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Mars is a fifteen-volume High School romance manga series written and illustrated by Fuyumi Soryo and serialized from 1996 to 2000.
Kira Aso is a Shrinking Violet student in the art club with a reputation for disliking men, when she shows any emotion at all. Rei Kashino is her polar opposite, a Delinquent who races motorcycles instead of worrying about his grades and has a reputation for being a shameless playboy. They meet one day in a park when Rei is searching for a clinic and asks Kira for directions. Kira draws him a map on a page from her sketchbook, not knowing that there's an important (and beautiful) sketch on the other side of the sheet.
Rei becomes interested in mysterious Kira and begins to half-heartedly pursue her. She resists at first, but after he comes to her aid against bullies and shows her he's not the Jerk Jock playboy she stereotyped him as, they tentatively become a Moe Couplet. . .
Not all is well in budding-teen-romance-land, however, for both Rei and Kira have skeletons in their closets. Rei is estranged from his only surviving family member and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder over his twin brother Sei's suicide; Kira has very good reasons for her pathological shyness and dislike of men, and her family is fragile at best. They have to work out their respective problems as well as face the threat of one Masao Kirishima, a sociopath who begins to stalk both of them. The road to Happily Ever After is fraught with dangers on all sides, the likes of which normal Japanese teenagers only ever read about in manga.
This series is notable in that it avoids a number of frustrating romance manga cliches, excels at dramatic suspense, and depicts mental illness and psychological trauma in a nuanced and realistic manner. It also happens to feature really great art and a high-quality English translation.
In 2005, Mars was adapted into a Taiwanese live-action drama. It also got a J-Drama and a live action-film in 2016.
Provides examples of:
- Alpha Bitch: Harumi is a particularly violent variation of this at first.
- Angsty Surviving Twin: Rei, after Sei's death.
- Art Shift: When the scenery becomes the focus of a page or panel, it's in a style that suggests silver-process photography with the contrast blown out, rather than conventional manga-style background.
- Backstory: A 'lot' of it, and of the angsty variety, revealed in flashbacks.
- Beta Couple: Harumi and Tatsuya
- Big Fancy House: Rei's father's house is like this. Rei, on the other hand, lives in a crappy apartment in a bad side of town.
- Big Screwed-Up Family: The Kashino family. Provides fodder for most of the Reveals, Backstory, and Character Development.
- The Aso family is much, much smaller but about as screwed up.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Harumi, Rei's would-be girlfriend, who even threatens Kira at first. She gets better, and after working through her issues, ends up as Kira's best friend.
- Rei's other first girlfriend, Shiori, who claims she would rather die than be without him and then attempts to prove it.
- Depraved Bisexual: Masao Kirishima is an effeminate sociopath who threatens Kira and Rei throughout the series.
- Does Not Like Men: When the story begins, Kira is shy around most people, but avoids even speaking to her male classmates.
- Driven to Suicide: Shiori plays with this; it is part cry for attention, part atonement. Also, Rei saves her before she's killed.
- Sei also commits suicide for a complex set of reasons.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Escalated to an absurd level in the final volume, when Masao knifes Rei in the gut on the way to the party celebrating his marriage to Kira. He survives with little or no permanent injury, they get married, and everyone works out their emotional issues.
- Easily Forgiven: At the end of the first volume, Harumi takes her bullying of Kira to a ridiculous level by preparing to smash Kira's fingers with a small barbell. Even though she doesn't follow through, it's a little jarring when they become friends with no mention of this incident. That said, Harumi does step in and tell off a group of senior girls who were bullying Kira, and comes very close to apologizing for her behavior by explaining herself a bit.
- Kira's mother takes back the stepfather who raped her daughter.
- Face Framed in Shadow: Kira's stepfather gets this treatment often.
- "Get Out of Jail Free" Card: Even after Masao knifes Rei, nearly killing him, the authorities can't put him behind bars because he's legally a minor.
- Heroic Sacrifice: To support Kira, Rei swallows his pride, gives up racing motorcycles, and begs his father for help.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Not really a villain, but Rei's father Takayuki is initially set up as an antagonist until it is eventually revealed that he's a Woobie of the first order.
- Informed Ability: Mostly averted. Kira's art looks beautiful, but her greatest painting as it appears on the cover of the last volume is done in conventional alcohol-based marker manga style, rather than oils as stated in the text.
- Ironic Echo: "Apples are for eating, not for throwing."
- I Want Grandkids: Rei's father Takayuki goes off on a brief tangent and says this, much to Rei's dismay.
Mr. Kashino: I don't care how many you have, just start making babies!
- Mama Bear: Rei and Sei's mother Shoko thinks she's this, but she's actually just Ax Crazy and more of a threat to her children than anyone else.
- Manipulative Bastard: Masao. Manipulates his way out of psychiatric care and close enough to Rei to put a knife between his ribs. The final scene in which he claims not to remember Rei is chilling.
- Modesty Bedsheet: Partially averted- the female has her back to the reader to provide just enough cover while the male is covered from the hips down.
- Rape as Backstory: Why Kira Does Not Like Men.
- Rape Is Love: When Kira's stepfather claims he cares for her, and can't understand why she can't see it.
- Stalker with a Crush: Maseo stalks both Kira and Rei--Rei because he saved him in the past and Kira because of her personality. Of course, it doesn't stop him from trying to kill them both.
- Stock Shoujo Bullying Tactics: Harumi and her Girl Posse use the "corner the victim in public" tactic on Kira, and later Harumi herself drags Kira into a locked room and attempts to smash her fingers with a hand weight. Rei intervenes just in time and later rips Harumi a new one for it.
- In volume 2, Harumi herself stops a group of senior girls from doing this to Kira after she inadvertently gets a popular guy expelled for stealing her work.
- Suicide Is Painless: Sei throws himself off the roof with a smile on his face, and Rei is left looking at a corpse that looks just like him.
- There Are No Therapists: Averted, but it doesn't do anyone much good.
- Transgender: Rei's neighbor Violet is a a transgender woman.
- Trauma Conga Line: The only characters who seem to be exempt are Harumi and Tatsuya.
- Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Rei suffers this as well as extreme violent behavior after Sei's suicide. His psychiatrist and father use it to rewrite his childhood as having been less horrible.
- Upperclass Twit : Discussed, thought about, and averted. Takayuki wants Rei to work hard to be worthy of inheriting the family business, and Rei has a hard time schmoozing with successful businessmen.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: When said successful individuals mock Rei at a gathering, he turns their insults back on them by declaring that, while he may be an idiot delinquent, at least he's not a sneering asshole.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Rei.
- Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Why does Takayuki disapprove of Rei racing motorcycles? Because Takayuki's brother Akihiko, incidentally the biological father of Rei and Sei, died in a particularly hideous car racing accident.
- Would Hit a Girl: Rei has no qualms about smacking Harumi and threatening to kill her for bullying Kira.
- Younger Than They Look: Rei's neighbor/landlord looks a scary man in his late twenties or thirties but is only nineteen, and really a very nice man.