Within You and Without You – Inside Mari

mariThe most recent work by Shuzo Oshimi, the mangaka behind The Flowers of Evil, is another psychologically delving title that takes us deep into the thoughts of its main character – Mari.

Manga Title: Inside Mari (Boku wa Mari no Naka)
Mangaka: Shuzo Oshimi
Genres: Psychological, drama, gender bender, mystery
Demographic: Seinen

The Storyboard:
Isao Komori, a college student who’s become a reclusive hikikomori, spends day after day playing away his time with games, erotic manga and visiting a local convenience store every night to get a glimpse of his ‘angel’.

Inside Mari

Isao Komori

His angel is none other than Mari Yoshizaki, a teenage high school girl – someone who looks for all intents and purposes like a model, moral student.

Usually Isao follows her every night for a short while before returning home, however one night she inexplicably turns around, staring him right in the eyes. The next morning Isao wakes up to find that he’s inside Mari – he’s taken over her body.

Inside Mari

Mari Yoshizaki

Spending an embarrassing day at school as Mari, he finds it difficult to keep up the pretense that he is a girl, whilst also trying not to do anything perverse to his angel despite being in her body. After searching for and finding his male self, he discovers that he is completely unaware of any change, going about life as usual.

Left with no other option, Isao temporarily has to be Mari, beginning a life whose social, physical and mental situations are completely unknown to him.

Inside Mari

A day in the life

Pencil Sketch:
Two main characters take up most of the stage, Mari (with Isao inside her) and Mari’s close but undisclosed friend Yori Kakiguchi. Isao is straightforwardly perverted, thus he’s immediately challenged to keep his hands to himself being inside Mari. Aside from that, not being a particularly social person in the first place, he’s constantly embarrassed and at a loss for what to do being surrounded by Mari’s peer group.

After being at school it becomes apparent that Mari truly is a hardworking student who is regarded highly by her peers. Trying to maintain the façade of being her increases in difficultly when going to the restroom, getting close to and even holding hands with other girls – Isao literally has a permanent blush on his face.

Just when he thought it couldn’t get worse, Mari’s clandestine friend Yori enters. It appears they’d maintained a secret friendship as Yori isn’t in with Mari’s current group and she doesn’t want to spoil her social life.

Inside Mari

Yori Kakiguchi

Yori usually observes Mari quite closely, so she notices something is amiss, and confronts her about it. Backed into a corner, Isao reveals that he’s inside Mari – a situation that Yori is both creeped out by and concerned about. She’s desperate to make sure that until they recover the original Mari, Isao not even look at Mari’s (his) body while changing, let alone do anything to disrupt the flow of her daily life.

It’s revealed that Yori’s relationship with Mari, though secret, is extremely close and she is quite fixated with her.

Being the shut-in that he is, Isao blunderingly tries to maintain face, navigating his way through the complex storm that is a high school girl in Japan’s community life. He winds up discovering that the life of a girl is not quite the dream-life he may once have imagined.

Inking:
What I expected from Inside Mari was perhaps another gender bender drawing on the amusing and awkward idea of someone being put into a person of the opposite sex’s body. Inside Mari is that, but so much more. Without singing Shuzo Oshimi’s praises too much, I have to say that he’s done it again; I haven’t read through a manga as fast as this in a while. Shuzo’s skill at portraying the clumsy awkwardness of youth and relationships between the sexes, the mental turmoil of puberty, the purity as well as the darkness of the mind as it grows into maturity – is amazingly done.

Like in The Flowers of Evil, he’s captured a tension and a need-to-know that hooked me right from the start. He’s also very honest in his portrayal, Inside Mari doesn’t gloss over the brooding, angst and pain that goes with coming of age and in peer groups, but displays it honestly. Once again he also shows the inner battle, confusion and occasional elation of his main character with ease.

