Manga / Mars
Mars by Kira Aso

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 2004, Mars was adapted into a Taiwanese live-action drama. In 2016 a Japanese remake started airing under the name MARS ~Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru

Provides examples of:

  • All Men Are Perverts / All Women Are Lustful: Harumi argues this point with Kira when she's attempting to convince her that she wasn't Defiled Forever by her rape.
    Harumi: If you're dirty, what in this world isn't?! All the men are skeevy, and all the girls are selling themselves to those skeevy men. Guys roam around town just waiting for girls to hit on them.
  • Alpha Bitch: Harumi is a particularly violent variation of this at first.
  • Ambiguously Bi: While romantically, Kira only seems to have eyes for Rei, she talks about the beauty of other female characters in similar terms, and admits to Tatsuya that she would have a crush on Rei even if he were a woman.
  • 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.
  • Big Fancy House: Rei's father's house is like this, to the point of awkwardness. 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.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Rei is actually very intelligent. He just has zero interest in school.
  • 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, who claims she would rather die than be without him and then attempts to prove it.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Hamazaki, a thug upperclassman, tries to torture Rei after he storms into a senior classroom. This does not go as planned, with Rei easily thrashing Hamazaki and all of his friends. Once Rei returns from suspension, Hamazaki apologizes and becomes a friend to Rei and Kira, even going by personal nicknames like, "Hama," going to cheer Rei on in the Suzuka 8-hour endurance race, and giving Kira and her mother a discount when his family's company handles their move.
  • 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.
    • Rei and Sei's mother Shoko is revealed to have committed suicide when her children were young. They were the ones to find her.
  • 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.
    • Kira's mother takes back the stepfather who raped her daughter.
      • Which could be Truth in Television - it's not unheard of for this to happen in real life, depressing as that is.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: Kira's stepfather gets this treatment often.
  • Face Fault: Realistic example. When Rei promises to protect Kira, he also jokingly offers to "lend [her his] body" if she feels like fooling around. As he's going down the stairs, Kira calls after him and asks him to lend her his body (to use as a model for her painting), causing Rei to slip and fall down the stairs in shock.
  • Family Versus Career: Kyoko the biker ends her racing career after a minor injury in the endurance.
  • Get Out: Takayuki shouts this at Shoko after he stops her from killing Rei as a child.
  • "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.
    • Even though we are repeatedly told that Kyoko's skills are on par with male racers, her performance doesn't really prove that.
    • Overshadowed by Awesome: Its not that Kyoko skills are any less then any of the unnamed male racers as much as Kyoko's skills can not match Rei's skills. The settings on the bike were set for Rei preference after all.
  • Ironic Echo: "Apples are for eating, not for throwing."
  • I Want Grandkids: Rei's father 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's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Rei and Sei are legally Takayuki's children, but everyone knows they're actually his brother Akihiko's.
  • 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.
  • My Beloved Smother: Shoko again. By the time the boys were 4 she still wasn't even letting them leave the house.
  • Nice Guy: Tetsuya
  • Parents as People: One of the themes of the story is that the adults are just as mixed up and vulnerable as the teenage main cast. They love their children very much and always try to do what's best, but for one reason or another fall short. This discovery is healing for Rei, but probably not so much for Kira.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Rei was always very active and prone to getting himself into trouble while Sei was quiet, artistic, and something of a crybaby. And then the real reason it turned out they were opposites was that while Rei had it in him to be well-adjusted, Sei was actually a sociopath who placed no value in human life aside from him and Rei.
  • Rape as Backstory: Why Kira Does Not Like Men.
  • 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.
  • Suicide Is Painless: Sei throws himself off the roof with a wan smile on his face. 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.
  • Their First Time: After Kira runs away from home thinking she may have killed her stepfather she and Rei have sex for the first time. Everyone is surprised it didn't happen a lot sooner, given Rei's reputation as The Casanova.
  • 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.
  • Upper-Class 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: Much to Harumi's surprise, Rei. He slaps Shiori for accosting Kira.
    • Even more surprisingly, Takayuki as well. He slapped Shoko after she tried to strangle Rei.
  • Yandere: In a non-romantic example, Shoko is so insane and so devoted to keeping her children safe that she tries to strangle them and commit suicide rather than be separated from them.
  • 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.