Twdrama: Mars Episode 1
If I remember correctly, my first manga that I really read were Fruits Basket and Mars. I was able to finish Fruits Basket, but have not actually had a chance to finish Mars. I really should finish it one day. Mars is a darker romance manga by Soryo Fuyumi which was serialized from 1996-2000 and has been collected into a 15-volume manga with a prequel that focused on the male lead Rei.
Since a Japanese version is coming out 12 years after the original Taiwanese live action, I decided to cover both dramas simultaneously. The Japanese drama starts airing today in a late night time slot and stars Fujigaya Taisuke as Kashino Rei and Iitoyo Marie as Aso Kira. The original plot revolves around two high schoolers with dark and tragic pasts who fall in love and start to heal each other’s wounds. Of course there’s always a lot of obstacles in the way of their happiness.
As per usual in dramaland with some heavier plots, our writers and directors take the main characters out of high school and place them in college (or sometimes an adult working enviornment like with Absolute Boyfriend).
Episode 1 opens with a Han Qi Luo [Barbie Hsu] sketching in a park. She becomes immediately agitated when a young man [Vic Zhou as Chen Ling] asks her for directions to a nearby hospital. Instead of responding, she just quickly draws a map, thrusts it in his hands, and runs away as if her life depended on it before he could even get so much as “thank you” out of his mouth. Qi Luo runs all the way home and quickly locks herself inside only to have the door unlocked a few moments later by her mother [Ying Cai Ling]. Mrs. Han asks what is wrong to bring Qi Luo home like that and her daughter replies that a boy she doesn’t like from school approached her. Did he do anything bad? No he just asked for directions. This relieves her mother greatly.
Chen Ling makes it to his destination where his friend Ming Gao [Leon Dai] is convalescing after losing one of his legs after an accident during a motorcycle race. Ling asks Ming Gao how it felt and his friend forces a smile saying at least he is still alive, plus he will be getting a new (artificial) leg. Enter Ming Gao’s girlfriend who says Ling is the only one who can put a smile on Ming Gao’s face. He was grumpy and impatient with her all day while awaiting Ling’s arrival. The younger man then complains about how hard it was to find the hospital and explains someone drew him a map. He pulls it out of his pocket and Ming Gao’s girlfriend scolds him for crumpling up the picture that was on the back. Ling turns it over and seems to be quite taken with the sketch of a mother and a child.
As Ling leaves, Ming Gao gives the younger man the keys to his bike telling him to take care of it now. Is there really no way Ming Gao can ride a bike again? Ling leaves and gets the bike and takes it for a ride while Ming Gao finally breaks down.
Later that night, Qi Luo is napping on the couch when a sound awakens her. She looks towards the door and sees a person standing there in a white shirt, but the face is obscured in shadow. This, it turns out, is just a figment of her imagination. There is no one really there. The startled young girl turns off the television and bursts into tears. She gathers up her things and goes into her bedroom.
The next day dawns and it’s the first day of the new term at school. Da Ye [Xiu Jie Kai] is happily walking along setting up an afternoon basketball game when he catches sight of Qi Luo and stops dead in his tracks. Yeah. He totally likes her. Ling then roars up and steals Da Ye’s breakfast for himself. Ling then gets scolded for driving too fast on school grounds. He chides the teacher back and then heads off to the boards of class assignments. Da Ye is there and tells him not to bother looking since they are both in the same class. Ling counts this as lucky, but Da Ye counters it isn’t (for him). The two make their way to their first class where they bump into Qing Mei [Megan Lai] who has a big thing for Ling who is doing his best to avoid her.
The three get to class where Qing Mei wants to sit next to Ling, but there aren’t three seats together. Da Ye and Ling sit in one column and it turns out that Qi Luo is in the class, too! Ling sits right next to her and she silently gathers up her things to move to another seat, but the professor comes in, putting a stop to her movement. This finally catches Ling’s eye and he realizes Qi Luo is the one who drew him the map. He tries to get her to talk to him, but to no avail. She wouldn’t even tell him her name, but he does learn it since the professor is taking attendance. Since Ling is being noisy in class, the professor launches an eraser, but Ling ducks and poor Da Ye gets nailed instead.
