Given that the original manga has been out of print for years and that the anime adaptation was never licensed, is it strange to license a sequel manga? Definitely, especially considering that when the first Mermaid Melody: Pichi Pichi Pitch was released in English by Del Rey in 2003, it wasn’t warmly welcomed by critics. We could argue that kiddy catnip-filled titles are rarely critical darlings (and Mermaid Melody: Pichi Pichi Pitch is definitely one, with its mix of pop idols, magical girls, and mermaids), and it might be that enough fans of the first series are still around to make this one a quiet success.
Of course, the key question is whether or not reading the first series is required. The response is a tentative “maybe.” –
Melody of a Mermaid: Pichi Pichi Pitch: The story of Aqua centers on Kaito, the romantic interest of Lucia’s daughter, and includes a one-page overview of the first series, which includes a quick introduction to the seven mermaid princesses. If you’re familiar with Lucia and Kaito, as well as some of the mermaids, you’ll probably get a little more enjoyment out of this book. However, the plot stands mostly on its own, with Lukia, the new heroine, having to confront danger in the form of the merman Laurent, who is vying for control of the world’s oceans.
Lukia must first discover that she is a mermaid and the new Princess of the North Pacific, of course. Though they haven’t told her about it, Kaito’s parents have returned to their seaside homeland since she turned seventeen, possibly to let their daughter know about her history. Before they can accomplish that, Lukia spots Kurosuna, a cute surfer lad, being carried away by a stray wave. She leaps to his rescue, only to find, much to her chagrin, that he believes a mermaid has performed the task. Lukia is unaware that she is, in fact, one, and that it was most likely the one he played with when he was younger. She seems to have developed the capacity to change after submerging herself in the water; now, each time she gets wet, she grows fins, long hair, and a bikini top adorned with seashells in place of her legs.
This is also the moment when reason essentially vanishes. Lukia jumps into the water with all the swimming skills she needs, but it’s getting wet—or at least thoroughly wet for the first time—that makes her transform into a mermaid. Does this imply that she was proficient in swimming but had never entered the water? She never took a bath? And how, as a little female mermaid in the past, did she not know as a teenager what happens in the water? Although it is probably not that significant to the plot, it is a peculiar minor flaw that is indicative of the book’s more serious issues. While that may work for some readers, it isn’t a sign of a well-written book. Pink Hanamori, the book’s creator (she was only the artist for the first series and is now both author and artist), seems more eager to stuff the volume with attractive girls, hot guys, and a shaky plot than to tell a coherent tale. The development of Lukia and Kurosuna’s relationship swiftly swings from a low point to a high point, and Laurent is introduced with very little explanation of his motivation for wanting to do evil. Fun, huh? Yes. However, it’s not done well.
Another obstacle to overcome is the art style. Both Kaito and Lucia still have the appearance of teenagers, and Hanamori even observes that Lukia looks exactly like Lucia when she transforms into a mermaid—you can’t tell which is her mother without context. Mermaids appear more like human girls wearing fabric fins than like genuine creatures, with their thighs, knees, and calves sticking out and undermining the idea of being human. (In certain ways, Mermen do better.) Additionally, the bodies are frequently depicted from an off-perspective, with strangely foreshortened legs and bobbleheads, and the artwork is rigid and lacks sense of motion. (Kaito seems to be missing a whole thigh in one of the images.) The mermaids’ pearl anklets are one of the wonderful touches, but overall, everything seems strange. Additionally, it’s a touch more fanservice-focused than you might anticipate from a Nakayoshi story, but to be honest, it seems like a tactic to titillate younger readers with gentle kissing and kabe-dons.
This novel is entertaining enough even if it sounds so depressing at times.
Mermaid Melody: Pichi Pichi Pitch: Aqua is a pleasant, little risqué (in the middle-grade sense) tale about a mermaid and a cute boy. It may not be high-brow literature or even particularly brilliant manga, but that is what it sets out to be. It’s not attempting to be anything other than what it is—it’s highly formulaic and occasionally a straight-up rehashing of its parent series. You’ll probably appreciate this sequel, or at least be captivated by it, if you enjoyed the previous series. While younger readers should still find lots to appreciate, I doubt older readers who haven’t read the original will find it very appealing. It’s mediocre, yes, but it’s a good kind of mediocre, and that has merit.