Music of Marie from One Peace Books is the English translation of Usamaru Furuya’s Marie no Kanaderu Ongaku, an epic manga detailing a paradisiacal world with a deep secret. Furuya has long worked with the themes of coming of age, personal identity, and social constructs, such as the Lychee Light Club and No Longer Human. Music of Marie continues that exploration of lofty concepts into an entire world as the reader follows two young people growing up in the idyllic realm watched over by the titanic Marie.
Kai and Pipi live in Gil, a city of factories winding through a mountainous island. Nearly everyone has a workshop where they tinker with clockwork to construct machines, instruments, and even robotic animals. As one character reflects, “People in Gil say that as long as you have even a little power, there’s nothing you can’t make with gears.”
The marvelously detailed mechanisms are interconnected with gears and shafts, showing in physical form the themes of society. Everyone lives in harmony on the island and with other islands, each dedicated to its own industry or agriculture that they share through trade.
Crime is a fairy tale, and the economy is based on commerce not out of seeking individual gain but working to produce things that will make others happy. Above it all, the mechanical goddess Marie floats, looking down and sharing her music that brings joy to creation.
Contemplative Kai grew up working the mines with his father until a collapse orphaned him. He came to live with the family of energetic Pipi, beginning a lifelong friendship and aspirations of love. Yet there is something about Kai, a supernatural power to hear things that arose after he disappeared while swimming with Pipi and other friends when they were children. After being gone more than two weeks, he washed ashore apparently whole and able to sense rhythms whether the emotions of the people around him or the drip of water in caverns hundreds of feet below.
The world-building in Music of Marie is expansive, examining not only the business and marriage rituals of Gil but also the surrounding islands. In one chapter, which are aptly dubbed “verses” to fit with the musical motifs of the manga, Kai and Pipi voyage to the island of temples for a religious festival.
There people worship in dozens of different ways, all in support and consideration of each other as it all leads back to devotion to Marie. As Kai learns more of the technology-worship in Gil, he visits the reliquary of ancient devices like internal combustion engines and computers, none of which work now. Pipi, who dreams of flying like Marie, presses her father to perfect his flying machine.
After generations of failures of devices that work on paper but fail in practice, it is hinted that something is keeping humanity from progressing. While the art throughout Music of Marie is admirable with eager expressions and detailed costuming for the characters, it truly shines in the backgrounds. Furuya packs each panel with depth and multiple elements that show the world of Gil in all its complexity. Readers will want to revisit the art not only to experience the details, much like watching the inner workings of a clock tick, but also to catch the clues of why Gil’s society lives in the harmony of a perfectly timed machine.