My Broken Mariko is a manga by Waka Hiroko. It deals with the loss of companionship, abuse and abandonment. The manga beautifully captures the relationship of two young girls -- Shiino and Mariko and their friendship as they grow up through a troubled childhood. The duo finds solace in each other, and finally comes to terms with embracing the realities that every relationship is not thoroughly wholesome.
Shiino learns on the TV that Mariko has killed herself while eating ramen in a local shop. She becomes distressed and cannot accept how her best friend, who, the only one in the world who understands her, has passed away. Shiino had met Mariko a week before and didn't find even the slightest clue that this week would have these turn of events. As she messages the deceased Mariko on her phone, she realises that her best friend will never read her texts. Shino feels abandoned and betrayed by Mariko, and then reminisces about the first time when she saw her broken.
The author Waka Hiroko magnificently tells the stories. The imagery that the author draws to make the readers understand the bonding between the two girls is captivating. Shiino feels a grave vacuum in her heart with Mariko's sudden demise. The manga pages capture the magnitude of the relationship that the two girls have - from their first meeting to their reaching adulthood.
As the story progresses, Shino comes home a little more composed after a day of bewilderment at the ramen shop and then the dead-end office. She decides that she must liberate Mariko's ashes from her family, especially from her father, who had abused Mariko in her childhood. After a violent confrontation in which Shino almost stabs Mariko's father, she runs away with Mariko's ashes in a pot and sets on a journey that she feels would be the last wishes of her best friend.
The manga then looks into Shiino's journey as she comes across obstacles to free Mariko's ashes, which she carries endearingly with herself. Shiino gets robbed, meets strange people on the way, and all the time remembers her best friend. The manga goes back and forth through Shiino's eyes as she remembers the awful times that she and Mariko had faced, as well as the good times they spent together. The name Broken Mariko proves befitting at this point of the manga.
Mariko in Shiino's eyes is broken. Shiino must take care of her. Even as a teenager Mariko didn't want to share Shiino with anyone, as she was obsessive about Shiino. She didn't want her best friend to have relationships with others. Whenever Mariko was in trouble, Shiino would worry and take care of her. The feeling of endearment that Mariko received from Shiino was the only light in her life, and yet Shiino feels she has been abandoned by Mariko now. The manga ends with Shiino finally liberating her friend's ashes and then coming home to receive a letter, which Mariko had sent to her.
The characters are depicted with natural tones, with excellent progression. Mariko grows up, and gets into abusive relationships. Shiino starts working, but it is a tiring job. Even though she has less time for Mariko, their friendship never fades. There are instances where Shiino tried to make her best friend understand, but it's apparent that Mariko has been conditioned to believe from her childhood that she is indeed broken.
The readers also realise that Shiino may also be broken like her friend; she too had a troubled youth. The question arises, what will happen to Shiino now?
This manga is fascinating and realistically explores issues of abandonment, suicide and violence. The 153-page manga was published by Yen Press in 2020. In the collection, there is also a Western-inspired manga titled Yiska at the end. The book's cover is a bright and soothing-blue in colour, with the figure of Shiino on it. Here she has puffy red eyes and a sad face, while her mouth looks ready to let go of her cigarette at any moment. Shiino carries Mariko's ashes with her in the cover.