Mars by Fuyumi Soryō is a shōjo romance manga series with a dark story that revolves around two individuals with very fucked-up pasts that find each other during a time in their lives where they are most impressionable and dealing with some severe emotional trauma. As they begin to lean on one another, their bond grows deeper and more dangerous along the way.
When I began reading this, I had assumed it would be another fluffy romance series that would leave me feeling warm and happy. Not only was I extremely mistaken, once the shock subsided, I realised that I preferred harrowing tale that takes place between our two protagonists much more than the fluffy stuff.
Mars has everything one would need for a full-bodied romance and intense storytelling experiences. There is the heartfelt love that blossoms between Rei and Kira (the boy and girl, respectively), incredibly gorgeous artwork, excellent pacing with a good balance of dark themes and a developing relationship based on experiences rather than insta-love traits (although there is a little bit of this), and an ending that doesn’t make you want to rip your hair to shreds. It feels like a decadent soap-opera, but the luxurious fluidity of the narrative keeps it from ever feeling like a cheap thrill that uses trauma as nothing more than a horrible plot-device.
Unlike other shōjo manga, regardless of following a couple of teens, their issues are far more adult and mature and psychologically disquieting than one would expect. It was utterly fascinating to watch how each individual characters’ history (which includes sexual violence and suicide within the family) would play to the growth of their personality both as single entities and as a couple dynamic. There is a level of toxicity that will rub off on one’s partner if that trauma isn’t dealt with and processed in a healthy manner, and watching the exhibition of cause-and-effect, growth-and-deterrent via Soryō’s masterful illustrations was wholeheartedly absorbing.
As I mentioned earlier, none of the trauma is fetishised. It’s portrayed with an air of realism that contributes to the mounting tension, suspense, and discomfort that the reader is filled with as we watch this couple go through various phases of Hell and back. I have a huge appreciation for writers that can showcase tough topics with caution and authenticity, which sadly does include the depressing ramifications of pain and depression.
The artwork is delicate and gentle with very clean and neat panel placements and drawings. Sometimes there can be a tiny disconnect between the art and the story’s heftiness, but as a whole it’s quite marvellously poignant. So, if you’re someone that loves beautiful artistry, this should appeal to you very much.
Overall, Mars is an astounding shōjo romance manga series that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Even so, please be aware that’s not your typical feel-good tale. It’s dark and bittersweet in many ways. Whether you’re a sucker for lovely art, tight-knit plotting, or wonderfully fallible and imperfect characters, just know it’s completely worth the investment of effort to check this out.
Status: Completed (out-of-print)
Total Volumes: 15
Content Warnings: Sexual violence and depiction of trauma from sexual violence (specifically rape). Child abuse (sexual). Suicide. Suicide ideation. Violence. Consensual sexual relations. Depression.
GoodReads: Mars by Fuyumi Soryō