Monday, June 22, 2009
Mars, vol. 1
The story: Kira is a shy, artistic girl who keeps to herself. Meanwhile, Rei is an impulsive motorcycle rider who doesn't fear death and lives for the moment. One day, they cross paths and their lives become increasingly intertwined. For Rei, Kira is just another girl. But, it's something altogether different for Kira.
Reaction: My first reaction was "This looks so '90s!" I mean, Kira is wearing a Stussy shirt in the first chapter. It brought back some memories, especially since that's when I went to high school. Anyway, Kira falls hard and fast for Rei, so much so that I almost felt bad for her, especially when she was being bullied by the other girls in her class for it. Somehow, she perseveres through all of this, slowly coming to the realization that she loves Rei. Since she doesn't think much of herself, she constantly tells herself that just the tiniest bit of attention from him is "enough" for her. It's depressing in its own way -- instead of reveling in her first love, Kira simply accepts that it will never be returned.
Deep thoughts: I thought it was interesting to name this manga after the Roman god of war, Mars, similar to the Greek god of war, Ares. Originally, Mars was not considered a god of war and, instead, was worshipped for fertility and to protect farmers. It was only later, when the Roman Empire expanded that he became a god of war. In many ways, it seems that Rei is like Mars -- initially, he protects Kira, but later she looks to him for strength, much like how Mars inspired Roman soldiers. Of course, there's also the fact that Rei is confident and quick to fight.
Artwork: Fuyumi Soryo does a good job in terms of composition and character design. There's also a sparse use of screentone, which is easily overused in shojo manga, and hardly any of the "shojo sparkles." The background scenery isn't overdone, but there are vistas from time to time, especially when Rei's on his motorcycle. Lastly, the character designs for both Rei and Kira perfectly communicate who they are -- Rei's long hair and athletic frame fit him perfectly, while Kira's petite size and girlish looks emphasize her innocence.
The verdict: Highly recommended. Like other high school romance manga, this first volume seemingly cements the relationship between Kira and Rei. However, it won't be easy for the two to be together because of the pure innocence of Kira's love and how Rei doesn't "love" so much as he "likes." What I've seen so far makes me curious to see what comes of the relationship between these two. Mars is available in the U.S. from Tokyopop.