Dyesebel Is the Best Mermaid Princess Show You've Never Seen

In 2008, the Philippines released a mermaid princess telenovela that was based on a popular graphic novel by Mars Ravelo in 1952. Dyesebel is loosely based on the story of "The Little Mermaid" with a few distinct differences. It was Dyesebel's mother, Queen Lucia, who first fell in love with a human and left the underwater world of Sirenea to be with him, sacrificing her memories of her life as a mermaid in the process. Dyesebel was born on land, but because of her tail, her mother returned her to the sea, entrusting her to her best friend, Banak, to raise her. Her human father, Tino, was murdered by humans who believed that mermaids were bad luck. Unaware of the circumstances of her birth, Dyesebel grew up curious about the human world until one day, she fell in love with a human and was doomed to follow in her mother's footsteps. The 2008 adaptation of Dyesebel is performed in the native Filipino language Tagalog, but I was about to watch it with English subtitles on Viki. Unfortunately, my region was recently blocked from the site, making the show much harder to find online. To this day, it is still one of the best shows I have ever seen.


Like most telenovelas, Dyesebel is a dramatic episodic narrative that is told over 60 hour-long installments or 120 half-hour installments, depending on where you watch it. The emotionally drive plot can get a bit heavy-handed at times. If you are a fan of fairy tales and romance, it is easy to get swept away the story and admittedly over the top melodrama. Dyesebel's love for Fredo is unique compared other romance stories because in her world, mermaids can only fall in love one time. This means that despite all of the hardships she must suffer for falling in love with a human, it would be impossible for her to move on and find love with someone else. That is her tragedy. Even though she wins the heart of a handsome and kind merman who would do anything for her named Erebus, she can never grow to love him in the same way that he loves her. His story is tragic as well, so it's a shame that he comes off as the perfect merman.

The underwater kingdom of Sirenea has its pros and cons compared to other mermaid stories. It is a fully fleshed out world with roles for mermaids and mermen and its own unique fashions and lifestyles. Unfortunately, as a live-action show with a telenovela budget, it has some very cheap CGI effects used to create the illusion of an underwater world. Some parts are done better than others. The bubbles and waves look okay, but Dyesebel's fish friends look rather ridiculous and don't appear to be fully rendered. This shouldn't bother anyone with a decent imagination and a little suspension of disbelief, but I can see how some people might be put off by it. The costumes, on the other hand, are quite detailed and lovely. The mermaids and mermen have beautiful tails in many colors that shimmer in the light. They also wear dazzling accessories on their arms and in their hair made of shells, jewels, and pearls that would be the envy of any land princess. Though the mermaids do not wear anything over their breasts, they are always covered by their hair and blurred out further with visual effects.

Dyesebel's story as the secret princess of a usurped throne is not exactly original, but it creates a great deal of intrigue. The wicked queen Dyangga rules Sirenea with an iron fist after the former Queen Lucia left to become human. Though Dyesebel's adoptive mother, Banak, knows that Dyesebel is the true princess, she never tells her because she fears for her life if Dyangga were to find out. Dyangga also has a daughter named Princess Berbola, who falls for the same human as Dysebel. Berbola is raised to believe that she is the true princess even though her scales do not shine as brightly as Dyesebel's. In Sirenea, the royal family has a genetic trait that makes their scales reflect more light than any of the other merpeople. After Dyesebel's love story is resolved at the end of the show, the story becomes an epic battle to restore the kingdom of Sirenea to its rightful heir. One of the things that makes this show so interesting is how many different subplots revolve around the main story. Every character's tale is fully resolved before the series reaches its conclusion.

Though it a story about mermaids, the show spends plenty of time on land as well. Dyesebel's love, Fredo, is the son of a powerful business owner, making him the modern-day equivalent of a human prince. Personally, I did not find Fredo very likable as a character because he is very simple-minded and reacts horribly when he finally learns Dysebel's secret. However, Dyesebel is so adorable and easy to relate to that we still want her to be with Fredo anyway for the sake of her own happiness. Unlike Hans Christian Andersen's story, Dysebel gives up her beauty to become human instead of her voice, giving it a "Phantom of Opera" or "Beauty and the Beast" style twist. She must find love in spite of her newly deformed face, which makes her life as a human rather difficult. The exchange also prevents Fredo from recognizing her as the mermaid who rescued him from drowning. He obsesses over Dysebel's true face and knows that he wants to be with her, despite already having a girlfriend named Betty, who quickly becomes Dyesebel's rival.

There are so many layers to this story, that make it very addictive and give it plenty of replay value. It's a shame that it is so difficult to watch in America because it is a fantastic show for mermaid lovers. There have been several movie versions created from the original graphic novel prior to this telenovela, but no movie could be fleshed out nearly as well as the series. A more recent telenovela adaptation was made in 2014 starring Anne Curtis as Dyesebel. It had a few story changes, such as her father being a merman, her mother being human, her rival Betty being an adoptive daughter of her mother in the human world. Only a few episodes of this version are available online, and even fewer with English subtitles. The visual effects are more advanced than the 2008 version, and the series is presented with a feminist spin. In many ways, Dyesebel is a more complex and engaging story than "The Little Mermaid," which is why this show will always be one of my favorites.

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