Initially serialized in Bessatsu Friend from 1996-2000, Mars is a dramatic shoujo manga about the unlikely relationship between teens Kira Aso and Rei Kashino.
The Gist: Kira Aso is an introverted artist. One day while sketching at a local park, a guy from school Kira doesn’t care for, asks her for directions to the local hospital. Instead of telling him, she draws him a map on the back of one of her sketches and leaves. When school starts soon after, Kira discovers that the guy, Rei Kashino, is actually in her class. Rei, training to become a professional motorcycle racer, is only attending school because he promised his father, whom he does not get along with. He’s known socially as a playboy, so Kira is surprised when Rei one day interferes while their teacher is attempting to sexually harass her. When Kira offers to let Rei keep the oil painting of the sketch on the back of the map, Rei declares that he will protect her as payment. He flippantly offers her his body too, and is caught off guard when Kira asks him to model for her. Spending more and more time together, Rei and Kira begin to fall in love. As more of their pasts are revealed, readers discover what really draws these two teens together. In search of their dreams, Kira and Rei must deal with these issues in order to move forward towards the future.
The Characters/Romance: As a story this series has more depth to it than a stereotypical high school romance manga. The drama can be reminiscent of a soap opera at times, but it is overshadowed by the characters themselves. Soryo really delves into the characters, creating complex personalities that appear more human than your average manga protagonists. The exposition of Kira and Rei stretches over several volumes, allowing readers to slowly realize the psychology behind the characters. I could complain that Soryo really gives her characters some messed up stuff to deal with, but as dramatic as it may be, it only adds to the mystique of how Kira and Rei will make their relationship last.
The Art: As far as the drawing goes, the mangaka does a fair job of layouts and composition. Soryo has a great grasp of environments or settings for her characters. She has a good sense of perspective, and knows how to use toning to emphasize mood and emotions quite well. The style dating is evident throughout the series, but not to the point of distraction. I tried to find colored pieces for this series, but they seem to be very rare. Most of what I found is cover art, and few chapter headers.
The Audience: Lustful – Rei and Kira’s relationship provides enough heart warming and intimate moments to satisfy any shojo fan. There are complex issues involved including suicide and molestation, so definitely appropriate for an older audience. No tweens, please.
The Media: Mars is available in English in 15 volumes from the defunct Tokyopop. Now a series that is difficult to find, you might have to check your library’s ILL system or used book stores. A live action drama was filmed and aired in China.
Heart of Manga Rating: ♥♥♥♥ Highly Recommend
Mars is complex drama that exposes how love can heal and change a person for the better. Soryo’s series is poignant and memorable.