I think one of the things I like most about this series is the fact that each volume is its own complete thing. Even though it was serialized in the past, it feels like one continuous story rather than a collection of chapters. Sometimes when it comes to serialized manga, each chapter will have its own sub-plot that will be wrapped up within the course of the chapter, but with Mars, the story keeps flowing throughout the volume. You can still see where it cuts off for dramatic effect, but I don’t think I ever really felt any of them was a true stopping point or saw the common mark of serialization such as recaps. Because of this format, I think we get a more detailed look at the story, especially concerning the characters development and characterization. In this volume in particular, I think we get to see a much deeper and clearer look at the character of Rei, especially his past concerning both his father and brother as well as the contrasting view the characters around him hold versus his actual self.
One of the biggest things I noticed in this volume was the contrast between what the people around Rei think of him versus what we actually see as his inner personality. Having Kira there brings this out as she is one of the only people he will really open up to and seemingly one of the few people he actually told about his brother. His friends, his teachers, and even his father in some respects view Rei as a childish and carefree but violent person who just does what he wants. However, we get to see through his interactions with Kira that he has a fierce sense of justice, feels the pressure of expectations, and has a much deeper and darker side to him than I think people realize. Even Tatsuya, who is supposed to be one of his closest friends, views him as just a reckless and carefree guy without really looking much deeper than that. It’s only Kira who recognizes that Rei’s skin isn’t as tough as everyone says it is and notices when he is really hurting. I think the fight scene with the seniors is when we begin to see a glimpse into the true darkness and emotional pain that sits under the surface. But it’s not until later in the volume that we get a look at what is truly wrong and the full-blown seriousness of Rei’s PTSD and emotional wounds.
Mars is also a story full of contrasts, not just in the artwork, but in the way that Kira and Rei play off of each other. But we see those contrasts slowly becoming duller as the story develops and the characters change and grow in relation to one another. This is as much a story of “star crossed lovers” as it is a story of how Rei and Kira develop in relation to each other. Kira, who is the innocent and somewhat of an outcast girl, is now interacting more with people and skipping school to be with Rei. We see her opening up to the people around her, speaking up for herself, and developing a relationship with someone that she used to hate. I think for Rei we see something very similar. He has always been an open and honest person, but I think with Kira he can really begin to open up more about his past and mental illness in a way that he couldn’t before. Kira acts as a tether for him, something to keep him grounded. I think I really noticed this during those fights where as soon as Kira showed up, Rei stopped fighting and came back to reality. But it’s the most powerful when Kira resuscitates him after his panic attack. She is literally the one to bring him back to earth. I don’t think I would say they’re that different deep down though. I really think they’re drawn to each other because they are similar in a lot of ways, and their relationship serves as a way to heal both of their emotional wounds.
One of the other huge reasons I love this manga so much is it’s depiction of mental illness. To be honest with you, Japan hasn’t had a good track record when it comes to mental illness. I won’t get into it here, but I think the way the treatment of Rei’s PTSD is shown is in a more positive light rather than ignoring it as a problem or glossing over it. In a lot of ways, this is a story of emotional and mental healing, and how tragedy can radically effect someone.
I know I talked a lot about the art in my previous review as well, but I am honestly blown away by the art every time I read this manga. It’s not just the art style, but the panel design that draws out the most impact of every scene, the way some scenes blend together to give you highly expressive pages, and the effects that are used sparingly but with great care. Even though this manga has gotten a live action drama twice now, I really don’t think it’s suited to become an anime or the like. It would surely lose something in the translation to another medium.
Stay tuned for the review of Volume 3 coming soon! Be sure to hit that follow button or follow me on Facebook for updates!