College dropout Isao Komori wakes up one morning to find himself in the body of a high school girl. How did this happen and what happened to the girl whose body his is possessing?
I don't know if the chapters were just short or if I was that engrossed in this manga, but I powered through the nine volumes in a couple of short sittings that left me thirsty for more and yet satisfied with the completeness of the narrative. "Inside Mari" is a fabulous double entendre for a story where the narrator seems to be literally inserted into Mari and, at the same time, the events themselves take us as readers into her life and struggles (even in her apparent absence). The story follows the quest of Komori and Yori as they try to sort out how it is that Mari's mind/soul has disappeared and been replaced by a copy of Komori's own consciousness. It sounds rom-comy, but nothing about the execution is remotely comic. Like any good story though, this premise quietly takes a back seat to the more compelling (and compellingly executed) profile of the three principal characters, each of which is a distinct and timely meditation on the contemporary youth crisis in Japan. From the slovenly hikikomori to the social pariah to the girl who loses herself just to fit in, the story shines a relentlessly bright spotlight on the range of bad options available to a dwindling generation of young Japanese. And even if you don't read your manga to get social commentary, there is plenty here to commend this offering anyway: from the detailed art--especially a range of faces in the grips of extreme emotion--to the three-dimensional character development to the stark depiction of adolescent sexuality all culminating in a definite and satisfying conclusion, free of gimmicks, cheap emotional ploys, and facile solutions.
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