June 14, 2019

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Comixology and Kodansha Bring Back Mars as a Digital Original


I've been running Panel Patter for almost 11 years now, and honestly, it's hard to get me super-excited for PR these days. But when you announce that one of my all-time favorite Manga series, Mars, is coming back into English, you've got my attention.

Here's the premise of Mars, per Comixology and Kodansha:
MARS by Fuyumi Soryo (15 volumes)
Are you ready for some ... drama? ComiXology Originals and Kodansha Comics revive an all-time, long out-of-print shojo manga classic — the high-school psychodrama MARS by Fuyumi Soryo. With even more twists and turns then you probably remember, Soryo's beautifully illustrated shojo manga turned some young comics readers heads inside-out with hysterical plots revolving around the traumatic secret histories of its seemingly poised protagonists. Art class was never quite like this ... 
Superpopular motorcycle racer Rei and shy, neurotic art student Kira are worlds apart ... until one fateful day brings them together. Rei stumbles upon Kira in the harassing hands of her sleazy art teacher and saves the quiet girl from his clutches. And when the resident school pretty boy plants a kiss on a statue of Mars in the studio, Kira finds herself drawn in and even summons up the nerve to ask him to model for her!
 I think Mars was one of the first shojo series I ever read, and it changed my life. I've kinda burned out on the genre, only really dipping my toe back into it last year when I was prepping for my San Diego Comic Con panel about Best/Worst Manga (Which I will be on again this year! Who's ready to boo me this time?). I immediately fell in love (so to speak) with the themes, characters, and art styles, all of which are at their peak (in my opinion) in Mars. Fuyumi Soryo's linework is incredibly beautiful, as you can see here:


And here:


Look at the hair! So soft and thin and just a tad unrealistic, just like a television soap opera. You can stare it it for hours! Look at how it ends up in their eyes! Look at me use too many exclamation points!

Additionally, there's the wide, expressive eyes, and just enough other details to keep you into the story (a problem other shojo can fall into--characters without enough backgrounds always causes me to get distracted). It's really, really well done from an artistic perspective. CLAMP will likely always be number one in that category, but Soryo is really, really good, and if you haven't seen Mars yet, you're in for a visual treat.

Still, while art drives a comic, you have to care about the characters, too, and my (admittedly, not recent) memory is that Rei and Kira are incredibly compelling to follow, partly because of the complex subplots alluded to in the text above. (I greatly appreciate "even more twists and turns then you probably remember" --though it does remind me I'm well past the target audience age!)

The series (and also You're My Pet, which I don't think ever showed up at my library) are available now as part of the Comixology Originals line, in partnership with long-time Japanese comics publisher Kodansha. They've had great success bringing back Beck this was, and I'm excited to see more manga I either remember fondly (or wanted to read, but never got the chance) showing up.

I can't recommend Mars highly enough. I know some of you are paper-only, but if you read comics digitally, and you enjoy romantic stories of any kind, you're going to dig Mars. I don't know if you can count a re-issue on your 2019 favorites lists, but if you think it's fair game, I better start seeing Mars on those lists come December...