Inside Mari Volume 2 Review Discussion
Reviewed by: Linny
Synopsis: A young man wakes up to find himself in the body of a high school girl he had been casually stalking for a while. He does not know why or how this happened, and knows nothing about her besides the fact that they went to the same convenience store every night. With no information and no help, he must now figure out what his next step will be.
Chapters Synopsis (Heavy Spoilers Warning): Isao, our protagonist having now formed an uneasy alliance with Yori Kakiguchi continues his daily life as Mari, receiving random tips and help from Yori to help him avoid raising suspicions and live convincingly as Mari. School life presents several obstacles with gym class leading to an awkward scenario that ends with Isao fainting. Yori invites herself to Mari’s house for dinner and a sleepover in order to find more clues in her room, which leads to some rather startling discoveries about Mari that night. Going back to school the next day leads to Isao having to cancel further investigation with Yori and having to hang out not only with Mari’s friends in class, but also their boyfriends after school. Though initially jealous and frustrated, Isao starts to connect with the group and soon finds himself thoroughly happy and having a good time for the first time in a while. Things take a bleak turn as not only does his new found joy cause Yori to snap at him for behaving in an un-Mari manner. but it seems like Mari’s friend too is starting to get more suspicious of Isao/Mari. Just when things couldn’t get worse, the volume ends with Isao/Mari collapsing on the street alone on her way home.
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Inside Mari has never been a comedy, despite utilizing the gender bender trope as a central theme that’s mainly used for comedic comedy in the anime and manga world and volume 2 actually takes the story into even darker territory. While Yori is now aiding Isao, she is cruel and harsh towards Isao, constantly abusing him verbally and making it clear that she is only aiding Isao so she can protect Mari’s reputation and find out what happened to the real Mari. Her constant aggression towards Isao, while understandable, can also feel oppressive and frustrating, particularly when she keeps berating him and accusing him of acts that we, the readers, know he hasn’t engaged in at all. She has so much contempt and disgust towards him mostly based on her own presumptions and it’s likely that her behaviour is going to make her an unlikable character for some readers. The most frustrating part of her behaviour is that it almost seems hypocritical of her to accuse Isao of being a creepy stalker when she herself seems to have an unhealthy obsession with Mari herself. From admitting that she had often thought about what make up would look good on Mari, to acting like she is an expert on Mari’s behaviour and mannerisms, it’s clear that Yori has spent a lot of time observing Mari and thinking about her. When you consider how obvious it is that Mari and Yori had almost no public interactions and Yori is clearly a social outcast in their class, it leads to the obvious conclusion that Yori may have been even more obsessed with Mari than Isao ever was.
Speaking of Yori’s obsession with Mari, there’s a lot of yuri subtext and actual yuri content in this volume. From suggestive chapter introduction pictures (such as the one I used for the featured image in this review) to a surprising reveal, there’s a lot of teasing and some actual delivering of sexual yuri content. There is even some humour to be found in the predicament Isao finds himself in Chapter 10, stuck in a gym room full of undressed high school girls and trying to keep his thoughts and sight pure however it is but a short reprieve from all the stressful berating Isao has been suffering at the hands of Yori. It is all still rather downplayed and while the images may still be somewhat titillating for some readers, it’s obvious that the sexual images are there for storytelling purposes, and not just sleazy fan service. It does still feel somewhat scandalous thanks to the yuri action happening between high school girls, something that has been fetishized to eternity and beyond.
Adding to the scandal is the big discovery that Yori and Isao find in Mari’s room, thanks to her incompetent younger brother. MAJOR SPOILER– They find a giant stash of pornographic magazines hidden in her room and this makes for such a good surprise. Considering how the manga had been avoiding extremely graphic depictions of sexual acts or imagery, it does bring about a marked change of tone to discover that our enigmatic young high school girl has a collection that would rival those of most men. Women or girls and their attitude towards and interaction with porn is a topic that is still somewhat taboo in a lot of societies and cultures so it’s interesting to see this story pick it up. For now though, we still do not know much about why Mari amassed such a huge collection and thanks to some translation issues, I am a bit confused about this part of the story. When Isao and Yori visit the bookstore that the porn was purchased from, they are confronted by the salesman who admonishes them for entering the adults only section in school uniform. Realizing that he is familiar with Mari, they start to grill him about her. He talks about how Mari only buys manga and nothing else, and never while she’s wearing her school uniform. That dialogue led me to believe Mari was purchasing hentai manga. But when Isao and Yori discuss it between themselves, they keep referring to the books as magazines. I’ve come to the conclusion that the books Mari had been purchasing were those Japanese magazines that feature scantily clad female pin ups and mature manga series, but please feel free to correct me and help clear up confusion in the comments.
