Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Collection Review: Mars

Like Anne and Gilbert, Rei and Kira meet with a hair tug.
Like Hana-Kimi, Mars by Fuyumi Soryo is one my earliest shojo reads. Mars introduced me to my first delinquent Japanese character (who also happens to have lived in L.A. and speaks perfect colloquial English), Rei. He gets poor grades and doesn't care, yet works several jobs, lives by himself, and has a passion: motorcycle racing.

He also happens to have an exceedingly rich father from whom he became estranged when his twin brother committed suicide; the twins, by the way, are actually the children of their father's brother, and presumably this discovery led to the suicide; in actuality, the (dark-side) twin was twisted to begin with.

And so on.

It's another opera--only not quite as light and frothy as Hana-Kimi.

Overall, Mars is quite good. The characters remain consistent. The plot holds together, despite multiple twists and turns. Kira, the main female character, is a soft-spoken introverted artist with a steel core who manages to identify Rei's vulnerability and offer him as much protection as he offers her. As a teenagers-falling-in-love-against-all-odds tale, it is surprisingly realistic in the real-life obstacles that it places in the protagonists' ways and the compromises that the characters must make, so they can avoid Romeo and Juliet's fate. Giving up is the ultimate cope-out, a sentiment I agree with.

And the solutions take political savvy. Mars was my first introduction to the use of shame to bring people into line, namely Kira's stepfather.

And the art is gorgeous!

Like with Hana-Kimi, I own a single volume of Mars, volume 9 (also like Hana-Kimi, a local library owns the set). Oddly enough, when I first read Mars, it seemed very Western to me. Now that I am more familiar with manga tropes, it comes across as more shojo than I initially realized. But of course, there's a reason that shojo sells in America: some tropes never die.

As well as Mars, I have also read Soryo's ES (Eternal Sabbath), which is interesting (she again deals with the idea of good and evil "twins") but not quite as captivating as Mars.