It’s a sign of the Disney-ification of our culture that when most of us think of mermaids, the first image we conjure up is of big-eyed fish-tailed princesses. Yet in Yuna (Chibi Vampire) Kagesaki’s new fantasy series AiON these denizens of the deep prove to be tougher than the romantically yearning underwater ingénues of Hans Christian Anderson fame. Instead, they’re engaged in a war against mind-controlling anemone-shaped parasites that are trying to take over the human race.
Our introduction to this hidden war is through a sensitive, newly orphaned lad named Tatsuya, one of those boyish manga leads who somehow manages to remain good-natured even though he just lost his parents in a car accident. Tatsuya’s curiosity and chivalric nature have been piqued by a newcomer to his school: a mysterious girl named Seine who appears to go out of her way to attract the attention and murderous rage of school bullies. She rebuffs our hero’s attempt to intervene on her behalf, and it turns out she has a reason for doing this. The seemingly indestructible Seine is serving as a sort of lightning rod for humans who have been taken over by the ocean-dwelling parasites; because these events are set in a seaside town, the number of these infestations appears to be increasing.
With the aid of a dragon-headed shadowy creature named AiON, Seine fights the mind-controlling creatures once they blow their covers. Being taken over by sea parasites apparently makes the victims yield to their baser instincts (in the first volume, our hero is menaced by two family members after his inherited family fortune). But though both Seine and Tatsuya are threatened in the first volume by mind-sapped humans, the tone of this series is less Invasion of the Body Snatchers creepy than you might expect. Credit Kagesaki’s good-natured art, which makes this older-teen rated series less paranoid than you might initially expect.
While the exact nature of the seemingly immortal Seine isn’t revealed in the opening volume of this fantasy romance series, the text on the back of Tokyopop’s American gives away the game. Tough gal Seine, who is homeless on land, appears to have more in common with Namor the Submariner than she does Ariel the Little Mermaid. Doesn’t mean we won’t get some romantic sparks several volumes from now (Seine’s just too testy with Tatsuya for it not to lead anywhere), but I don’t think we’ll be seeing anybody breaking into song any time soon.