Finally got the chance to sit down and watch something. The new adaptation of popular Manga Mars! As you know from my earlier post, Taiwan made a version of their own with the winning combination of rawness and chemistry from Vic Zhou and Barbie Hsu in 2004, so my bar was already at a high place. This Mars is different; and whether it is a good difference remains to be seen.
Mars: Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru Episode 1 RECAP:
The episode begins on a beautiful sunny day at the beach where our heroine, Kira Aso (Marie Iitoyo), peacefully sketches the perfect picture of a mother cradling her baby. A motorcycle parks behind her and our hero Rei Kashino (Taisuke Fujigaya) casually throws out a question at her back. When he gets no response (because she’s wearing earphones), he approaches her and is immediately captured by her drawing, “That is amazing!”
Startled by his voice, she falls backward and he reflexively catches her gently. With their faces mere inches apart, their eyes locked. They take in each other’s features before he asks if she’s okay. She backs away from him and he asks for direction to a nearby hotel. Not giving him a verbal answer, she bends over and begins sketching directions on the other side of her drawing. Once it’s finished, she hands him the paper and scurries away, never speaking a word. Rei’s occupied with a phone call from a female asking where he is. After he hangs up and folds the paper, he realizes the drawing etched on the other side and looks up towards her direction with a meaningful look. He makes it a point to drive past her and wave the piece of paper in the air to demonstrate his thanks.
A new school year, a few familiar faces, and a whole lot of interesting dynamics await. In Kira’s classroom, as a few girls brush past her seat, her pencil bag drops to the floor. The girl apologizes but when she gets no response, her other friend quickly adds that their fellow classmate feels no emotion no matter what happens. The popular girl of the group, Harumi Sugihara (Hirona Yamazaki) levels a deep look at Kira’s back. Outside the school’s entrance, Rei parks his car and casually flirts with his fan girls, “You guys have caught my interest,” and even pats on a girl’s behind with his helmet before bidding them goodbye with a small smile.
He enters classroom and is immediately greeted by Harumi and she gleefully comments how it is fate that they are in the same class two years in a row. He waves it off and his best friend, Tatsuya Kida (Yu Inaba), motions to his assigned seat, before him and next to Kira. Once Rei has settled down, his eyes glow in realization of Kira’s face; he recognizes her and learns of her name when the teacher calls for attendance. With her back hunched and her eyes focused on the floor, he gets slightly offended and reaches out to pull her closer. Once she’s close enough, he guides her face towards him, forcing eye contact and gently mutters out, “Why are you ignoring me?”
She stares up at him in mortification and the teacher’s screaming breaks their contact. The students oohhh and aahhhs but Harumi fumes silently a few seats away. Later in the washroom, Tatsuya advices Rei to give up on Kira, telling him that she maybe cute but she’s different. Besides drawing, she keeps to herself and he surmises that she has a phobia for guys. In English class, Kira is asked to read the next line in the book they’re reading and when she murmurs, a student complains that he can’t hear and the teacher admonishes him that they’re classmates. Rei furtively throws a piece of note at her, revealing to her that he still has the drawing she drew on the other side of the hotel map. It dawns on her face as she lets out a loud yelp, gaining the attention of the whole class. Rei chuckles in his seat and teases her, “You can do it. A loud voice.”
During break time, this is Rei’s personal seating arrangement. LOL! I think I have forgotten how annoying cute he can be. He asks whether the drawing was inspired by a model to which she finally opens her lips to answer that it was casually drawn after a mother on the street. She wonders why he still has it and he honestly says that the drawing is beautiful. His interrogation stops there because Tatsuya calls Rei to join their basketball game. From a distance, Harumi and her friends note that the emotionless girl became flustered for the first time.
While everyone runs about during lunch time, Kira retreats into the art classroom to draw. Her peace ends shortly with a visit from the English teacher, Motsu Yoshioka (Masaya Kikawada). OMG. He’s the perverted teacher! With his hands on her shoulder, he leans closer and allows one hand to glide down her arm, cupping the hand she’s drawing with. The other hand slowly makes it way into her shirt and Kira freezes in horror, her eyes widened. A lecherous smile plays on his lips before the sounds of the door opening jerks him from his criminal act. It’s Rei! I’m so happy to see you, skinny lad.
Surprised to see his English teacher in the art classroom, Rei says as much, and when the teacher says only students in the arts club should come here, Rei answers that he could definitely join, “I have a hidden talent, just like a kind English teacher who sexually harasses students.” Kira’s frightened face breaks my heart. She looks up at Rei, gratefulness brimming in her eyes. The accusation angers Motsu and he asks aloud what proof does Rei have to say those incriminating words. Instead of answering, Rei picks up a safety knife and pushes the sharp tip out of the sheath.