Inside Mari is a journey into the psyche of sexuality, growing, and coming to terms with oneself and others. Family issues, interrelationship politics, and periods are just some of the difficulties that Isao has to face on his chaffing journey – inside Mari.

 

Happiness is a Warm BB Gun – Assassination Classroom

Assassination Classroom

Assassination ClassroomManga Title: Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoshitsu)
Mangaka: Yusei Matsui
Genres: Comedy, slice of life, action supernatural
Demographic: Shonen

I picked up this title as a few people were talking about it, and the slogan used on the advert I saw for it caught my attention. The way it was advertised made me think the first page would have crazy-eyed students blowing away their real life teacher. A few pages in and I realized that this wasn’t the case – it was something even more bizarre.

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Good morning…sensei

The story revolves around a multifarious alien ‘teacher’ who has come to destroy the Earth, and just to prove his point he’s already destroyed most of the moon by the time the manga begins. The teacher – known as Korosensei (unkillable teacher) – states that he will destroy the Earth within a year unless humanity is able to assassinate him. After making an agreement with the government, Korosensei becomes the homeroom teacher of a class at Kunugigaoka junior high. They’re known as Class E, and he instructs them to attempt to kill him – whilst teaching them regular school subjects too. The government offers a reward of ten billion yen to anyone who can successfully exterminate him.

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Assassins

What follows is the ludicrous but entertaining chronicle of Class E’s endeavors to assassinate Korosensei. It should be an easy enough task for a whole class of students to bump off someone else, however Korosensei is no ordinary being. His face is like an oversized emoticon (complete with color changes for moods), his body is composed of a malleable material, he has octopus – like tentacles (the old favorite) and can travel at the speed of Mach 20.

In volume one, we meet some of the more proactive members of Class E. Nagisa Shiota is a gentle-natured bishonen who is at first unable to try assassinating Korosensei, but is later encouraged to do just that by the sensei himself! Later Nagisa takes on the job of recording Korosensei’s weaknesses in order to make a more successful attempt on his life in future.

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Nagisa and Karma

Karma Akabane is a student who was expelled for violence at school and returns after the first few chapters. His past experiences led him to lose confidence in his previous teacher, and he now has no qualms about murdering Korosensei. His ‘killing intent’ is far stronger than almost all the other students and he starts thinking up all sorts of methods to do their sensei in right away.

Two other adult teachers (who are actually just posing as teachers) are Karasuma Tadaomi and Irina Jelavic. The former tries to train the students and hone their assassination techniques, while the latter is a professional who turns on her womanly charms (one of Korosensei’s weaknesses) to get him to drop his guard and rub him out.

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Irina Jelavic

Of course, Korosensei steals the show with his contradictory actions and amusing antics. Whilst encouraging the students to execute him and even teaching them how to do it, he also teaches them life lessons and encourages them. In only a short time, the students come to see him as a warm teacher who actually cares for them.

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He melted!

Though Assassination Classroom is pure comedy, it makes some meaningful points about teacher/student relationships. Another draw for me was the wordplay used throughout the series. Most of the jokes are Japanese puns (especially involving the word ‘koro’ – kill) playing on the meaning of the words used and their associations. Despite that the translation is well done and pretty close English substitutions are provided with explanations.

Overall Assassination Classroom has lots of gags, slice of life content that’s particularly centered around school themes, Japanese word play and assassination tactics all rolled into one manga. My main concern about this title is how long the mangaka can keep it fresh when Korosensei is almost invulnerable and the rest of the characters are trying to do pretty much the same thing in each chapter. That all depends on how the story is handled as it progresses, though.

Last but not least, Yusei Matsui’s artwork captures the comic moments (and there are plenty), action scenes, and day to day life of the students with pleasing art that always holds a few surprises hidden in the frames. Particularly, the drawings Korosensei likes to leave in his students’ notebooks are worth a chapter all of their own!

Korosensei

scrap

What is your opinion of this manga? Can you recommend another manga in a similar genre that you enjoyed?