MÄR vol 1 (of 15)

Distributor:  VIZ Media

Author:  Nobuyuki Anzai

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £5.99

Number of Pages:  208

ISBN:  978-1591169024

Reviewed:  20th April 2008

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


With a UK DVD release for the anime incarnation of MÄR apparently on the cards later this year, I thought I'd pick up vol 1 of the manga to see what it was like.

 The story is focused on Ginta Toramizu, a young daydreamer who's pretty rubbish at everything at school, particularly sports.  He has a habit of drifting off in class and frequently dreams about a fantasy world where he's strong and brave, a world where he's a hero who fights off evil overlords and saves princesses.  The dreams are so vivid to him he is certain the place exists, even if all but one of his classmates ridicule him for it.  The exception is Koyuki, Ginta's childhood friend and the only person who is interested in his dreams.  However, everyone else suddenly believes him when Ginta is magically transported to the fantasy world in the middle of class!  In the fantasy world - known as MÄR - Ginta is everything he always wanted to be, he is strong, athletic and brave and he's soon recruited by Dorothy the Witch to help her find a rare magical item known as an ÄRM.  ÄRMs are items of jewellery that can change into weapons, monsters or magic items of varying degrees of power, and can be used by whoever owns them.  The ÄRM Dorothy is trying to obtain is known as Babbo, and is the rarest and most valuable of them all.  Babbo is no ordinary ÄRM, unlike the others Babbo is sentient and has many mysterious abilities, but he's also very egotistical and arrogant.  Before you can say 'predictable' Babbo ends up in Ginta's possession, and despite not liking each other they begin to journey together.  However, Ginta has been summoned to MÄR for a reason, a powerful evil is on the move, and they want Babbo for their own nefarious aims.  Ginta soon realises that MÄR may not be as fun as he first thought, and with thieves targeting him now he has Babbo, will he manage to get home alive?

As I'm male I generally enjoy most 'shonen' (boys) manga, in fact it makes up most of my manga collection, but I must admit to being disappointed by MÄR.  I was expecting an interesting story with plenty of action and some troubled characters striving to prove themselves, instead I got a by-the-numbers story with sporadic action and dull, slightly

  annoying characters.  Ginta is a poor choice as a main character, he's got a very simplistic and forgettable design and his personality makes Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Yugi Moto look cool and sophisticated in comparison.  He seems to be cynically designed to appeal to a particular reader demographic rather than developed as a strong lead.  He wears glasses, is bad at sports and doesn't concentrate in class, but that's ok because under it all he's a powerful hero who's just constrained by the world he lives in.  It's escapist fantasy for the stereotypical young anime fan, and once it's set its stall out it doesn't really go any further.

You may think I'm being overly cynical, but MÄR really is so by-the-numbers it feels like it's been written and designed by a committee.  There's nothing in it that you haven't seen before (well, apart from the vegetarian werewolves), and is pretty predictable from start to finish.  There are some decent aspects, some of the ÄRM designs are interesting and inventive, particularly the Guardian ÄRMs that summon massive monstrous protectors.  There's also a couple of interesting characters such as the witch Dorothy, but their part in the story is incredibly small in this first volume.  Instead the story focuses on Ginta and Babbo's cheesy we-like-each-other-but-pretend-we-don't relationship and the help they give to Jack, a young farmer whose crop is being decimated by the aforementioned veggie

werewolves.  Guess what?  Ginta and Babbo inspire Jack to stand up for himself and face the bullying werewolves!  Like I said it's so predictable that if you've read any shonen manga before you will see where it's going from a mile off.  It doesn't help that Jack is another big stereotype (uncouth but noble best friend) and that Babbo is one of the most annoying manga characters I have ever seen.

But then again, MÄR is simplistic in both art and story and it's fun enough in its own way.  When reading it becomes very obvious that it's aimed at younger readers than the likes of Naruto and Bleach, and it has a focus on friendship and adventure.  The story has yet to really develop, so there are mysteries left unexplored such as who the person who summoned Ginta to MÄR is, and why Ginta is needed.  There's also not been a lot explained about Babbo and why he is so valuable, and I get the impression that we have yet to see everything he can do.  But even taking all this into account I just found MÄR pretty difficult to get into or enjoy.

Maybe as a jaded 27-year old I'm probably not going to get the best out of it, but MÄR vol 1 was certainly underwhelming for me.  Similar stories and characters are common in manga and are often done so much better than this, but I suppose an pre-teen audience would get some enjoyment out of it.  I personally think the premise would have worked much better as a computer game, where the ÄRM collecting aspect and adding new people to Ginta's party would work really well.  But reading it just isn't as fun as playing it would be, and I find MÄR vol 1 to be a below par entry to an already crowded shonen market.


Very little.  A couple of adverts are joined by a message from the author and a double page spread previewing the next volume.


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