Da Ye cleans up outside and warns Ling to stay away from Qi Luo. Why? Da Ye explains he’s been in the same class with the girl before and that she has an aversion to men. They even did a folk dance competition and their class almost had to forfeit since Qi Luo wouldn’t pair up with any boys and refused to hold their hands. Instead of discouraging Ling, this information just seems to intrigue him more about Qi Luo.
In English class, Da Ye and Ling sit in a corner by themselves. Qi Luo is then asked by Professor Fang to read the next translated passage. She stands up to do so, but her voice is so quiet it irritates the other students who cannot hear what she is saying. The most vocal protestor is Qing Mei. Fang chides the class for picking on Qi Luo and has Qing Mei read the passage instead. Ling notices the professor’s hand linger on Qi Luo’s shoulder. He then tears a page from Da Ye’s book and writes a quick note that the tosses across the aisle to Qi Luo. When she ignores it, he crosses the aisle to pick it up and put it on her books. Qi Luo finally opens it and it’s a note about the drawing. This actually draws a rather loud response for the first time which causes the professor and other students to stare at her.
At lunch, Da Ye is sent to get food and is forced to wait on it while Ling sits with Qi Luo. He keeps talking to her and she refuses to answer. Ling then says if she won’t open her mouth, he’ll use his tongue to open it for her. This finally gets Qi Luo to talk and she wants to know about the drawing. Ling finally confesses he likes it. When Qi Luo asks why, he says it reminds him of the mother he thought he had forgotten. Qi Luo then clams up again and quickly rushes off when he mentions opening her mouth with his tongue again. This greatly disappoints Da Ye who was hoping to be able to eat lunch with Qi Luo, too.
After classes, Da Ye follows silently behind Qi Luo until she turns around. He then rushes past her. Enter Ling. He asks if she is going home and Qi Luo actually does respond she’s going to the art studio. Ling wishes to walk with her since the basketball courts are in the same vicinity. Qi Luo tries to say something, but is cut off by Da Ye yelling at Ling to hurry up. Ling then asks for money and Qi Luo obediently hands over what little she has. He takes it and promises to return the money back to her, doubled. He then takes her hair tie and rushes off to join Da Ye who is obviously not happy with Ling’s interest.
In the art studio, students are doing drawings of a statue of the Roman god Mars. A group of female students admire the boys out playing basketball. Their gossip piques Qi Luo’s ears, especially when the talk about the good looking boy wearing a pink hair tie. Looks like Ling took her tie to keep his hair out of his eyes while playing the game. Soon the others students leave and only Qi Luo remains hard at work on her drawing. Enter the English professor Fang. He locks the door from the inside and approaches Qi Luo. He touches her and Qi Luo freezes, recalling a door opening and a man stepping inside and raping her. She tears up, but doesn’t move or speak.
As Fang’s hands wander to her chest, a noise interrupts them. It’s Ling! Fang demands to know why Ling is there when he’s not in the art club. Ling wonders why an English teacher would be there as well. Of course the professor tries to feign innocence of his actions, but Ling isn’t stupid. He talks of a teacher molesting female students and picks up a box cutter. He slides the blade in and out and says he is going to use it to sharpen the pencil and to not cut up the professor’s pretty face. Fang quickly turns tail and runs. Ling tells Qi Luo that if she doesn’t like it, she needs to speak up otherwise people will only do more cruel things to her. He gives her the money and her hair tie back and then takes a look at her drawing of Mars. The two discuss Greek vs. Roman takes on the God of War when Da Ye enters. Ling then leaves.
End of episode.
Since Ling isn’t aware of how deep a trauma Qi Luo has, it’s natural that he’d be a very crude boy, not knowing how much a man has hurt her in the past. Given Ling’s own actions, you do know the boy isn’t all quite right in the head either. I actually really enjoyed this drama when I first watched it several years ago. Barbie and Vic do have some great chemistry together and if you fell in love with the couple that was never meant to be in Meteor Garden, at least you can be happy to see them acting together as the main couple in this drama. Barbie’s acting is convincing and while some parts of Vic’s is a little rough around the edges, he plays the dual nature of Ling very well.
I am wondering how different the Japanese take will be on this manga series. We’ll find out soon enough.