• The Little Mermaid anime by Toei Animation stays true to the original fairy tale, making it one of the saddest anime movies ever.
  • The story follows Marina, a young mermaid who makes a deal with a Sea Witch to become human and be with her prince.
  • Marina’s journey teaches an important lesson about self-acceptance and finding oneself, even in the face of lost love.

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid was released by Toei Animation – which is known for producing some of anime’s top most watched series, such as Sailor Moon, the Dragon Ball series, One Piece, Digimon and Yu-Gi-Oh – to name a few. Unlike the version of the fairy tale featuring a singing crab, this anime version stays much closer to Andersen’s original telling, making it possibly one of the saddest anime movies of all time.

The movie was released in 1975 and featured an all-star cast – including Shibata Hidekatsu, who plays the King of Mermen, Shibata also voices One Piece’s Monkey D. Dragon, Naruto’s Hiruzen Sarutobi (better known as the Third Hokage), Führer King Bradley in both FullMetal Alchemist and FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

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A Unique Take on a Timeless Classic

Marina and Prince from The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid focuses on a young mermaid named Princess Marina. She lives underwater with her father, grandmother and her five sisters and her companion, a dolphin named Fritz. While Marina and Fritz are exploring a sunken ship, they see a statue of a prince – Prince Flojd. They sneak to the surface – which is not allowed because Marina has not yet “come of age” – and see him. The Sea Witch, who has been causing storms, proceeds to cause another one, which throws Fjord overboard. Marina saves him. Although she brings him to shore, he is soon found by another woman – “The Raven-Haired Girl”. After that, Marina is given a pearl hairpin by her grandmother, signifying her coming of age.

Longing to see Prince Flojd again, Marina makes a deal with the Sea Witch. In exchange for a potion that will make her human, Marina must give the Sea Witch her voice. However, taking the potion means that she will never be a mermaid again. Also, if the prince marries someone else, Marina will die and her body will turn into sea foam. That doesn’t really seem like an equivalent exchange, but different strokes for different merfolks.

After taking the potion and going ashore, Marina lives with the prince for a month. His parents tell him that they want him to marry a princess from the Kingdom of Suomi. However, Prince Flojd wants to marry “The Raven-Haired Girl” or Marina. The prince has a cat, Jemmy, who is jealous of Marina and the prince’s growing closeness tries to kill Marina. After that fails, Jemmy tells the prince’s parents about her and they believe is “bewitching” Flojd. After tricking the prince to get on a ship, they have Marina arrested. Prince Flojd meets the Princess of Suomi and discovers that she is “The Raven-Haired Girl”. Marina is released from prison and the prince announces his engagement.


As Marina is crying by the ocean, she sees Fritz. Realizing Marina will die soon, Fritz gets Marina’s five sisters, who have all cut their hair in exchange for a magic dagger from the Sea Witch. They tell her she must stab Prince Flojd’s heart and once his blood touches her feet, her legs will once again become a tail, and she will be a mermaid again. She sneaks into the room where the prince and the princess are sleeping. She raises the dagger above his head, but she cannot bear to kill him.

She walks to the deck of the ship and tosses the dagger into the sea, lamenting her imminent fate. This wakes the prince, who rushes to see her on the edge. He calls to her, but she plunges herself into the sea. Flojd then finds her pearl hairpin and a scale from her tail. He realizes that she was the one who saved his life, but it is too late. Marina continues to sink deeper and her body begins to turn into sea foam that floats into the sky. Fritz, now seeing what has happened, begins crying, swimming frantically, chasing what is left of his friend.

A Timeless Story of Self-Acceptance

Marina from The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid anime tells a heart-wrenching story of love lost. Marina never finds her love but, in the end, becomes one with the sea, where she believes she truly belongs. Her journey highlights the bittersweet reality that, sometimes, finding oneself is the most profound love of all.

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is available for streaming on Yahoo! Japan, but can only be viewed in Japan. However, the VHS and DVDs are available for purchase on sites like Amazon and eBay.

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