The Music of Marie
Marieの奏でる音楽 (Marie no Kanaderu Ongaku)
Seinen – Drama, fantasy, mystery, psychological
1 Omnibus (complete)
One Peace Books
In a land full of peace, Pipi has been crushing on her friend Kai, who is oblivious to her crush. As the years pass, their relationship hasn’t changed. Instead, Kai, with his elite sense of hearing, is spacing out more and more, staring up at the sky where the mechanical goddess Maries lives. Will Pipi’s feelings get across to him, or is there a deeper reason as to why Kai keeps thinking about Marie?
I don’t feel like I’ll do the story justice, but to explain more means diving into the mysteries surrounding Kai and Marie. Suffice to say, the initial slice-of-life feel soon gives way to a thought-provoking journey. But if nothing else, The Music of Marie is a visual spectacle.
The Music of Marie is set on the island of Pirito. Like other islands in this peaceful world, Pirito has a specialty: gears and machinery. Factory working and mining are popular jobs on Pirito, and for a couple of years when he was a child, Kai worked in that field. He probably would have continued that job, but after an incident when he was 10, Kai gained supernatural hearing. So now he is able to even hear water flowing deep underground, and he uses that skill to help his community.
Meanwhile, Pipi, his closest friend, has been hoping for years Kai would turn her way. But Kai spends more and more time thinking about Marie, the large mechanical goddess that roams the sky, and that worries him as well as Pipi. As Kai regains memories of the time when he disappeared, what connection does he have to Marie?
The Music of Marie opens with a prologue set when Kai and Pipi were children. Then the manga’s official first chapter starts shortly before Pipi’s 18th birthday, and the story continues from there.
On the surface, The Music of Marie appears to be a somewhat standard coming-of-age fantasy. Pipi may be a bit clingy, but there’s no doubt Kai cares for her as a person and not just the daughter of his guardian. However, the ending of the first chapter (Verse 1) reveals this is not a low-stakes story of longing and yearning. In fat, it’s a countdown before the world as the leads know it is going to change forever.
The manga is never too heavy or tragic to push forward, but it’s by no means a straightforward read. I’m sure author Furuya has his own message he was trying to deliver in The Music of Marie, and while I have my own opinions as to what the theme was, that doesn’t mean my thoughts the same as his… or yours. There are definitely some tale of Icarus vibes, but scientific advancement vs religion is a complicated subject, especially since the goddess herself is a combination of mystical and mechanical, protected by three guardians of a forest. Even in-universe, the truth is muddled as Kai tries to determine why he longs for Marie and figure out what’s a dream versus reality/memory. Not to mention Pipi is given both subtle hints and direct messages to give up on Kai, and while her steadfast devotion is touching, there are reasons those around her are concerned about that.
Coming-of-age may not be the central theme of the manga, but it’s very much incorporated into the story. People can only receive or give love confessions on their birthday, first starting at age 18. Ridiculous? Yes, but it’s all a part of the manga’s incredibly detailed world. All the gears and factories give the land a steampunk vibe, but the adherence to customs and lack of high fashion and entertainment is absolutely not reminiscent of Earth’s Victorian period. The characters wear casual clothing reminiscent of modern styles, and traditional dances have Polynesian influences. We also see people from outside Pirito, and they have their own fashion sense.
What the closest relatable time period or culture is irrelevant though. All you need to know is The Music of Marie is a gorgeous book. Old automatons, rough terrain, large research labs, busy temples, painted faces, and larger-than-life figures are all presented in excruciating detail. Backgrounds are never non-existent, and Furuya balances smaller, story-progressing sections with grandiose spreads. This allows readers to both take in the majesty of the world and to emphasize a character’s state-of-mind in a way many artists can only aspire to. The physical version is a rather thick omnibus, so it can get tiring holding on to it if you want to spend some time absorbing the art. The binding and Furuya’s style both prevent much of the visuals from being stuck in the spine, so you can enjoy the art without having to stretch the volume out. The book has some color pages halfway through, and the cover opts for a minimalist approach with no summary or blurbs anywhere. But from the moment you start the manga and see a map of the town showing how much of it is built into the island, you know you’re in for a treat.
Really, the art is the #1 reason to pick up The Music of Marie. Not saying the plot is bad or anything; in fact, it’s very intriguing. But the visuals are just so incredible, especially for a work originally published back in 2001. But the story is just as applicable to lives today, and I’m sure there will be spirited debates over the characters’ actions and mental states. After all, Marie is clearly not human and has not spoken to Kai, but even he’s surprised he’s seeing her in a romantic and sexual light. Plus, he’s told the markings on his hands are key to something. All of this worries Pipi, as she’s afraid he’ll disappear again just like an incident when they were children. There’s a whole mystery to unravel surrounding Kai’s background and future.
Kai and Pipi are really the only characters besides Marie I’ve mentioned, but they’re supported by several residents of Pirito. Pipi’s father wants her to be happy and is willing to tackle difficult projects to make her 18th birthday a memorable one, but he has serious reservations about Kai. Meanwhile, the two have several friends their age, most of whom are connected with making mechanical doll parts or similar gear pieces. Kai also seeks counsel with a cleric. Ghuul is a rather fascinating character as he’s also a researcher. While he doesn’t know much about what Kai is going through, Ghuul offers his emotional support to ease Kai’s anxiousness. He embodies both the spirit of technological advancement and adherence to traditionalism and a vague deity. You don’t see that kind of dualism often.
I’m also sure people will have opinions on the epilogue. Was it unnecessary? Confusing? Happy? Tragic? Real? Delusion? I’m sure I missed some foreshadowing, but it’s clear enough while leaving room for interpretation. Even if you dislike the final revelations, I don’t think it detracts from the rest of the manga. Again, part of the magic of The Music of Marie is what you get out of it. We see a lively land full of culture and citizens celebrating their traditions, and the balance between an ordinary love story and a supernatural tale of a chosen one is addicting.
No honorifics are used. I didn’t notice any typos.
This is not the sort of manga that caters to folks who prefer their manga to be the traditionally super-popular type (action, isekai, shoujo romance, etc.), but The Music of Marie hits home in ways similar to titles like Monster, Death Note, and ES: Eternal Sabbath.
VIZ published Furuya’s Genkaku Picasso and Short Cuts as well as published Secret Comics Japan, which Furuya contributed to. Vertical released Furuya’s Lychee Light Club and No Longer Human. The anime Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 from Maiden Japan is inspired by an unlicensed work from the author.
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Interesting premise, and the art does look amazing! Adding to my TBR. 🙂
Glad you found it intriguing. I hope you enjoy it!
That bit about only being able to receive or give a confession on your birthday is definitely wild. I’ve never heard of something like that so it’s a pretty interesting slant. Really makes it imperative that you find out your crush’s birthday date right away, at least then you’ve sort of given yourself 2 chances in a year if you want to just make the move on your own. I feel like that alone could make for a pretty interesting rom-com premise but throwing in the end of the world and all the psych elements sounds interesting.
To me I think I’d prefer a more mainstream art style but this definitely sounds like a fun one to check out at some point.
Yeah, and the birthday guest of honor wears an elaborate costume and body makeup, and those confessing usually present a gift while doing a dance. It’s a whole unique tradition that really makes you feel like you’re experiencing another culture in real life. If you do check it out, I hope you enjoy it!
Wow that really is a whole festivity around the event. Definitely cool that the author went that far to make it like a real culture there
The art really is amazing in this manga. I didn’t get into it much in my review, but I loved the costumes and the designs of the technology. The art imbues this world with some much personality, it’s a real visual treat!
The art really feels like a documentary where you get to witness a whole other culture. So amazing!