Manga-ka: Nabako Kamo
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: September 2009
Synopsis: “Kaioh, the amphibious, bad-boy “mermaid” has taken to submissive Kanan like a fish to water. But when Kaioh’s feud with his childhood rival, Haru, threatens to complicate things, Kanan might just get to see Mr. Mermaid’s ugly side. All this conflict attracts the unwanted attention of Lord Amur, a self-centered monarch to whom the beautiful denizens of the deep are mere playthings. Clearly, this arrogant trickster knows that real sunken treasure does not come in the form of aquamarines or pearls, but in the form of flesh. Can Kaioh and Kanan overcome Amur’s meddling to make it back to shore together? And just what part does that giant clam play in all this, anyway?!”
Was I a writer of ‘worst-of’ lists, the first volume of Selfish Mr. Mermaid would’ve made the list and battled for the top position. With two extremely unlikable characters and a mythology so far off base it was pointless, there was little to enjoy about the mish-mash of abusive relationships and awkward art. But what then could there be left to say for volume two? To my surprise, more than I’d thought posssible as volume two makes a tremendous leap forward and proved an actual treat to read. Lesson learned – never trust a book by its predecessor, or at least don’t underestimate one man’s love for a giant clam.
Entirely to the book’s benefit, the two leads from the first volume, Kaioh and Kanan, are cameos more so than major players in this second part. The true focus is on Haru, another ‘merman’ who holds resentment for Kaioh and caused them some minor inconveniences earlier in the story. In the first volume we learned a little about him yet the most memorable thing was his lifetime-friendship with a giant clam.
However in this volume the clam is sad; he has no arms with which to comfort his lonely and pride-bruised friend. But, by the power of love and wishing really hard, the little clam proved himself the clam that could – transforming into a human boy. Adorable and earnest, the poor clam alas can’t speak so his identity remains a secret to Haru but the man still extends kindness to the young stranger and names him Pito. The two are wonderful together, becoming close as strangers until Haru figures out who he is – it’s a cross between best friends and almost little brother-love which is full of plenty of moments to make you ‘aww’ and cheer for their well-being.
Haru and Pito aren’t the sole focus of this second volume though; there’s an obnoxious and spoiled member of royalty who makes several appearances to cause grief for the entire cast. Selfish, demanding and easily bored, Lord Amur is an easily dislikable character – or at least would be if those he put in harm’s way seemed to at all care. During his first appearance in the book he becomes enamored with the idea of adding Pito to his harem of beautiful young men. When rejected, he takes it in stride but nonetheless plays his own little game of mischief that almost gets Pito killed. Small pittance compared to what he does later however – a boredom-induced disaster that though Pito survives, is a gross testament to just what Amur will do for fun. Thankfully for him somehow the characters affected will respond little to it, for reasons unknown past the author just not wanting to bother with it.
So how then is this man at anyway likeable? Well his mine-mine-mine attitude obviously stems from being inherently rich and very spoiled –he doesn’t seem to do anything out of real malice. Hardly good excuses of course but they make due when combined with a chapter all to him and his main attendant – a refined and loyal man who repeatedly refuses the advances of his Lord with both tact and grace. But it becomes clear that Amur plans to keep going until he wears down the man. Pleasantly though this is not in a way you may expect of a boys’ love story when the genre usually only has one way that wanton men expression their denied admirations. Against all moral judgment of the prince, I couldn’t help but love this chapter – watching the two interact was a lot of fun, very subdued as it was.
The artwork has seen a bit of improvement since the previous book but what helps it a lot is the considerably more appealing character designs. Pito is small, lithe and very pretty. Despite his childlike attributes, the book never feels like it travels into gray territory mainly due to the fact his relationship with the other characters isn’t sexual. Haru’s wavy hair, amusingly emotive expressions and asian-garb continue to make him an attractive character as well. I also share much the same thought towards Lord Amur and his lover, granted Meiki’s appearance is a bit overly feminine at first impression.
Overall the distinctly more sincere emotions between characters in this volume executed in some truly sweet and charming fashion earns it a place on my bookshelf where the first volume never even came close to getting. Some flaws still remain, mostly the two leads from volume one, and it still makes no sense why they bother reiterating that all these men are mermaids since they look just like humans and there’re very few instances of even being reminded the story takes place under the sea. Still, Selfish Mr. Mermaid volume two had absolutely nothing to live up to and really surprised me in all the right ways.