My Broken Mariko by Waka Hirako

details
Title: My Broken Mariko.
Writer(s)Waka Hirako.
Translator(s)Amanda Haley.
Letterer(s): Abigail Blackman.
PublisherYen Press.
Format: Digital Copy.
Release Date: November 10th, 2020 (first published January 8th 2020).
Pages: 194.
Genre(s): Comics, Manga.
ISBN13: 9781975318604.
My Overall Rating: 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

thoughts

Losing a loved one is nothing anyone can prepare for. The mere thought of it alone can twist your insides, tear your heart out, and beat you out of reality. Even more frustrating is the thought that someone you know would willingly take their own life, that they would exit this world without a word to anyone who cared for them, even when they’ve shown you genuine happiness by your side. In mangaka Waka Hirako’s debut, she explores themes of abuse, suicide, depression, and happiness, through the story of a young lady’s grieving journey and her special bond with her departed friend.

What is My Broken Mariko about? This English-translated single-volume manga follows the adventure of Tomoyo Shiino, an ill-tempered office assistant who suddenly learns that her best friend committed suicide. Overcome with emotion and defeat, she wanders aimlessly, clueless as to what had happened to her friend Mariko and what she should do now. Refusing to end things on this hopeless note, she runs off with the firm intention of stealing her friend’s ashes from her abusive father and to go on one last adventure that might offer the only closure she could ever get.

“If you leave me, I’ll never forgive you… For the rest of my life.”

Waka Hirako

Despite a heartbreaking premise to work with, it is difficult to speak of the execution without noting its flaws. In this short, concise, and energic tale, readers follow Shiino in her self-destructive journey to mourn the loss of a beloved friend with whom she had an intimate and ethereal relationship. Her actions speak louder than words as she continuously puts herself in questionably dangerous situations that make you wonder about the stability of her own mental health. What made this an ambiguous reading experience, however, is in the odd comedic overtone that constantly came to counterbalance the intense emotions. This essentially kills the reader’s chance to connect with these characters and to embrace the powerful emotions felt by Tomoyo Shiino.

While mangaka Waka Hirako does do an impressive job in sparingly exploring the bond between these two characters, slowly unveiling the complex history that they shared, without ever really giving away a concrete explanation to the tragedy at the heart of this journey, it is always the over-the-top reckless moments that rubs off as an attempt at unnecessary comic relief that prevents this story to really stand on two feet. This issue is perfectly observable in the artwork as well, at times capturing agonizing and touching moments with stunning and expressive artwork, while at other times resorting to simplified character designs and facial expressions to note humourous moments. The inclusion of a bonus story titled Yiska that had nothing to do with My Broken Mariko, telling the story of two lone individuals caught between a rock and a hard place, also didn’t help to end this volume on a better note.

My Broken Mariko is a resonant tale of love and loss that struggles to embrace its more profound emotions by shuffling in irrelevant comicality.


EXHIBITA
Thank you to Yen Press for sending me a copy for review!

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13 comments

  • Hmm, this is really too bad. I have to say that this premise deals with quite a number of heavy topics, but if executed well this could really be one of those heartbreaking yet amazing kind of tales. Sad to see that’s not the case here. The art looks beautiful though, so it’s honestly even more of a shame. This being a debut, let’s hope the next manga will be a better one! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right? I was often too distracted by the unusual comedy in which the story was wrapped. Maybe it’s just me who couldn’t connect with the character’s personality but it was too odd for me to really FEEL the heavy moments properly! But I agree. I’m sure Waka Hirako will be able to tell some great stories throughout her career going forward now. Thanks for reading, Michel! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  • My thoughts echo Michel’s. Very heavy topics. I suppose I can understand the desire to throw in some comedic elements to keep it from getting too dark and too heavy, but that also risks destroying the power this kind of story can have. Your mention of never learning the reasons behind the tragedy, something I think all too common with suicide, brought back memories of one college class when the professor informed us one of our fellow students had committed suicide the day before and pointed to where they usually sat. I didn’t know the student but it hit hard, just the thought that for weeks I’d been sitting not that far from this person and now they were gone because they chose to end it. Left me with all kinds of unanswered questions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can definitely understand those comedic elements to tone down the story but man… this was done in such a way that my eyebrows were always raised too. Oh man, I can only imagine how it must’ve been. I experienced something similar a while back too at work where we had this retirement party for a cop buddy and I was sitting at a table with someone I didn’t know only to discover the next week that she had committed suicide… Yet she was all smiles around everyone during that party! Ahh.. life and its many mysteries. Nothing is really ever predictable with us humans…

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  • What a disappointment 😦 I believe the editor should’ve or could’ve at least played a role in this…either she/he did or didn’t. The inconsistencies throughout must’ve been such turnoffs, but you did, in the end finish it so kudos to you on that! Great review, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m convinced that it could’ve been executed better if someone else could’ve helped redirect the direction of the story but here we are hahah I guess this is how she preferred telling this story and hopefully her next stories will have a more “consistent” tone. Thank you so much for reading, Jee! I appreciate it a lot, my dear friend! 😀

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    • Ahhh, it’s hard to explain but it can be scenes where the character breaks form to make ludicrous expressions ridiculizing herself because of she does… I don’t know, honestly. I think it’s more of an attempt to infuse the character with a humour that only some can relate to? I just found it more confusing than anything else.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Ummm, ok. I think I’ll pass. I get the temptation to lighten up the dark tone with a bit of comedy, but sometimes it’s not only unnecessary but also totally wrong (yes, I’m looking at you, Thor: Ragnarok! :P)
    Interesting, in-depth review, Lashaan!

    Liked by 1 person

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