I don’t think it’s right for me to write about anything else before making a brief note onthe last worth reviewing series I’ve read: Mars, by Souryou Fuyumi. It ran from 1996 to 2000, which justifies it’s dated (yet astoundingly beautiful) drawing style.
Like I’m never tired of saying, all my posts contain spoilers. You were warned.
Story: Aso Kira is a very shy teenager who rarely speaks to anyone and prefers keeping to herself doing what sets her free – drawing, which she is exceptionally good at. One day, while drawing at a park, she’s intercepted by Kashino Rei who asks her for directions. She draws him a map without saying a single word and walks away. She knows about Rei: he’s the best-looking guy at school and a rebel of sorts, passionate about motorcycles and not giving a damn about anything or anyone. Her total opposite, the one who could intimidate her the most. As for Rei, he never noticed Kira before but something about the way she gave him the map arose some curiosity in him – especially the image drawn on the back of the sheet: that of a mother holding a child. They meet at school the next day and Rei is quite persistent in talking to Kira. She slowly opens up to him and gathers up all of her courage to ask him to model for her. He accepts. And so these two complete opposites start getting closer and closer together, learning more about each other, caring for each other and realizing that sometimes what we need is someone different from us to complete what we’re lacking. The story follows the couple’s development as they learn about each other’s personal tragedies and how they choose to cope with them and with the world around them.
Kashino Rei: Rei is a twin. His brother, Kashino Sei, comitted suicide when they were attending junior high and Rei never stopped blaming himself for what happened. Little does he know about his twin’s true identity, which Kira slowly starts to comprehend. The reasons for Rei’s guilt are gently shown to the reader (and to Kira): either the fact that he took his brother’s girlfriend from him, the fact that he was always defending Sei from his bullies making Sei feel weak or, above all, the fact that he told Sei that their father wasn’t their real father. But the real truth is something completely different, something relating to Sei’s true self, which is a surprise to everyone. This is his personal tragedy. After his brother died he turned more of a rebel, leaving his father’s safe house to live alone in squalid conditions and dedicating himself to racing, his biggest passion, something he devotes himself to almost recklessly – that is, until he meets Kira. Kira tames the rebel in him, bringing him back to life and to life’s responsibilites. Making him want to feel responsible for someone for the first time after Sei’s death. Apart from all the guilt, Rei also has to deal with his feelings towards his ex-girlfriend, the one he took from Sei, who still has feelings for him and keeps stalking him wherever he goes. This plot occupies several chapters, with Rei trying to decide between past and present, real and fantasy.
Aso Kira: After Rei’s past is revealed and dealt with, Kira’s darkest secret comes to life. Rei had always found it very strange how she coiled away from him when he kissed her more passionately, or the way she always ran away from sex, despite telling him he loved him all the time and always being there for him. One day he decides to test if his theories are correct and indeed they are: Kira was raped as a child by her stepfather and this is what made her shut herself from the world all this time, pouring her soul on her drawings. Kira tells Rei that her stepfather doesn’t live with them anymore but the minute she says this he returns home, telling Kira’s mum that he’s all different now and promising economical stability to their family, which Kira’s mum gladly accepts. Rei feels infuriated by Kira’s passive attitude right after her mother chose stability over her daughter’s safety and even more so with Kira’s naïvety in believing that her stepfather really had changed. So he breaks up with her which is the worst thing he could do, but well, this is a dramatic manga so there had to be some sort of situation like this. Luckily the break-up is short and serves to show Rei how deeply he loves Kira and how he can’t go back to the one-night-stand way of life he led before. And all in good time, since Kira’s stepfather tries to abuse her again. She runs away from home, moves in with Rei, they finally have sex and Kira discovers a whole new way of life.
This is melodramatic manga at its best. In fact, I think Mars is everything NANA wanted to be but failed at. And I’m a hardcore NANA fan, so it must really mean something if I’m saying something like this. The difference is obvious: Mars knows where to stop the tragedy. Sure, that last episode was a bit too unecessary but since it all ended well and contributed to move the story even further it doesn’t make much damage. With NANA, Yazawa didn’t know where to stop. The tragedy kept coming, and coming, and coming, never stopping, and it has now come to a point where I truly believe she doesn’t know what to do anymore. I know she had her health issues, but she’s been working on song lyrics for a while now, leaving NANA completely behind. So yes, I really feel she does’t know what to do with the plot she created anymore, which is a shame. I might be wrong. I want to be wrong. But Mars completely wins over simply because of this. There’s nothing unecessary. Everything’s in its right amount. Drama, romance, tension, everything. And guess what, Yazawa? Everyone does live happily ever after.
I give this a 10/10. It’s undoubtedly a masterpiece I strongly recommend.