Who am I? Who are You?
A male waking up in a female body, or the idea of two characters switching bodies, is not a rare plot setting for anime and manga. Many series take a more comedic approach to the idea of switching bodies, such as Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches and Kokoro Connect, or the series tries to romanticize the idea like in Kimi No Na Wa. Inside Mari takes a very realistic and gut-wrenching take on the scenario.
Isao Komori is a hikkikomori who lives in Tokyo spending his time playing video games and looking at porn while he is supposed to be going to college. He lies to his parents about attending school, uses their money to buy games and food, and lives a disgusting and unhealthy lifestyle. Nearly every night at 9pm, Komori makes his way to his local convenience store to pick up food and dirty magazines, and always sees the beautiful and elegant highschooler, Mari Yoshizaki. Komori never talks to her, but stares at her from far away, secretly admiring her and worshiping her as his “angel”. One morning, following a night where Komori decides to follow Mari for a distance, he wakes up in a different bed… only to discover his mind is inside Mari’s body.
Isao, being a virgin and sex obsessed shut-in, is immediately shocked at the sight of Mari’s body in loose pajamas as he wakes up. Worried that he might ruin his crush’s life, Isao, along with a mysterious classmate, must work together to figure out why Isao is in her body and keep her life as normal as possible. Isao starts to realize how hard life is for Mari; her parents always fight, social life and academics at school are stressful, and he even has to experience her menstrual cycle. One of the things I like about Inside Mari is that nothing about switching bodies is sugarcoated or romanticized. It’s weird, awkward, embarrassing and gross, and this manga portrays this perfectly.
Inside Mari is not there to make you laugh or really even entertain you. Reading it makes you realizes even more how disgusting and selfish humans can be, and people will stay that way if they only view the world through their own eyes. While I couldn’t stop reading this manga based on its unsolved mysteries alone, there’s just something about reading cringeworthy characters play out gruesome events to the point where I suppose it’s quite entertaining. Inside Mari also loves to stun the reader at the end of every chapter, so you just can’t wait to turn the page; even if you are cringing at the experience.
I appreciate that Inside Mari isn’t afraid to use it’s art more than dialogue at times. One thing I personally cannot stand about shoujo/shounen manga is that every single detail is often spoken and sometimes even speech bubbles take up more space than the art. Inside Mari is subtle and expresses itself through character emotion and setting that words just fail to describe. There is more tension in the story when the characters are quiet than there is when they are yelling. There are full chapters in the manga where there are only two lines of dialogue, but the suspense just rolls, making it an effortless read.
With only 80 chapters at around 20 pages each, Inside Mari is a series you could read through in just a couple hours. With it’s easy on the eyes art and subtle use of dialogue, I think anyone (over the age of 18 of course) could enjoy the manga and its truth about social status, growing up, and the issues different genders face. You can currently read Inside Mari on Crunchyroll Manga.