Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mars, vol. 4

The story: After seeing Kira's painting in the local art museum, two old classmates of Rei's show up at their high school. One of them, Shuichi, is a well-meaning friend who wants to see how Rei has been doing since the untimely death of his brother, Sei. But, the other classmate is Rei's ex-girlfriend Shiori. It seems that in the two years since she last saw Rei, Shiori's never let go of her relationship with him. When she sees him again, she's determined to win Rei back, no matter what—or who—stands in her way. When Kira tries to give Rei some advice, he blows up at her and brings her to tears. With all the emotional baggage these two carry, is there any hope of their burgeoning love surviving?

Reaction: This is an emotional volume, from jealousy and anger to sadness and despair, the cast of characters experiences it all in a near-melodramatic fashion. While I initially saw the introduction of Rei's ex-girlfriend as an overused shojo trope, it actually became a catalyst for Rei to further examine his relationship with his deceased brother. While Shiori is by no means a likeable character, there's a certain amount of pity that I felt for her with her lack of closure regarding her relationship with Rei. In many ways, she treats her time with Rei like a drug—she's addicted and will do anything to get his attention.

Deep thoughts: There's a date auction in this chapter as part of a fundraiser the high school is hosting. I usually find these types of auctions awful in their own way, both as a simulation of slave trade, but also because it's kind of creepy to see how much money one person is willing to spend on another, just for the pleasure of their presence on a "date." Not only that, but the causes these auctions usually support are good ones, like fundraisers for terminal diseases or, in this case, for the high school. There's something mildly reprehensible in the idea that raising money for a cause in such a manner is somehow okay, despite the fact that it's the selling of people.

Artwork: Ah, another reminder that this manga was done in the 1990s—Rei once again appears in a Stussy sweatshirt and his best friend, Tatsuya, appears in an Adidas T-shirt. Otherwise, with all the emotion in this chapter there are a lot of tears and blushing cheeks. There are also toner-filled backgrounds, from lightning strikes to a trippy, psychedelic spread. While these can enhance the emotional effect of a storyline when used sparingly, I felt that it was a bit much at times. Outside of that, there are some moments of action and mild violence, too.

The verdict: If only... I think this volume rehashed some of the darker memories of the main characters and simply introduced new characters to create unnecessary conflict. While I still greatly enjoy the core storyline—the relationship between Kira and Rei—I'm getting a little impatient with the extraneous discord thrown in for discord's sake. These two have enough troubles in their way without throwing in crazy, jealous exes. Mars is available in the U.S. from Tokyopop.

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