Though action anime came alive in the 90’s, in the 2000s it was a bit difficult to see all the series coming out, as a handful of especially popular series drowned out all the rest. Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece as the “big three” were so overwhelmingly popular people didn’t even realize other shows existed.
But looking back, there were a number of great series people missed, like MAR. A series made by Nobuyuki Anzai, MAR ran in the mid-2000s and was pretty popular in Japan, with a missed opportunity kept it from achieving the same heights over here. This list explains what stopped the series from experiencing a surge in popularity state-side, as well as it’s connection to Nobuyuki Anzai’s Flame of Recca series.
10 WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Marhen Awakens Romance is set in a world known as MAR-Heaven. A young boy is summoned to the world named Ginta Toramizu, where he learns he possesses strength and abilities beyond that of what he had on Earth. While getting to know this new world, Ginta begins to meet and team up with a variety of strange individuals as he learns the world is in need of protection against a strange army of soldiers who were barely fought off a few years prior.
9 THE MAIN CHARACTER
There aren’t many shonen heroes like Ginta Toramizu. When the series starts he isn’t strong, he wears thick glasses, and is more of a nerd with his head in the clouds thinking of the stories his father used to tell him about a mythical location known as MAR-Heaven. It isn’t until he’s transported to the world of MAR-Heaven that he manages to gain some aspects of shonen heroes. The world’s lighter gravity makes him much stronger, his vision improves, and he’s allowed to be more of himself. All of this emboldens him to protect this new area he landed in.
8 THE BAD GUYS
The enemies of this series are the Chess. The Chess metaphor in this series is taken as literally as possible. The Chess splits all of their forces up, naming them according to how powerful they are and thus how important they are to the Chess army.
Everyone in the series is ranked according to this power level: pawns, rooks, bishops, knights, queens, and kings. The top of the Chess organization consists of a King and Queen, while their biggest forces are all knights.
7 ONE MASSIVE TOURNAMENT
Most shonen series want to sneak in a single tournament arc amidst a bunch of other stories, while MAR’s entire storyline is arguably one big tournament. After Ginta gathers together a large enough group, they’re all thrown into a tournament with the Chess. Team MAR-Heaven are dealing with a rather unusual problem though: they’re the only team in the tournament. Everything they do involves facing the Chess army until they win, or are worn down and defeated.
6 TIE IN TO FLAME OF RECCA
Marhen Awakens Romance has a connection to Nobuyuki Anzai’s previous story, Flame of Recca. In that series, one of the more powerful antagonist characters is named Joker. A character far nicer than the other antagonists, Joker winds up helping the heroes and gets sucked into a black hole. In MAR, the character Nanashi mysteriously shares a lot of the same looks as Joker, and has been hinted to be from another world. It’s also mentioned that when Nanashi was found, he had a stab wound in him similar to the one Joker got in one of his battles in Flame of Recca.
5 LACKS A FULL ENGLISH VERSION
MAR admittedly came out at a time where anime wasn’t as popular as it is now. It was brought over to the West and aired on Toonami Jetstream, an online streaming service before moving to Toonami proper. At the time, Toonami was waning in popularity, and MAR was aired out of order. Unable to find an audience, the series never finished airing and the actual dub of the series remained undone as well.
4 THE ANIME HAS THE BETTER ENDING
For once, the anime’s ending actually tops the manga. The manga came to an end before the anime did, which allowed the anime to wrap up some plot points the series never got around to doing. This allows the last fights of the anime to get the proper time they deserve to feel like end of series fights.
3 THE MAGICAL ITEMS
Nobuyuki Anzai really likes magical items. Within the world of Flame of Recca, everyone has magical powers thanks to items invented by the Hokage clan, the Madougu.
Within MAR, things aren’t that much different. Most people’s special powers come through the usage of ARMs, special weapons and accessories that grant a variety of different abilities. Ginta’s ARM is a talking one named Babbo, who can configure himself into multiple different types of weapons.
2 A FAIRY TAIL
MAR is short for “Marchen Awakens Romance.” This is a reference to how MAR is basically one giant fairy tale. Much of the members of Team MAR reference fairy tales. Ginta’s friend Jack is a reference to Jack and the Beanstalk, with him even using plant based ARMs to fight. Princess Snow is obviously a reference to Snow White, and even Alviss is a reference to Peter Pan. Finally, the witch Dorothy clearly refers to Wizard of Oz, and all of her ARM weapons are basically references to fairy tales.
1 THERE’S A SEQUEL MANGA
MAR’s popularity was such that it was able to attain a second series not long after the original. Referred to as MAR Omega, it’s the story of Kai, a young man who idolizes Ginta for his work during the second War Games. Unfortunately for Kai, he possesses no magical power…but still finds a way to learn how to use Ginta’s weapon Babbo, helping him to fight against the remainder of the Chess army. Unfortunately, MAR Omega didn’t run for very long, lasting only a single year, likely because Nobuyuki Anzai was only the writer, rather than doing the entire job.
MAR ran in the mid-2000s and was pretty popular in Japan, with a missed opportunity kept it from achieving the same heights in the west.