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Songs and Love Under the Sea

Ariel has nothing on the karaoke-singing mermaid princesses of Mermaid Melody

by Ridwan Khan

Recently acquired by ADV for an American release, Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch (pichi pichi is the sound of water splashing in Japanese, while the third pitch refers to the English word for sound quality), the series has gained an impressive cult following, including a surprising number of German devotees, through Internet fansubs. Despite the series' burgeoning popularity, ADV doesn't have an easy task in bringing the series to the U.S.; like many shoujo series, Mermaid Melody features magical girls doing battle with the force of evil. Things have changed this time, though: these girls do battle with the ancient power of karaoke.

Mermaid Melody started as a manga series in Nakayoshi Magazine and was later picked up by TV Tokyo as a Saturday morning shojou series. The anime is certainly well suited for it; it features magical girls, evil villains, and more than pre-teen romance than is healthy. Add colorful and cute character designs, and you have the makings of a series on the level of other shojou classics like Cardcaptor Sakura or Sailor Moon. Indeed, even without a distributor, Mermaid Melody has already become very popular.

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In Mermaid Melody we meet Ruchia, the pink princess of the North Pacific Ocean. Like all mermaid princess she has a magical pearl. More accurately, Ruchia had a magical pearl; she gave her pearl to a human boy who fell off a cruise liner in order to revive him. As the series opens, Ruchia must take on human form to live on land and go to middle school, all to track down her missing pearl. This is a shojou series, so naturally, the boy she saved goes to her middle school. Kaito is a master surfer and more than a little bit of a playboy, so much so that Ruchia wonders if he is really the sweet boy she saved from drowning. However, the pink pearl he keeps around his neck for protection is a dead giveaway that he is, indeed, Ruchia's lost love. Unfortunately - and typically for a story like this - Ruchia can't tell Kaito everything; if she tells him she's a mermaid, she becomes sea foam. However, everything's okay if he finds out on his own.

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If this sounds like too much for one middle school girl to handle, don't worry, as Ruchia has a number of friends helping her out, including two more mermaid princesses living incognito: Hannon the aqua princess, who has a crush on the music teacher, and Rina, the strong and silent green princess. Along with the obligatory cute character, Hippo the penguin, the girls not only face the daily challenges of crushes, dates, and what to wear, but also the devious plots of the mysterious Gaito, who schemes to steal the pearls.

If it sounds like familiar ground, it certainly is. There is nothing really new in Mermaid Melody that hasn't been seen in the genre before. Indeed, it is doubtful that there isn't a cliche in Mermaid Melody that hasn't been covered in the pages of Animefringe before for series like Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon. Nonetheless, Mermaid Melody is an adorable retread, probably meant less for seasoned veterans than for anime newbies (and, of course, the young Japanese girls the show was originally aimed at) and it seems to be already gaining popularity in the West, despite only recently being formally licensed.

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However, many fans of the series weren't introduced to Mermaid Melody by the anime or even the manga. Instead, many found their way to depths of the North Pacific Ocean through the Game Boy Advance and its three Mermaid Melody titles. Two, Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch and Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch: Live Start!, are karaoke games, along the lines of Dance Dance Revolution. However, unlike other handheld music games, these feature full voice acting for several songs, all of which are songs featured in the series. This fact in and of itself makes it an interesting GBA title technologically (em>Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch: Live Start! is one of the two biggest GBA games, the other being a Tennis no Ojisama title). Even if one doesn't know Japanese, both titles are easily playable with a modicum of effort. The third title, Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch - Pichi Pichi Party is a Mario Party-style board game which is isn't as interesting as the two karaoke games and is much harder to play if one doesn't know Japanese.

For those of us ready to move to the new series, Mermaid Melody is certainly a refreshing summer series. Shojou series are always like candy: irresistibly sugary, but not very nutritious. However, in small doses Mermaid Melody is a great replacement for fans who have been going through shojou withdrawal.

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