Mars 1

October 24, 2011

Fuyumi Soryo – Tokyopop – 2002 – 15 volumes

In case you haven’t noticed, I have a ridiculous weak spot for romance comics. Actually, I’m posting seven reviews tonight, and six of them are shoujo. That’s a little unbalanced even for me. But yes, I like them that much. Mars is a series I gave a pass when it came out, not because I thought I wouldn’t like it, but because I was buying too many other things at the time. But after reading Soryo’s other series in English, ES, I knew I had to have it. I suddenly decided I’d grab the next set I saw at the used bookstore where I work, but of course as soon as I decided this, we stopped getting them in. I passed on three sets while I was on the fence, and it was another year before I saw it again.

ANYWAY. I ramble too much. Mars is the usual high school romance. Kira is a quiet art student without a whole lot of friends, and Rei is the resident troublemaker. Most of what I read about Mars made Rei sound like a delinquent, but he’s mostly just a reckless kid. He’s very popular and outgoing, but he also loves motorsports, and seems to take the philosophy that he could die any day. He’s not much of a delinquent in the “lawbreaker and bully” sense, but he’s not a model student, either.

Rei and Kira meet in a park, and when Rei asks Kira for directions, she instead draws a map for him on the back of a sketch she was doing. Rei becomes quite taken with the sketch, and begins to pester Kira at school, who wants no part of him. She simply ignores him at first, but he slowly cracks her shell and gets her to open, little by little. It’s mostly teasing, nothing romantic, but their interactions are mesmerizing. They have a sensitivity that most shoujo manga lack. Soryo’s art also lends itself well to this sensitivity. In one scene, where Rei happens to show up at the art studio, he studies the bust of Mars that Kira is drawing, and, very slowly, Soryo shows us Rei bending in to lay a kiss on Mars, he is so taken by the legend. It’s a beautiful scene, and difficult to do justice with words. But while spare, Soryo’s art lends the story much of its sensitivity, since she takes to time to linger on facial expressions, and nails silence and gaps in conversation with near perfection. It’s beautiful.

In exchange for letting Rei keep the sketch on the map, Kira asks Rei to model for her, on the spur of the moment. As outgoing as Rei is, his sessions modeling for Kira make him more comfortable and closer with her, which doesn’t sit well with all the girls with a crush on Rei. There’s some bullying issues, and Kira and Rei settle them in their own way. Interestingly, neither has really brought up a relationship by the end of the volume, but they’re so close. The way Soryo portrays them, they’re simply drawn together. They don’t really need to fall in love, and the characters around them seem to see it before they do.

Again, it’s easier to tell you to just read it rather than trying to describe it. If you’re a shoujo fan, you won’t be disappointed. Well, maybe if you like fast-moving comedies. It’s slow, and there’s not a whole lot of funny to spare. But even so, this is exactly the type of thing I love reading. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

5 Responses to “Mars 1”

  1. I’m glad you’re revisiting so many of the American “classics” right now. Of course, that makes it hard for me to resist marathoning them as you remind me of what I love in them. I don’t think I ever really came across any shojo that had the thoughtfulness this series did (even when it got a bit crazy later) or that spare beauty you describe. This series isn’t as depressed as Sand Chronicles, and it’s not nearly as over-the-top as Paradise Kiss, but it reminds me a bit of both. I hope you keep enjoying it!

  2. ZeroSD Says:

    This is one of the first Shoujo I ever picked up.

  3. P-chan Says:

    Mars will always have a special place in my heart. I loved how much I felt for the couple and their troubles.

    I actually talked to a friend about this series last spring. It was her copies I read all those years ago (I sadly don’t own a set) and we were talking about shoujo romantic leads. How a lot of shoujo try to appeal to the reader by making a man that WE are supposed to find attractive. smart, good looking, rich, etc. whatever the author thinks makes a hero hot.

    Rei was never my type to begin with, but even with his “attractive” traits, I always thought, even at 15, “I would never date someone like him and would never want to” and yet, I FELT for him and Kira and their relationship. Hung on every cliffhanger, wished bad things on characters who wouldn’t let them at least try for a happily ever after.

    The plot was typical, but boy few series touched my like this did. This was MY Catcher in the Rye. By the way, I want to see what you think at the very end, but I kind of though of Let Dai as a kind BL version of Mars, only with a less human Rei. When you finish, tell me what you think.

  4. ame Says:

    im in the process of buying this series. i read all but the last volume when i was in high school. so i still don’t know how it ends. but it just drags me in every time i read it. i love this couple. this series is so great.

  5. Connie Says:

    P-chan: You’re completely right about the Let Dai comparison, I started seeing it immediately. This makes me like Mars even more. It seems to have held up a little better than Let Dai, too. I need to get into the story a little more to see how deep the connection goes, though.

    It’s true what you say about Rei not being the usual shoujo hero, too. He’s not quite as likable and charismatic as, say, Ren from Skip Beat, nor is he as heroic. Kira is also a little different as a shoujo heroine. Maybe it isn’t coming across as well since the story is older, but heroines are also very often self-insertion characters that are easy to relate to. But Kira is an outsider, and is antisocial in a way that is slightly off-putting to the reader. She’s also not easy to read or predict, and often does things that seem slightly counter-intuitive (at least in the context of a shoujo manga… she might just be displaying common sense). But the fact that you can’t predict her, or easily get into her head, is what makes her appealing to me. And it’s as you say with Rei, too. It definitely humanizes them way more than most, and that’s what is appealing to me at the moment.

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