Orenchi no Furo Jijou / Merman in my Bathtub is a 4-koma shoujo title that looks like it’s yaoi, but it’s not.
The premise is pretty straight-forward, too. Our hero, Tatsumi, is an average high school boy living on his own (which is so weirdly common in manga) in his grandfather’s house. One day, he spies Wakasa beached on the shore of the canal near his home. Wakasa explains that he’s been poisoned by the pollution and algae, so Tatsumi brings him home, where he takes up permanent residence in the tub in the bathroom. Hijinks ensue.
I struggle to articulate why I enjoyed all six volumes of this, which I read over the span of about a day and a half.
The art is decent and the humor is broad enough that I could appreciate it (except for that one chapter that was probably an amazing send up of a game I had zero familiarity with…)
I suggested to a friend of mine that I probably enjoyed it for a reason that I normally loathe things like this: for the queer-baiting.
Wakasa is pretty gay for a merman. He’s always explicitly adopting the female role in things, including following advice in women’s magazines–all for humorous effect, of course. There are innumerable panels in which Tatsumi says, “He’s imagining himself the woman in this?” Wakasa is also routinely mistaken for Tatsumi’s girlfriend.
And it’s ENTIRELY played for laughs: “But, ho ho! They are both men, you see!”
There’s even ‘Black Butler-esque’ fan service, where, a scene is intentionally taken out of context to make it look as though the mer-octopus, Takasu, is sexually assaulting Tatsumi (it’s just a massage, but there are scenes of the tentacles sliding under shirts and up pant legs. You’ve seen tentacle porn. You can picture it.)
So, normally, I’d be turned off by this.
Yet, maybe because there’s an underlying kindness to Tatsumi and Wakasa’s relationship, I found it compelling.
I also really loved the cast of characters that come to visit Wakasa… it almost feels like a faux harem of magical creatures, ala Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. Besides, the octopus, there’s a mer-snail, a mer-shark (who is mute and was my favorite), a mer-jellyfish, a mer-crab, a mer-starfish, and a mer-clownfish that changes gender (just like real world clownfish.) There are a couple of other human characters, too. Tatsumi has the requisite younger sister who has a older-brother complex, a best friend, and a creepy uncle who is trying to score with the ladies by making experimental bath salts. Tatsumi’s grandfather, even though he’s passed, is an emotionally present character in many ways, as well.
So.. there was a lot more going on here than a gag-manga.
Would I recommend you lose a day and a half to it, like I did? I’m not sure. I ended up recommending it to the class I talked to last night, only because I was talking about how free-form a lot of these stories are. A merman in your bathtub? Why not?
There is a thirteen episode anime available on Crunchyroll. The episodes are no more than 5 minutes long, and focus mostly on the broad humor, which leaves out, what is, in my opinion, the very best parts of the manga, which is a lot of the heartwarming stuff. I didn’t watch all of them, so it may be that one of the episodes touches on the ‘broken vase’ chapter, but a cursory glance did not make it look like it. (Basically, Tatsumi is talking about memories of his grandpa and shows Wakasa a vase that he made. It gets broken and that almost ends their friendship for good.) The opening music scene, however, it 100% AMAZING. It looks like a hardcore anime, ala Bleach or DeathNote, complete with screaming heavy metal…. and then it’s a merman in a tub.
It’s worth the five minutes to just experience the whiplash between opening credits and content.
But, it’s kind of silly? I’d say read/watch only if you’re in the mood for something truly brainless.