Yori continues her obsessed fan behaviour (yes, I am calling her out on it) by basically inviting herself over for a sleepover and of course, continuing to bully and berate poor Isao, making him wear a blindfold to take a bath and grilling him about it after he is done with the bath. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for Isao as he shows clear signs of stress and frustration over the situation and has been genuinely trying not to take any untoward advantage of the body swap since day one. Chapter 14 gives us yet another shocking glimpse into Mari’s past as Yori reveals that she and Mari had a rather explicit encounter once in the nurse’s room at school. We’re given no real details, just a couple of suggestive panels and it becomes clear that even Yuri has been questioning the entire incident and wanting to question Mari about it ever since.
Upto this point, Volume 2 has been rather Yori and Isao-centric with a lot of the focus being on their investigation but by the next chapter, Isao finds himself unable to continue his investigation as he is invited to hangout by Mari’s friend and has to accept in order to avoid their anger and their suspicions. Yori agrees that he made the right call but declares that she will be tailing their group to ensure that he doesn’t do anything that would tarnish Mari’s reputation or ruin her future. Isao is fully reduced to a fish out of water situation as he sets out on a shopping trip with Mari’s friends, having to behave like a girl he had only observed from afar, and in an environment that Isao himself would have never set foot in himself. We get a return of the jaded shut in Isao as he is subsequently forced to hang out with Mari’s friends and their boyfriends after the shopping trip. His imagination runs wild surrounded by all the flirtatious couples and he is filled with jealousy and rage as he watches the young guys confidently interacting and flirting with the girls. It’s a sad sight but one that really does feel like the true Isao emerging after forever being filled with fear and focusing on his predicament.
Just as Isao seems to be headed down a road that spells doom, he starts to connect with the guys he had been loathing but a few moments ago as he realizes that he can bond with them over video games, something he had been unable to discuss with anyone else since coming to Tokyo. It’s nice to see Isao opening up and displaying some signs of maturity as he gets over his initial hangup about the boys. Some may argue that it’s a little sad that the first people he manages to connect to are high school kids especially since he has been struggling to adjust to college life, the main reason he even became a shut in in the first place but given his peculiar circumstances, it’s good that he is able to finally have a positive experience. He admits that they are actually rather good guys and starts to loosen up little by little until he finds himself completely letting loose in a karaoke bar with the group, singing song after song with glee until Mari’s friends have to literally stop him from continuing. It is a nice change of pace to have Isao be able to escape his depressing thoughts and circumstances and have a genuinely good time especially as he has never been shown doing so even once since the beginning of the series. Furthermore, given his circumstances and everything he is going through, it seems even more appropriate that he should finally have some fun. But of course, all seasoned readers will know that such moments are few and rare in dark stories like this one. By the next and last chapter of the volume, not only is Isao back to being berated by Yori for his behaviour but their heated conversation is interrupted by Mari’s friend, Momoka. Momoka is not only creeped out by Yori’s presence, she reveals that she was aware that Yori had been following them all this time, and she starts to grill Mari about exactly what is going on between her and Yori. In a panic, Isao passionately denounces any connection with Yori, but Momoka leaves unconvinced, saying she feels like she doesn’t really know Mari anymore.The day ends awkwardly and as Mari heads home, the last few panels end on yet another cliffhanger as she collapses on the street, bleeding and clutching her stomach in pain.
Now for most readers, it’s going to be obvious what has happened to Mari. If it isn’t obvious to you, I’m either going to assume you are young, or a male reader. Either way, it’s going to make for an exciting new chapter when we pick up Volume 3 in order to find out just how Isao is going to handle this new crisis he has found himself in and just how much longer until we get some real answers about Mari.
All in all, Volume 2 was a much more enlightening read as it finally began revealing some very interesting information about Mari who had been a complete mystery to everyone up until now. We still haven’t been given any actual answers to the burning questions but we do have an idea about why Yori is so obsessed with Mari, but we also now have more burning questions about Mari. This volume also cemented the dark path this story is going to take so for those who picked this up expecting and wanting some light hearted gender swapping comedy of blunders, I’m impressed you made it this far. Inside mari remains a strong psychological mystery and even with a lot of semi dressed high school girls in the panels, it remains a respectable read that hasn’t yet resorted to extremely sleazy fan pandering and will hopefully develop into a strong mystery with good emotional and psychological elements.
Inside Mari is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com.