Manga Review: Mars

Manga Review: MarsMars by Fuyumi Soryo
Published by TOKYOPOP on April 23, 2002
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Scanlation

A bad boy can change a good girl forever. Rei is the school delinquent. Kira is shy and studious. What they see in each other is a mystery to their friends. What they find in each other is a miracle to themselves. With a style that is artistic and chic, this tale of restless and confused high school love will appeal to young women everywhere.

Manga gets a lot of judgment for being incredibly melodramatic. Well, Mars definitely is that. The parts that I like least are those sections. A lot of the melodrama brings up tough issues, like rape, suicide, adultery, insanity, etc, but when all crammed together into a single story, it becomes improbable and absurd.

However, despite being over the top, there is something compelling about Mars. The relationship between Rei and Kira does feel real, moreso than most teenage relationships, even if they are super serious all the time. The beginning volumes are definitely the best, because you can watch their relationship grow. For those who do not approve of melodrama, but like sweet stories of first love and unlikely couples, you might want to just read these volumes.

The evolution of Rei and Kira’s relationship is very natural. They do not fall in love at first sight, although they are somewhat curious about one another. Nor do they really intend to date. It just sort of happens. They become really good friends who hang out all the time and just sort of slip into being boyfriend and girlfriend without ever having to have the talk about it. That was just so adorable, how neither ever really confessed to the other, but they fell into a relationship just the same.

It is, though, really nice to read series (manga or otherwise) that follow the trajectory of a couple from their first meeting and follow their relationship. So often fiction relies too heavily upon sexual tension to get people’s interest, so the couple does not get together until the very end, kissing through the credits. That’s nice in it’s own way, but unrealistic and not entirely satisfying for one’s curiosity. Of course, in place of the drama of “will they get together or won’t they,” series like this generally put in a lot of external pressures to keep the tension high. And that can be worse.

Overall, Mars is a decent read, but you need to be well-prepared for oh-my-god-drama. Familiarity with manga logic would probably help, too. I definitely would not recommend that someone read this as their first manga. For a similar type of story (following the relationship of a boy and a girl), I would recommend Kare First Love, which has somewhat less melodrama, and certainly less violent melodrama.

Both of these manga depict a sort of natural-seeming relationship. In Mars, for example (since that is the one I’m actually reviewing), Rei feels no real temptation to be with anyone but Kira, even though she is super innocent and will not sleep with him for a long time, something he is definitely not used to. But Rei will still check other girls out on occasion, with no real intention behind it. The only thing that bothers me about the relationships in both is that the guy is a player, who falls for an innocent girl (of course), but when they break up briefly (which both do), he reverts temporarily to his horndog lifestyle. All she does is miss him; why can’t the lady go get some while he cries?

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