Sunday, May 29, 2011
Most yuri fans know Kishi Torajirou's Maka Maka, but Mars no Kiss is also worth checking out. It's a surprisingly good, realistic look at unrequited first love. If that doesn't sell you on it (can't blame you), it also has one of the most beautiful kiss scenes ever drawn in a manga.
Yukari is an outgoing, "rebellious" girl who does the opposite of whatever her over-controlling mom wants. She has a boyfriend who attends university, but all they do is have sex, maybe visit the karaoke box also. Mayuko, the girl assigned to sit next to Yukari in class, is the complete opposite of Yukari. She is reserved and studious, and she and Yukari don't think much of each other.
But. One afternoon, Yukari sees Mayuko kissing a bust of Mars in the school art room (Mars sure is a popular choice), and finds herself entranced. When a teacher walks up behind her, she flinches and runs away, but not before Mayuko sees her.
After realizing that Yukari wouldn't tell anyone about what she saw, Mayuko changes her opinion of Yukari and they become friends. As they get to know each other more, they realize that they have more in common than they had thought. Yukari gives Mayuko advice for when she has a boyfriend someday, priding herself on being more experienced, but when Mayuko does get her own boyfriend, Yukari feels her stomach sink. Knowing that she should feel happy for Mayuko, Yukari soon realizes she is in love with her.
Since Mayuko told Yukari that she kissed the bust of Mars to make sure her glasses wouldn't bump whoever she has her first kiss with (something that made Yukari laugh at the time), Yukari brings a pair of glasses to school and, in the corner of the school library where she and Yukari usually meet, suggests that they "practice"- just to make sure that Mayuko and her boyfriend's glasses won't bump together when they kiss. Mayuko agrees. Their kiss is the most beautifully drawn scene in the book. As Sapphire aptly describes it, "In the scenes leading up to the kiss, I could feel the nervousness and suspense through the characters. Her depictions of the two voluptuous glistening lips semi-touching one another are perfectly frozen to give the reader that sense of a slow intimate softness that comes with kissing a woman. No Frenching….just a gentle and sweet lip to lip."
After the kiss, Yukari blurts out that she likes Mayuko, and then feels like the earth is about to swallow her. Mayuko smiles and tells Yukari that she likes her too, but Yukari realizes that the "like" Mayuko means is different. (Even though Mayuko's perspective of the confession isn't shown, I think she understood what Yukari meant and was letting her down in the gentlest way possible.)
During the next school term, Yukari and Mayuko are assigned to sit next to different people, but they remain friends. Yukari has clearly grown more mature after realizing her feelings for Mayuko; she understands what real love feels like and has ditched her loser boyfriend. (This reviewer likes to think that she will completely get over Mayuko and fall in love with somebody who loves her back someday.)
Even though the girl doesn't get the girl she likes in it, Mars no Kiss is a sweet story with realistic leads who develop beyond their initial archetypes; and it was nice to see that a mangaka known for his more explicit work could pack so much of a punch into a simple first kiss.