Wait… the Little Mermaid was about homosexuality?
That was one little tidbit gleaned from my reading of Mermaid Line… or, well, more that it is possible to read the dilemma of Ariel (e.g. the fact that she couldn’t tell the prince that she loved him, since then she was rendered mute in exchange for being transformed into a human) as the one facing homosexuals who were in love. It certainly comes across as plausible – surely you’ve at least heard the phrase ‘the love that dare not speak its name’ before. And Andersen himself was bisexual, and extremely unlucky in love, be it love for women or men.
Anyway, that isn’t exactly relevant overall – Mermaid Line is a manga anthology containing four different stories, of which all are multi-part save for one. While containing yuri elements, ultimately Mermaid Line is probably best described as an anthology concerning the anatomy of relationships, mainly between women.
The first story is Megumi and Aoi, a tale about two high school girls, Megumi and Aoi (shocking! I know). Megumi admits to Aoi that she feels that she could be a mermaid, something which Aoi confesses to herself she does not doubt. However, their friendship is derailed when a classmate accuses them of being romantically involved. In the aftermath, Megumi begins to date a boy to get her classmates to back off, while Aoi drifts away. A year later, they run into each other in the library, Aoi looking for Megumi’s favorite book, The Little Mermaid. Aoi cries, realizing the cruel mistake she’s made in ignoring Megumi, and the two become friends once again.
The next story is a continuation of Megumi and Aoi, Girl*Girl. Aoi wonders what it would be like if either she or Megumi were guys, before deciding that she’s glad they’re both girls.
Yukari and Mayuko stars two office ladies (OL’s) by those very names. Mayuko has recently broken up with her boyfriend, and, while out drinking with Yukari, irritatedly declares that she can understand lesbians since men suck so very badly. She flippantly asks Yukari to date her, and the two begin a faux love affair, featuring movie dates and dinner. Meanwhile, Yukari’s boyfriend has her meet his parents, and comments that she seems a bit distant. When Mayuko begins dating a guy again, Yukari comes to the realization that she has become much more attached to Mayuko than she’d thought she had.
Ayumi and Aika strays a bit off the usual path for ‘yuri’ material – Ayumi is dating Ryuunosuke, but finds her hopes of being a beautiful bride undone when he tells her that he is a woman who was born in a man’s body. The two break it off, Ayumi feeling frustrated, but end up living together again when Ryuunosuke stops by to pick up his stuff – now going by Aika and clad in women’s clothing – and admits that his parents didn’t take his desires very well. Aika also admits that he loves Ayumi, but didn’t think she’d want her due to the sex-change aspirations. Ayumi tells Aika that she loves him or her, regardless of gender. When a man harasses Ayumi, accusing her of misleading him when saying she didn’t have a boyfriend before turning him down, Aika steps in, and Ayumi smugly says that she only said she didn’t have a boyfriend.
The final story is Miura-san and Me. Okabe likes brushing people’s hair. Miura has long hair, and she wishes she could brush it. But the two never cross paths, as Miura sits on the other side of the classroom from Okabe. One day, the seating arrangements change, and Okabe joyfully thinks she might be able to get to know Miura so she can brush her hair. But Miura cuts it short, disappointing Okabe. Okabe, though, recovers, thinking that the short hair suits Miura.
I’m actually fairly fond of this anthology, although I suppose in some ways I’m embarrassed to admit that given the fact that it has a classic ‘lesbaru ends up sad’ story (Yukari and Mayuko), along with an unrequited schoolgirl crush-type story (Megumi and Aoi). But, other than Miura-san and Me, clearly the weakest story of the set, I enjoyed the stories quite a bit, and was pleased with the variety that we got in the effort – instead of feeling like I was just reading the same story again and again, like one gets with so many of these anthologies. There was also the pleasant fact that we got quite a few stories about adults, another nice little differentiating factor between this and many other yuri manga stories (although I certainly didn’t dislike the schoolgirls Megumi and Aoi).
I’d have a difficult time pinning down my favorite of the set, since I liked them for vastly different reasons. Yukari and Mayuko satisfied the loser in me that likes sad stories, as it had an intensely cruel ending – one which was so well-done that I am tempted to label it the best of the stories from an objective standpoint, even as I chafe against that given the fact that it adheres to the old trope of lesbian love automatically being tragic. On the other hand, the blend of idealism and realism of Megumi and Aoi appealed to me, and it, too, featured a pitch-perfect end – and one which came off as hopeful. And then Ayumi and Aika made me really happy because of its beautiful idealism and the fact that it took a far different route than I’ve come to expect from such stories – not only does our couple become yuri due to transgenderism, but that character was treated in a respectful manner and not simply as a prop for comedy. It was a story which made me smile, and featured a happy ending. And while it was somewhat idealistic (ok, fairly idealistic), I also enjoyed its ability to bring in a realistic touch to the worries of the characters.
I would recommend Mermaid Line to people who are open-minded, not simply to yuri fans, as I feel that the stories resonate on a human level – they aren’t just a grab for our base desires, but a demonstration of human relations, albeit featuring women as the main characters. Lililicious has scanlated the entire volume (save for Miura-san and Me, although they have a link you can follow to find that scanlation), and its available for direct download on their site. Given the short nature of the stories, I would encourage you to go read them even if you only have a slight interest.