May. 4th, 2013

the_sun_is_up: Yahtzee's speech bubble has been censored by a black bar that has the text "horrible things" written on it. (zero p - horrible things)
POP QUIZ: Name a bunch of narrative elements guaranteed to make pre-teen and teenage girls fork over all their money.

-mermaids
-princesses
-pop stardom
-Sailor Moon
-foofy dresses
-shirtless surfer dudes
-forbidden romance
-Gackt

In 2003, Michiko Yokote and Pink Hanamori had the bright idea to mash all these things into one guaranteed-to-sell manga. In fact, it's possible they were a little too confident in the failproof nature of their brainchild, because they don't seem to have put much effort into making it, y'know, not suck.

Mermaid Melody is bad. More than that, it's incompetent. I've read plenty of bad manga in my time, but even so, it's rare that I come across one that's fails on such a basic level of "how to tell a functional story with words and pictures." I hate to say it, but it's a lot like Hen in that sense. It's like...

Okay, so modern-day Hollywood puts out plenty of bad movies, like the Transformers films. But at least those films were made by people who grasp the basics of film-making and could probably have made something a lot better if they'd tried harder. On the flip side, you have the films featured on MST3K and Cinema Snob where the creators were so incompetent that they couldn't even keep the boom-mike out of the camera's view.

What I'm saying is: In Mermaid Melody, that boom-mike has a starring role.

Oh fuck these analogies, I'll just show you:

Cut for large images )

But let's leave the details aside and widen our scope a bit: What about that failsafe premise I was praising before? MerMelo is about a bunch of mermaids who transform into idol singers and fight the forces of evil with their voices. It sounds like a pretty winning concept, but it's brought down by one big problem: MerMelo's heroines fight by singing. In a manga. Manga being a solely visual medium.

This ensures that nearly every single fight scene in MerMelo lasts a mere two pages. Each fight consists of three steps: 1) the heroines show up and say their In The Name Of The Moon speech, 2) the villain-of-the-week grimaces and yells some variant on "I'll get you next time, you meddling kids!" and departs, and 3) the heroines say their closing catchphrase: "How'd you like an encore?" That's literally it. Seriously, between steps 1 and 2, they may as well write the words "Insert song performance here" because we never get to see the girls sing for more than a page, nor do we see any of the lyrics. It's possible to depict singing in a soundless medium and still make it interesting — Full Moon Wo Sagashite did a pretty good job with that — and a few of MerMelo's battles at least make a vague attempt at being cinematic, but most of the time they don't even bother.

This also has the side effect of making villains look even more ridiculous and trivial than they usually are in this genre. The villain keeps sending his minions out on missions to kidnap the mermaids for use in his evil plot, but the minions always attack the mermaids head-on instead of using subterfuge, and the mermaids' songs always defeat the minion-of-the-week in one hit. These villains are so easily beaten and so disorganized that they can't possibly pose a threat.

Speaking of laughable villains, the main villain's consort is the resident Dark Magical Girl, a fallen mermaid princess named Sara. Her deal is that she was in love with a human who dumped her, and most of her dialogue is wangsty moaning about how no one can possibly understaaaaand how she feeeeels oh woe is me, I am literally the first person to get dumped in the history of everything. It's pretty insufferable, especially when we find out that he only dumped her for the sake of her kingdom.

Back to what I'd tentatively call the "combat": Fighting one's enemies via song is already a rather shaky concept, but MerMelo exacerbates this towards the end of the first story-arc by throwing in a bunch of shallow nonsensical bollocks about believing in yourself — for example, Lucia's given a magic harp with no strings, but she's able to play it because she belieeeeeves hard enough. Belief as a weapon can work, but here it's almost insulting how pastede on yey it is.

Another plot element that annoyed me: In the first volume, Lucia finds out, to her surprise, that she's a princess. She's spent all thirteen years of her life as a mermaid, and yet her caretakers and friends failed to tell her that she rules the top half of the Pacific because... she's still young? We never get a clear answer. Given the melodramatic tone of this manga, I assumed they included the "I'm a princess?!?" reveal in the name of creating cheap drama, but no, it's totally underplayed. It's like, "Oh by the way, you're a princess," "Oh that's a surprise, I guess." We don't even see the full reveal — it's shown in a flashback.

As for the non-plot parts of the manga, aside from the feeble comedy I already mentioned, it's mostly just a hurricane of fanservicey shojo clichés. I even started playing "spot the clichés" to entertain myself, but I'll need a separate post to list 'em all.

Anyway, final verdict on Mermaid Melody: an evil genius concept sunk by embarrassingly incompetent execution.

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