No killer robots. No magic. No enchanted weaponry. No super science. No ancient prophesied destiny.
The only supernatural here, the only destiny, is true love. Because Mars is pure high school romantic drama. And lots of it.
Not that I have anything against killer robots, etc. It’s just, as you know, I LOVE me some teen melodrama.
This 15 volume series begins when Rei interrupts Kira as she’s sketching in a park to ask directions to the Medical Center. Without saying a word, she draws him a map, thrusts it at him, and walks away. Back at her house, clearly annoyed, she reveals to her mother that she’s just had a run in with someone she doesn’t like, who is so oblivious to her that he probably doesn’t even realize they go to the same school. And any way, he’s a bad boy who smokes behind the teachers’ backs “and that kind of stuff.” (Oh yeah, the bad-boy stuff.)
Rei goes on to visit his friend who has lost his leg in a motorcycle accident, and reveals a little more about himself, his capacity to care about his friends, his own penchant for danger, his casual belief that no one really cares what happens to him. While there, he also discovers a drawing on the back of his map and is intrigued by it.
In school the next day, he recognizes Kira as the artist from the park. She doesn’t seem to want anything to do with him, but he’s not the sort to let that deter him, once he’s intrigued. His genuine admiration of her artwork surprises her, makes her pause long enough to give him a chance to start charming her, and to rescue her from a bad situation at school. The drama escalates when Rei’s attention to Kira gets her on the bad side of a violent classmate who is desperate for Rei to notice her.
I don’t think you can talk merely about what happens in the story and convey what it’s like to read it. It’s very character driven, and much of the emotion in the story is carried by the art and the characters’ thoughts. Even from this first volume, the relationship between them is heartrendingly sweet. As the series unfolds, it goes deeper into both characters, showing us a perfect fit and how much they need to be together. The whole thing is basically this big, dramatic, love-story wish fulfilled.
I can’t say enough about how much I love this series.
The books are black and white, about 200 pages long, and each takes only a few hours to read. If you haven’t read manga before, it will take a little getting used to, a little effort at first to follow the flow of the pictures and dialogue, and to get used to reading from right to left. This is a wonderful series, however, for showing off what manga does so well: the marrying of art with story. It’s a great example of how, unlike many American comics, manga isn’t bound to right-angled frames. The images are often splashed over the page, drawn within shapes, floating hazily in the background, working with and enhancing the experience of the story.
I’ve really got to encourage you to give this one a try, especially if you have that lust for character-driven melodrama (teen soap) that I do. There are many used copies available on Amazon, many for $0.01 plus shipping, or about $4. Get the first one, see what you think.