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 discovered Inside Mari when a friend of mine was rereading all of Shuzo Oshimi's works. She was very vocal about Inside Mari being one of her favorite manga, which enticed me to pick it up. She told me nothing about it, not wanting to even spoil the premise, meaning I went into it completely blind. I read it all in just a couple of days, only stopping so I could go to work. I couldn't set it down, I had to finish it. This manga made me laugh, this manga made me cry, Inside Mari brought emotions out of me I have rarely experienced while reading manga. I find myself in a similar place as my friend. I don't want to mention anything about the story because I don't want any of the twists and turns spoiled for any future readers. But, more or less it's a Freaky Friday-esque story of a boy's consciousness getting transferred into the body of a girl he was attracted to. But, even describing it like that does it no justice. Really what the story is about is identity and trauma, what is it that truly makes us who we are. Maybe this is “TMI,” but as someone who is transgender, this story just hits an endless amount of emotional beats that I couldn't ignore. That's not to say that you have to be some brand of lgbt to love this story, but I do think it helps it hit just a little different. I will say that there are some portions that are a little too sexual and they last a little too long and it may sort of make you cringe, but I feel like those moments are so few across the 80 chapters that I can't think of a real example to name. It's not going to be for everyone. And, maybe I'm more into it than the average person, but I can't clarify enough how much this story touched me. There's “this manga was good” and then there's “this manga affected me,” and Inside Mari is definitely the latter.
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.
Inside Mari is an interesting look upon the deconstruction of both the body swapping genre and the genderbender genre. We explore what seems to be a general plot of a man who ends up in the body of a girl, but as the story continues, we learn there is quite more than that to the story and the characters themselves than what we see at first glance. While the story is, unfortunately, slow paced, and sometimes uncomfortable to read, the story does a good job portraying the true effect such a change would have upon those involved, unlike most manga of the genre which prefers a much lighter take upon the topic. It's a dark yet fascinating read which will certainly give you some food for thought after you're done reading.
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