“The Music In Our Hearts” – The Music of Marie (manga) – 9/10 Apples

Genre: Fantasy/Drama/Romance/Seinen

Review Status: Full (2 Volumes/ 2 Volumes)

Licensed: This manga is unlicensed.

Art: It’s reminiscent of Miyazaki’s work in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind- somewhat sketch-like, with dramatic shading and exquisite detail. However, the character designs in Music of Marie are more on the realistic side.

Summary: In just two volumes, the author manages to create an incredibly rich and fascinating world that is full of wonders and enchanting beauties—a world in which men are watched over by the mechanical goddess Marie who at times appears on the sky. Marie’s music brings people happiness and harmony. Their life is free from advanced technology and the longing for progress. The main story centers around Kai, a young man who develops a deep affection for Marie. His quest for enlightenment leads him inside Marie’s mechanical body where he learns the unbelievable truth about her and his own world. (MAL.net)

Review: A world is split into many countries, each with their own specialties. Kai and Pipi live n the mechanized country of Pirit, which specializes in mechanics and mineral resources. Over all the islands floats the figure of Marie, a seemingly mechanical goddess that watches over and keeps the peace, and beneath her a forest that wanders mysteriously about. What’s nice is that as short as this manga is, the little details told about the world show how fully realized it is. None of the details that are told are entirely unrelated to the plot- marriage rituals relate to Pipi’s eventual 18th birthday courtship, to the tales of the history that are shared with the reader. The mangaka goes for the unusual and sometimes absurd, which fits in perfectly with the world that’s been built. It’s an absolute joy to see the care that has been put into this manga.

Music of Marie perhaps isn’t for the casual reader. It’s full of religious undertones that are reminiscent of Christianity, changed to fit a strange world, partly because this takes in a post-apocalyptic Earth that was remade by God. The minor quotes and stories that are taken from the religious books of this world punctuate and help the flow of the story. Kai was always a special boy, and Pipi turns out to be a special girl herself, that seem to have a spiritual connection to these beings and legends that are told. A mysterious priest occasionally appears, able to connect with Kai and understanding what’s going on with him and Marie.

It does cross paths with more adult material, though. Part of this story is a romance, which mixes easily with the other things that are happening within the story. Kai’s relationship with Marie may be distant, but there’s definitely a physical component to his feelings for the doll in the sky. Pipi, of course, is heartbroken since her feelings for Kai have been true since she first met him. She becomes almost obsessive of his love, wanting him as much as he wants Marie in turn.

Unless you’re paying attention, this manga is going to throw you for a loop. This works on playing with first-person narrative- the narrator isn’t really the protagonist. If you pay attention at key points, then it becomes clear that things aren’t as they appear with Kai and Pipi. While Kai may be playing an important part, it isn’t all about him. In fact, it isn’t sure that Kai really exists at all. Who-or more accurately, what- Kai is, is left to be determined by the reader. A figment of Pipi’s imagination? That doesn’t explain why the lights go on by themselves. A being on another plane of existence? Possibly, since Kai really did exist, and does appear to have strange powers. A ghost? Perhaps, depending on the reader’s opinion of ghosts and what they are and what they can do.

Whether there was really a grand scheme for everything, if it all is the ravings of a crazed mind, while it can leave a bittersweet taste in the mouth it doesn’t seem to matter, since the sacrifice that seems to happen left the world in peace. What I wish had been addressed more closely was whether that peace was worth the sacrifice given to it- the story takes is in stride that Marie’s existence is natural and expected. The world can’t really function if she doesn’t. The conclusion that’s drawn at the end is that God is necessary, that limits on how far humans can and should go have to be in place or we will destroy ourselves. It’s presented in a very blunt but effective way, considering the overall length of the manga.

This does perhaps require being read once or twice. Statements that are made in the beginning when important events happen take on a new light and make more sense when seen in context of the whole story. And the ideas and questions that fill it take on a new light and can be picked up more easily on the second reading.

Overall, this is a great manga. The story is well-told, even if it’s blunt occasionally, and even if it does take on a message that not everyone will be able to agree with. The plot about a girl who can’t let go of her first love even if she can’t be with him makes up for a lot. However, that same bluntness and conclusion are what leave me unable to give it a 10/10.

Recommended: 18+. I’m only going this high because there is a scene where Kai is discovered masturbating. While his genitalia have been left invisible, what’s happening is unmistakable. When Kai finally “meets” Marie, instead of looking like a Barbie, you do see that she’s a shirtless woman-detail included. If that scene had been left out, I would label this at about 15+ because there is really no language and nothing particularly offensive.

Other titles you might like:
Ano Hana (anime)
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (anime and manga)
Omoide Emanon (manga)
5 Centimeters Per Second (anime)
No. 6 (anime)

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