Manga Mondays: Mars: Horse With No Name

Title: Mars: Horse With No Name ( MARS: Namae no Nai Uma / MARS 外伝 名前のない馬 )
Author: Fuyumi Soryo  (Story & Art)
Genres: Romance, Drama, Slice of Life, School Life, Shoujo
Rating: Teen
Published: 1999 (magazine & tankōbon in Japan); 2004 (tankōbon in North America)
Volumes: 1  [Completed]
Japanese Publisher: Kodansha
English Publisher: Tokyopop
Available to Purchase in English?: Yes ( Ebay / Amazon )
** This title is considered out of print by Tokyopop so it is not carried by the usual retailers.

 

This review contains mild spoilers for the main series Mars

 

Synopsis: The first story, ‘Namae no Nai Uma,’ is a ‘MARS’ prequel telling the first meeting between Rei and Tatsuya and the beginning of their friendship. Moreover, they’ve also presented other main characters such as Kira and Harumi.

The second and the third stories, ‘Nemuru Raion’ and ‘1 Karatto no Kajitsu,’ are oneshots not related to ‘MARS’.

The first tells of the strange relationship between Isomu [sic], a guy who pretends to not have any fear, and Ayame, a girl with particular behaviours; on the contrary, the second tells of Nina, who has some family problems, and Rui, her classmate who is interested in a close friend of the hers. But what if he’s interested in Nina? (Manga Updates)

 

Mars: Horse With No Name is the prequel story for the series Mars, written by author Fuyumi Soryo. If you’d like to read more about the main series, Oki reviewed it back in 2012 and you can read their review of it here.

Mars has been one of my favourite series since I was a teenager. I started reading it because the mangaka’s art style caught my eye (seriously, how gorgeous is the cover for Horse With No Name?), and I appreciated the plot which covered real, sometimes gritty topics. The relationship between Rei and Kira was also handled very well; no petty relationship drama, just issues which were often based on trauma in their pasts. Mars does friendships and relationships very well.

Unfortunately, Horse With No Name does not span the full length of the tankōbon it was published in. Perhaps because it was too short for a standard tankōbon, the mangaka also included 2 oneshot stories (“Sleeping Lion” and “1 Karat Fruit”) not related to Mars. As a fan of Mars this was a little disappointing to me when I bought the tankōbon, but these short stories are not bad. Their plots are mentioned in the synopsis above.

Naturally as a fan of Mars, Horse With No Name is my favourite story in the tankōbon. The title does actually come from the song of the same name, “Horse With No Name” by the band America, who were popular in North America in the 1970s. Horse With No Name is narrated by Tatsuya, who starts the story off being super concerned about his image on the first day of school. He meets Rei, an outspoken “takes no shit from anyone” type of person who stands out at school because of his personality, among other things. Through Takuya we are introduced to Kira, Takuya’s long-time and somewhat unrequited crush (though to be fair it’s because she doesn’t know about his feelings for her, not because she knows and doesn’t return them). To Tatsuya’s horror, on this first day of school he sees Rei interact with Kira and borrow money from her, leading Tatsuya to confront Rei over this interaction plus Rei’s sleeping with the girlfriend of one of Tatsuya’s friends.

Following this argument there’s some fighting with local gangs, a soak in an onsen and a big bike race, and by the end of Horse With No Name Tatsuya has learned that Rei is not the person he thought he was. This is the beginning of their tentative friendship, which only becomes stronger during the events of Mars.

In Sleeping Lion, Isamu meets a girl his age named Ayame. She’s been following him around for awhile and after he finally confronts her, they become friends. Isamu puts up a big front and pretends like he can do anything, something Ayame admires because she feels she isn’t very brave. Isamu even goes so far as to claim he has a deathwish in life. Ayame asks Isamu to help her become more courageous, so they do things together like ride a bike downhill with no brakes and jaywalk in front of oncoming traffic.

It’s during Ayame’s last request, that Isamu teach her to shoplift, that they become part of an attempted robbery. Isamu intervenes and the store is saved, but outside when they are alone together his walls crumble down and he reveals his big secret to Ayame.

There’s a neat twist at the end of this story I’d forgotten about that I won’t spoil here, just know that it was simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting. I apologize for being vague but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. It’s been awhile since I read Horse With No Name so re-reading it for this review after so long was basically like reading it for the first time all over again.

Last but not least is 1 Karat Fruit, a reference to a pair of garnet earrings given from Rui to Nina. Nina is very aloof at school, always pretending she doesn’t care about anyone or anything. Her friend Ryoko has a crush on a guy at school (Rui) and is excited for their upcoming date; however during the date itself, Rui spends all his time asking Ryoko about Nina. It turns out Rui had only gone on the date to ask about Nina, leading Ryoko to think that Nina and Rui have something secret going on and that Nina lied to her. The two girls fight and blows are exchanged.

Later Nina slowly reveals to Rui that she’s indifferent to relationships and dating because she suspects her parents are getting a divorce. She’s seen her dad in public with another woman and he spends a lot of time away from home. Nina’s mother has started drinking, leaving Nina without much in the way of parental figures in her life. Why get involved with someone if down the line the relationship comes to such a sad end?

The twist in 1 Karat Fruit is a little more realistic and less of a surprise than the one in Sleeping Lion, but it’s still a solid ending to this short story.

I feel like the theme of Horse With No Name is about new beginnings. None of the relationships in any of these short stories are established; everyone is meeting each other for the first time, getting to know one another. I feel like it’s the one thread which ties these three stories together.

 

Do I Recommend This Title to Others?: If you’re buying this up as a fan of Mars, you might be a little disappointed given how short Horse With No Name actually is. If you’re a fan of the mangaka or are collecting Horse With No Name because of its value as part of a collection then I feel it’s worth buying. Fuyumi Soryo has a beautifully unique art style all her own and she uses it to bring Kira, Rei and their friends to life, plus the casts of the two oneshots, in one of the most brutally honest titles I’ve ever read.

Final Score: 8/10

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