Motsu swallows a gulp of fear and Rei replies, “I only want to sharpen a pencil, it’s not like I’m thinking of cutting up your face.” That does the trick and Motsu runs out of the classroom. Rei calls Kira an idiot for staying quiet when someone touches her, “Next time… ask for money.” LOL. I don’t know why that is so funny. Apparently, she finds it funny too and nods in agreement.
He sees her drawing and compliments her skills once again. When asked who it is, she explains he’s Mars, the God of War. Rei angles his face and observes that the War Hero has a gentle face. From Kira’s vision, she gasps as he leans closer and closer, as if he’s kissing the War Hero.
The next day at school, Rei attempts to return the sketch but she says she will give him the finished oil painting as a thank-you gift for helping her last time. He smiles at the promised gift and Harumi rushes up to stand in front of Rei, effectively blocking Kira. She snipes that Kira is using the drawing to capture Rei’s attention and he chastises her for being jealous of Kira’s skills. She insists that she’s not jealous and Rei tells Kira to follow him out. Harumi narrows her eyes at the two.
In English class, Motsu tries to humiliate Rei by calling him to the front to put together an English sentence. Smirking, Rei says it’s his fault for waking him up from his nap. He confidently writes on the chalk board, announcing to the world about a teacher who appears good but is in reality a terrible person who initiates sexual harassment on his female students. Frantic, Motsu erases the accusing words on the board while Rei smiles and informs him that he was raised in L.A for 8 years when he was young. Everyone drops their jaws and Rei looks at Kira with a knowing smile. She returns a small smile of her own.
After school, Tatsuya says that his impression of Kira has changed, “She’s quite cute when she smiles.” He also notes Rei’s new change of attitude as well. Rei tells him to stop exaggerating and rides off on his motorcycle. With the wind hitting his sweater freely, Rei notices that his brake isn’t working as he approaches a big truck at an intersection. We don’t see what happens next but the scene cuts off to show Motsu paying another visit to Kira in the art classroom.
In her haste to get the hell out of the room, a pencil falls to the floor. Motsu steps on it to block her exit and holds onto the item, wagging it in front of her, saying how much he’s jealous of her personality, “Always being able to bounce back. Makes me want to mess things up.” Still in a crouching position, she backs away and he taunts her that Rei won’t be coming this time because he might be at the hospital. At his claim, she finally glares up at him and bellows out loud, questioning his involvement in the matter.
His smile stops short when Rei charges in and tells him, “It’s too bad, Sensei.” Shocked, Motsu tries to get up from his crouching position but Rei closes the gap between them and pushes the man down. He sits close and teases Motsu about his plan to go all out. He warns his teacher to be careful on the way home in his car. To Kira, he says, “Let’s go.”
Walking down the empty hallway lighted by the rays of sunset, he wonders why she didn’t stay quiet this time and she mumbles it’s because Motsu said he did something to Rei. He turns slightly, surprised that she stood up because of him, and then turns around completely to look her in the eye, “You are unexpectedly strong.” Then he walks away coolly, commenting on the repair he needs to make for his motorcyle. She tails behind him like a little yellow Labrador.
In the principal office, we meet a new transfer student, Makio Kirishima (Masataka Kubota). He walks around campus and chances upon an exchange between Rei and Kira about Motsu quitting his job at the school. She feels bad (girl is crazy!!) and Rei tells her she didn’t do anything wrong. “Tell me if something happens, I’ll protect you.” When he walks away, Kira musters all the fiber in her body to scream out a question, “Would you lend me your body?” The silly doofus stammers and muses whether she means… S.E…X…?? She shakes her head and says she wants him to be a model for her next painting. Lol. As she walks away and past Makio, he looks at the two curiously.
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Kappy: If you compare this version to the Taiwanese Mars, you will be disappointed. The directing and casting aim for a different kind of feel right off the bat. You can see the amount of light which bounces off in almost every frame, radiating a lot of warmth and fuzziness into the scene, unlike the dark and stark contrast of the other Mars. Marie is like a cute, harmless bunny. While I do like her, I don’t see the same trauma in those crystal clear eyes, sparkling with hope and innocence. Same goes with Taisuke and together, they are a pair of cute bunnies. Lol.
Masataka does not play the best friend as Wiki led me to believe. And I’m not sure I remember the source material that well to know which character he plays. But if menacing and mysterious is up his alley, he’s doing a good job in just a few minutes of appearance.
I like it but the short episodes (~22 mins per episode) and short run (~12 episodes) worry me a little: how far and in depth can they go? Will keep watching. 🙂