Inside Mari is currently available to premium subscribers on Crunchyroll. The final issue hit the website on August 18, 2016 and will hit paper publication in Japan on September 9th.
I learned a valuable lesson from reading Inside Mari: Be weary of any title that can't give you a straight description.
Every publication had the same, bogus description: It's about a boy who one day wakes up in the body of the teenager he loves and her secret!
Let me be honest. That's a load of bull.
I feel dirty knowing that I couldn't put this manga down, though I had every good, sound reason to. But in order to do this review justice, I just had to know the ending. And believe me, the clues are screamingly obvious early on, but just for you, dear reader, I stuck with it to make sure I wasn't giving out misinformation.
Fair warning, the following is very disturbing and there will be spoilers.
The story starts off from the perspective of Isao Komori. Isao is a creeper. He lives alone in an apartment paid for by his parents. He's an unemployed college dropout who spends his days playing video games, stalking the underage girl next door and then masturbating to her image. In short, this guy is the scum of the universe.
One day, he wakes up in the body of the girl he's been stalking, Mari. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Who knows and who cares? Clearly not the manga-ka writing this series, as it's never explained why Isao was one day living as himself with a full head of memories and the next living inside Mari. But we'll come back to his past soon enough.
For the next 20 issues, we see the world through Isao-Mari's eyes is a creepy, surrealistic and inconsistent style of drawing. In some segments, the characters appear in badly drawn shots, and in others, the realism is strong enough to mirror real life. We see Isao fumble through his first period, ruin all of Mari's friendships, get poked and prodded by creepy high schoolers, and then we find Yori.
Yori has also been keeping a creepy fascination with Mari. Being a nerd and kind of poor, she never hung around Mari until after Isao-Mari started screwing up all of Mari's cliques. She notices something is wrong with Mari, and makes it a point to insert herself into Mari's life, whether or not it was asked of her. She wants to be Mari's friend and she wants the real Mari back so they can be friends. Isao is so scared and so stupid that he totally allows this, without ever asking basic questions, such as "who are you" and "why do you keep stalking me when I'm stalking Mari" and before long, he develops feelings for both Yori and Mari.
We have several stories start and stop with no real need. We have a mini story where Isao-Mari brings home a boy Mari liked, only for him to force a kiss onto her, prompting Isao-Mari to freak out, deck him and literally, CRY. Large, bubbly tears. We have other stories where Mari is accused of breaking up someone's relationship, only for again, this to be a story to stop for no reason and serve no purpose.
Then at the halfway mark, we start to get into a story mode. And this is where the writing goes bizarre. Yes, here. No, not earlier. Get ready for some spoilers.
The big secret? Mari isn't really a girl named Mari.
She was born as a girl named Fumiko. Her paternal grandmother picked the name out.
Mari's mother HATED that name, and hated that Mari was close to her grandmother.
So Mari's mother killed the grandma, had Fumiko's name legally changed to Mari, and then started drugging Mari, every day.
Somehow, Mari's father never catches on that his wife killed his mom, and the idiot actually has a second baby with her, a little boy. Mari's father serves little purpose in the story, and we learn that her psycho mom is running the family.
Yori and Isao-Mari eventually expose the mother for being an abusive psycho, and she runs away. Literally, forever. Like she's never mentioned again. So now Isao-Mari has to feed the dad and brother, because apparently nobody knows how to use a microwave.
Now for the real kick in the pants.
There's another Isao.
Going next door to try and find some answers reveals that there is another copy of Isao, still very much a loser and very much stalking Mari. Why are there two Isaos? We will never know, but Isao-Mari and Isao have the exact same memories. The two get statutory-rapey real quick as we see an uncomfortable story about Isao-Mari doing something very illicit to Isao, causing Yori to flip out.
And that's another problem. Yori. She annoys me. Three quarters of her existence is just her screaming and crying. She wants the real Mari back. She wants Isao to disappear. No, she loves Isao. No, she hates Isao. No, she hates them both. No, she's in love with them but she may love Mari a little more but STOP IT!! The 79 issue manga could have been chopped down to at least 53 issues if we didn't waste so much time on Yori's trust issues and temper tantrums. She's on an emotional roller coaster and behaves more like a tween and less like a teenager muddling through high school.
Well after running off Mari's mother and learning that Mari never really had a personality of her own, and that she's basically just a human puppet, we get a bombshell.
The second Isao gets a haircut, and then gets dragged home by his parents, who are honestly worried about his well-being, just NOW found out he dropped out of college but was still sucking up their funds, and have yet to figure out he's been stalking and having inappropriate contact with an underage girl next door.
So the second Isao leaves the girls a cryptic message about a journal, and this is how the story ends....
Okay, usually, I would put the spoiler into a white box for you to highlight, but you were already warned I was spoiling it. If you didn't want to know how this was going to end, you would have stopped reading several paragraphs ago. This is your last chance. If you seriously don't want to be spoiled, stop reading. If you scroll, it's your own fault. Are you ready? Here goes.
The girls go to Isao's mom and dad's house. Isao's mom tells them to go to the back of the house, Isao will be with them shortly.
The girls find the journal, and Isao-Mari makes a shocking discovery....
Isao never existed.
No, really. I mean that.
So we get this CREEPY end shot of Mari, Isao and little Fumiko, all naked in a white room. WHY??? WHY did I need to see that?? That's disgusting!! And don't give me that garbage about "marriage age laws" and "culture" you know better than that, and nobody is getting married!
So we learn that Fumiko is Mari's inner child, and the inner child made up the lifeless puppet that was Mari and the sick SOB that was Isao. But now that Mari is coming to grips with reality, Fumiko and Isao are no longer needed. So Mari finally starts to emote by crying, after having no personality at all before this, and they return Mari (remember, Fumiko made her up) to Mari's body, and then Isao and Fumiko fade away.
As Mari wakes up, she decides to be friends with Yori. Yori mourns for Isao, but gratefully accepts Mari's friendship. End scene.
.... No really. That's how it ends.
What about Isao's parents? PFFT! Who cares about them? All that money they bled into Isao, gone. Oh their house is still standing, but them? *THBBT* Who cares! Mari's psycho-killer mother? The creepy kids at school that harassed her? A decent explanation as to why a teenage girl would dream up a creeper like Isao and how she would have known how he touched himself and in what direction? NOPE! No explanations at all for any of those pressing matters. As long as Yori has a playmate her own age who doesn't mind the whole stalking thing, we're good!
Inside Mari is creepy, nonsensical, grotesque and lazily written with more plot holes than a brick of Swiss cheese. The mystery is unsatisfying and the visuals leave more questions about the author than anything truthfully fulfilling. It shouldn't have taken more than one, two at the max graphic novels to have told this story, and anybody recommending this drivel needs to seek psychiatric care.