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