There comes a time in every shojo and josei fan’s life when Fuyumi Soryo’s classic series Mars drifts into view. This melodramatic soap opera is a treasure that includes a little something for just about every fan, with memorable characters that stand the test of time, excellent pacing, and an unforgettable central romance.
Tokyopop published all 15 volumes of Mars in the early 2000s, but the original volumes are now out of print and hard to obtain. Kodansha has just made the entire series available digitally through Comixology and Kindle. Now that it’s available in its entirety to zip through without having to worry about how to find the next volume, is it worth the read? Put simply, absolutely.
Mars follows two teenagers, a charismatic motorcycle racer named Rei and a shy, quiet art student named Kira. It appears they’re worlds apart until, one day, Rei happens upon Kira being harassed by her predatory art teacher and stands up for her. After seeing Rei lay a kiss on a bust of Mars in the art studio, Kira knows she has to ask him to model for her. Thus begins a tumultuous, passionate relationship that culminates in some of the heaviest, most dramatic turns manga has ever seen.
What starts as a simple story of a “bad boy” and a shy, studious girl falling in love grows more and more complex as the series continues. The tender moments that Kira and Rei share are punctuated by plot twists that are both shocking and filled with deep, legitimate sadness. We learn disturbing things about both characters’ pasts. While much of this is only revealed later, the first volume provides foreshadowing and a gorgeously drawn prelude to what’s to come.
Soryo’s artwork is beautiful, emotionally expressive, and absolutely perfect for the story being told. From the moment you see Rei compared to the mighty Mars himself, you’re seeing him through Kira’s eyes. Soryo is an expert at balancing well-observed detail with visual impact, from Kira sitting in the studio working on her portraits to Rei speeding down the highway on his motorcycle. A simple expression or a pair of eyes can tell a whole story, and Soryo has a gift for finding the right image for each moment.
By the end of the first volume, it’s hard not to be hooked. Mars is the ideal manga for josei fans who enjoy more mature romance and for shojo fans graduating from titles like Peach Girl and looking for something a little meatier and rife with real-world issues. But be forewarned: Once you start digging into this first volume, you may as well go ahead and lock in that Comixology subscription, because there’s no way you won’t want to see how this saga comes to an end.
story and art: Fuyumi Soryo