The secret to My Bride is a Mermaid's comic success isn't a superior sense of humor (though it's far from poor) so much as a superior density of humor. It pumps the jokes out so fast that, for every joke that ends up a corpse, there are at least two more that are alive and kicking your sense of humor well below the beltline. The series ends up a storm of gags, tossing everything from Hollywood parodies and jabs at Fist of the North Star to straight-up sight-gag insanity and priceless lapses into SD (ever seen an SD mermaid? Hilarious) at the screen in an all-out comic assault. Mad inventions are the order of the day (the Terminator look-alike arrives via a lengthy American-styled comic-book sequence) and amphetamized editing and wild shifts in style and tone trump quality animation and consistent art at every turn. When the action gets to be too much for the obviously limited budget, the series breaks out the stick figures (no joke), and any other excuse to humorously slack on the visuals is enthusiastically taken. It's total chaos, but chaos with a focused comic intent.
Yasuharu Takanashi's's score is equally comedy-focused. As broad, antic, and parody-filled as the series itself, it could easily have been an earsore were it not for director Seiji Kishi's timely use of it and habit of burying it in the audio mix...or letting it lapse altogether. Well-suited to the series in general, but not something you'd want on your iPod.
Funimation dubs My Bride is a Mermaid the way a comedy should be dubbed: faithfully, but with plenty of wiggle room to adjust for humor. It can wander pretty far from the literal translation, but in preserving the series' headlong humor, it actually remains more faithful. The cast also opts for faithfulness, steering their performances—for the most part—as near to the originals as they can without resorting to slavish imitation. Todd Haberkorn's slightly sarcastic take on Nagasumi is actually an improvement on the original, while several of the more irritating characters come across slightly better in English. Balancing them out is Alexis Tipton, who does a valiant job as Sun, but can't come near the range and comic timing of Halko Momoi. The subtitles, by the way, make the fatal mistake of including clumsy "dialects," making the dub just that much more attractive an option.
There is a plot underneath My Bride is a Mermaid's comic din. It has something to do with Sun's secret insecurity about being a bride and comes to a head in a mid-series climax that forces the show to wax serious for entire minutes on end. But when, in the waxing, the comic din recedes enough to expose the plot, all that is revealed is a profound shallowness. Yes, there is a plot buried under the rampaging gags; it just isn't worth digging for, especially when it's so much more fun to listen to the din as it shuts your brain down, one chuckle at a time.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : D
Animation : C+
Art : C
Music : C+
+ Earns the comedy half of its classification with inexhaustible comic energy; sweet-natured and surprisingly harmless given the constant threat of murder and mayhem.
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