Meet Kira, a quiet artist who hides in a corner to sketch whilst avoiding boys at all costs. One day she meets Rei, a rebellious bishounen (pretty boy) with a motorcycle, a reputation, and an interest in Kira’s art. Rei has an intense fascination with a certain picture of Kira’s – a beautiful drawing of a mother embracing her child – and Kira, uncharacteristically, offers to paint the picture for Rei if he’ll model for her. Kira and Rei’s interest in each other swiftly goes beyond their agreement though and hence their odd, rather touching love story begins.
Things, however, aren’t all flowers and hearts. Rei has the sort of sensuality and shocking carelessness characteristic of highly intelligent but lonely young people. He has a very strange attitude toward death; if he doesn’t address it with indifference, he seems to find it just another semi-interesting bump in his hazy life, and he talks about dying often. (“The world’s going to collapse. Even now, everything’s all messed up… …I can’t imagine that the future is so great, so it’d be more interesting to come to a crazy, flashy end.”) Not only that, but Rei’s past holds some very turbulent issues and these have a tendency to catch up with him. So maybe little Kira’s bitten off more than she can chew – though she does seem willing to take Rei and all his baggage. Rei’s confidence leaks into Kira, and she abruptly grows a rather remarkable backbone. The two of them take on the world with their devil-may-care attitudes while at the same time finding the true beauty of life within each other.
The difference in this manga compared to other shoujo titles I’ve read is the amount of violence in every volume (not that I’m complaining). In volume 1 we see death threats, teachers with less than honourable intentions and so forth, and by the 2nd and 3rd we see two people commit suicide. Those poor people, right? The manga is not only about a young (and rather different) couple, but how they manage to keep their relationship going throughout the many incidents that happen involving first Rei’s odd past and then Kira’s.
A few months ago I bought the first volume of Mars all because I got the mangaka, (manga artist/writer) Fuyumi Soryo, name mixed up with an other artist who’s name I’d read in a review somewhere and was eager to have a read at one of their mangas. To my amazement, not only did I find the artwork to be more impressive then what I’d originally thought of, but the characters and the storyline (even though it was only the first volume) caught my attention too. Something I noted as well that one of my fellow manga fan friends told me over the phone, was that the main character Kira isn’t annoying like the female characters usually are, and is someone that you feel sorry for and want comforting because she seems more real. The same goes for Rei too. He’s not just the typical pretty-but-bad male character, but he has a real tragic background leaving him very much alone in the world and with less of a positive attitude towards life. You can really feel for the characters. I think it might have something to do with the great amount (and the mass amount of detail) of expressions used with each, individual character.
Mars has a very surreal, often dreamlike quality about it, and its major violence and darkness mostly come off feeling, appropriately, like a nightmare. The striking difference between how Rei and Kira could care less about the world but hold an honest, childish love for each other sometimes plays awkwardly, but it’s an interesting concept nonetheless. The art and layout in this manga is artsy. The mangaka Fuyumi Soryo is able to express so many human emotions in Mars that it’s easy to tell who’s doing what because of who (etc, etc). She also gives her manga a lovely powdery feel with such art, and her colour work is truly amazing. Any artwork from Mars that is on the internet is usually either from the manga or coloured images. These coloured images only tend to be drawn in soft and rather ‘hard to see’ colours and blends, making it look all very delicate and soft. This is a great manga, honestly, even if it’s a little out there.
But one can’t overlook the fact that Mars isn’t very “revolutionary” as far as shoujo titles go. Girl is shy and unloved. A popular, gorgeous, intelligent bad boy strolls into her life, and they quickly fall in love. The popular girls at school who love the boy try to pound the girl flat. Boy gets in fights and shows how incredibly tough he is and how good he looks stained with a bit of blood. Angst. Romance. Shock value. It has the hard-to-put-down quality of soap shoujo that makes you want to read the next book as soon as you’ve put the previous book down. Mars’ surreal tone and the main characters’ interesting attitudes give the manga a bit of an advantage in the waves of shoujo titles with similar plotlines and in my opinion can be a good read not just for shoujo fans, but for manga readers who like their good dose of tragic and violence.
Characters (Japanese listings so Family/Surname first)
Kashino Rei – A rough, brasen young man who races motorcycles. He’s sassy and rude but sweet, and is very popular in school. He’s good at many things, but chooses to ignore all but his motorcycle racing.
Aso Kira – A talented artist and classmate of Rei, who is very quiet and shy. She hardly ever speaks and her quiet demeaner makes other students uncomfortable around her, thinking she is arrogant, unfriendly, weird and vain.
Harumi – Classmate of Rei and Kira. She has a crush on Rei and despises Kira for the attention she gets from Rei. As a result, she is very cruel to Kira and threatens her if she lets Rei get close to her.
Tatsuya – Rei’s best friend and classmate. He has a crush on Kira and tries to steer Rei away from Kira. He is worried that Harumi is too much to handle and fears that she will hurt Kira because of the attention she gets from Rei.
(Side note: Rei is very cute and lovable *swoons*)