Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Sep 1st 2010
My Bride Is a Mermaid
Season 1 DVD Part 2
Commitment to his mermaid bride reaffirmed and his shotgun wedding to Lunar called off, Nagasumi's life should be stabilizing. Instead Akeno Shiranui shows up. Shiranui is the proctor for the Mermaid Exam, a test to discover whether a mermaid is fit to remain in human society. She takes her job quite seriously—it ensures that the existence of mermaids remains a secret—and is authorized to exile anyone who doesn't meet her standards back to the sea. She's also got her eyes on Sun. As if the stress of avoiding deportation isn't enough, Sun and Nagasumi must also contend with the usual assortment of assassination attempts, classroom misbehavior, mind-warping mermaid brews, and misguided gangster parents, to say nothing of the sinister forces that are behind Shiranui's Exam.
If the first half of My Bride is a Mermaid taught us nothing else, it's that the show should never let its comic velocity drop. Luckily the show learned that too. Its second half does drop the comic ball on occasion, but it makes up for its lapses with an onslaught of parodies and sight gags that reaches delirious heights not dreamt of in the first half.
Part II first drops the ball during the Mermaid Exam. The Exam, being something resembling an actual plot, temporarily impedes the flow of film parodies, attempted yakuza violence, and other assorted jokes, silliness and near-death experiences. As before, the series doesn't weather the down-shift well. Without a constant barrage of dumb gags and demented behavior to distract from her, it's painfully obvious that Shiranui is not only thinly written and eminently throttle-worthy, but is also a clumsy plot device whose sole function is to test Sun and Nagasumi's relationship. So poorly does she fare that when the next episode places her in the center of yet another schoolyard war in a transparent (and slightly desperate) attempt to earn her some comedy cred, it hardly raises a smile.
It isn't long, however, before she, and the unwelcome snippets of seriousness that accompany her, are drowned in a skull-splitting sea of comic energy. It's a treacherous place, that sea, ever on the verge of mind-destroying chaos and littered with jokes that died in awful ways: crushed under the weight of straight-up harem clichés, beaten to an oozing pulp by repetition, torn limb from limb by voraciously unfunny characters, or just plain croaked. But it's also the place where the series is most at home; and at least during the post-exam, pre-climax episodes the show seems to have fully embraced that. By the time it places a gal-game in the hands of Lunar's father, who applies what he learns from it in the absolute worst possible manner (take whatever you're thinking right now and multiply it by ten), it's obvious that Mermaid has found its groove. And miraculously, it stays in it; through the bizarre hilarity of Sun emulating her ideal of manhood and the Stooges-on-steroids pratfalls of Lunar's attempt to turn Maki into a ventriloquist's dummy, all the way into what should have been shoddy tales of amnesia and false terminal illness (actually excuses to torture Masa and Kai respectively). It's the closest the series has ever come to being truly inspired.
The series' comic focus while in that groove is nothing short of spectacular. By limiting complex movement to discrete bursts of comic insanity, lapsing frequently into hilariously cheap SD animation, and covering for a basic lack of animation with mach-speed editing and lightning shifts in style, it milks every ounce of energy it can from its B-list budget and channels it all into delivering maximum silliness. The result isn't pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but it is frequently and herniatingly funny. "Male" Sun is a preposterously manly mess of bold lines and hatch-marks, moe Lunar Papa and his moe yakuza converts (don't ask) are disturbingly detailed, and rare is the moment that passes without at least two or three gags tucked into some corner of the screen. It's comic chaos of a particularly high caliber, marred only by the less stellar episodes that bookend it.
That chaos doesn't leave much of a role for Yasuharu Takanashi's score. Occasionally it's an integral part of a joke, as when T2 noises follow Lunar's Schwarzeneggerian Papa around. But the rest of the time it's just generic support. Likely as not the series would be just as funny, just as kinetic, and just as unhinged if it didn't have any music at all.
Aside from miscasting mild-spoken mermaid thug Shark Fujishiro, Funimation's English dub avoids making any major mistakes. It does make some minor ones though. The script feels less free-spirited than before, taking fewer liberties and thus coming across a little clunkier and leaving fewer opportunities for Todd Haberkorn's Nagasumi to distinguish himself from Takahiro Mizushima's. That said, it remains a solid work, filled with amusing turns by some veteran players and every bit as funny and only a little less energetic than the original. That both the better moments in Part I's adaptation and the occasional liberty taken here feel a bit like unfulfilled promises doesn't change that.
After peaking in the middle, Part II drops the ball again during its climax. The final arc begins with an incongruously serious lovers' quarrel (over unfolded socks) and ends with the chauvinistic reduction of Sun to a damsel in distress, none of which is flattered by the slackening of the series' humor. It eventually redeems itself with a ridiculously excessive and unusually well-budgeted fight, which thanks to a very foul villain is quite satisfying in its rib-cracking conclusion. Nevertheless it ends the series on a slightly sour note. By that point, however, a sour note hardly matters.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B
Story : D-
Animation : B
Art : C
Music : C+
+ About as funny as anime gets; surprisingly good fight at the end.
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