My Broken Mariko is a heavy duty josei manga about friendship, abuse, and loss. Shiino is eating a meal at a restaurant when she hears the news that her best friend, 26-year-old Mariko, committed suicide. It’s pretty clear from the pains Mariko went to that she was determined to bring about this outcome. Shiino feels shocked, emotive, and broken.
She can’t understand why her friend would want to die, but flashbacks show that Shiino was aware that Mariko suffered abuse since childhood, including sexual abuse. This is a very authentic and gripping look at how much sexual abuse can hurt a victim. The abuse is off-screen, but it’s plainly told to us what happened.
From here Shiino tries to figure out what to do. She’s desperate to get Mariko’s ashes. She reads her old letters from Mariko. She slacks off at work, too upset to concentrate, and gets scolded for her behavior. There’s grief written all over these pages, and panel after panel of Shiino making very expressive, heartbreaking faces. Often she’s so torn up about what happened to her friend that she just reacts.
Not a whole lot of josei manga has been licensed in America, and sometimes there’s a stereotype that this genre is all fluff and romance for women. My Broken Mariko shows that josei can be as diverse as any other genre, and it can get into the brutality that sometimes happens in real life. It has more of a “literary” feel to it, and might be cathartic for readers who have also survived abuse or lost someone close to them. Rather than a series, My Broken Mariko is a single volume manga that’s shorter than average, so a short story by the mangaka is published at the end to fill out the remaining pages.
Story & Art: Waka Hirako
Publisher: Yen Press
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, and its sequel, Manga Art for Intermediates, with professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.