My Broken Mariko is an intense, single volume manga about Tomoyo Shiino after the death of her friend Mariko. This manga covers topics of abuse, depression, rape, and suicide. This is not a story of redemption, but rather about death and coping. If these topics are triggers for you, I would recommend avoiding this story as well as this review. It should also be noted that the review features heavy spoilers.
Tomoyo Shiino has been a close friend of Mariko’s for their entire lives. They grew up together and Tomoyo saw everything that Mariko went through—her’s was a sad life filled with abuse from her father and, later, various boyfriends. The manga opens with Tomoyo discovering that her friend has committed suicide.
Mariko’s death throws Tomoyo for a loop. At first, she’s in disbelief as she assumed she would have more time with her friend. Then her emotions move to anger as she races to get Mariko’s ashes. The main crux of the story is Tomoyo taking Mariko’s ashes and spreading at the ocean. As this core plot progresses, the mangaka reviews Mariko’s life through flashbacks.
Mariko was sexually abused by her father, and she was involved in other abusive relationships, and felt that she deserved the violence forced upon her. Her self esteem was crushed. She had no self-worth. Yet, in spite of it all, Mariko often smiled through the pain. But Tomoyo knew better; from time to time, she attempted to to pull her friend out of these horrible situations, but Mariko’s depression was overpowering. She never felt that she deserved to escape the abuse she faced.
These topics are not presented as battles to be won, but a sad reality that some people face day-to-day. As mentioned earlier, My Broken Mariko is not a story of redemption: Mariko is gone and her abusers are still out in the world. Instead, it’s focuses on Tomoyo processesing her grief through terrible situation after terrible situation.
The art is rough and also incredibly expressive, even at times over-the-top cartoonish. The style is surprisingly effective for the narrative presented. It’s roughness matches the themes and conclusion, in which nothing is fixed. Relationships and characters remain broken. Many stories try to wrap up their tale with a happy ending. My Broken Mariko doesn’t do that. Tomoyo’s life has to return to normal as she continues to grieve. However, it does offer hope that the reader, too, can and needs to move forward as the conclusion provides a glimpse of closure for Tomoyo.
My Broken Mariko is a raw, emotional journey through grief after the loss of a close friend. It features moments of relatability and moments of just pure emotion with an authenticity that’s challenging to capture. But with this short work, Waka Hirako creates an powerful and genuine story of loss.
After the main story, the physical edition of the graphic novel has a single chapter story that’s written as a modern western. It’s about a young Native American girl and an aged cowboy. The story touches on some of the same topics of death and loss, but is more of a quick, action story. It was an interesting little tale and, frankly, makes me interested to see if the mangaka has any more action-oriented series, as Hirako’s art style still fit well with this story.
Overall Rating: A
Art: A — The art was all over the place and cartoonish…and perfect. While I can see those who read it expecting such serious topics to have serious, detailed, and smooth art—this art style added depth to the characters and, for me, improved everything about it.
Characters: A+ — This was a heavily character driven story and the characters were very well written. Mariko was realistically written as a victim of abuse. Tomoyo was realistically written as a friend who never knows what to do when seeing their friend suffering. The pain and emotion on each page was real for each character presented.
Story: A- — The plot is simple, but effective. Did I expect more from the overall story? Perhaps, but the overall story did not need to be detailed to help convey the raw emotion it did. It needed characters with a depth of personality; which it did.
Writer/Artist: Waka Hirako
Letterer: Abigail Blackman
My Broken Mariko is available from Yen Press