Marriage Toxin Volume 2: Operation Date- Commence



I thought there was a lot to love with volume 1 of this series, but Marriage Toxin volume 2 manages to find itself a cut above even that. Joumyaku’s narrative beats develop and grow, finding a way to worm under the skin of this series, finding a way to breath artificial life into it despite its episodic nature. Mizuki Yoda’s art on the other hand, drapes itself thoughtfully across Joumyaku’s written words, creating a physical phenomenon equivalent to their writing. And together, it creates a story that feels surprisingly crystal clear, yet endlessly enjoyable. You can see everything coming from so far away, but that almost feels like their intention, especially with this volume.

There’s a world of things to talk about with Marriage Toxin volume 2, but I think the simplest way is to talk about the idea of the connections that proliferate this story. We saw a lot of it in the first volume, but Joumyaku (with the help of Mizuki Yoda) is able to pull a lot more out in this volume. I think the easiest example is the idea of isolation and loneliness, expressed through infamous art thief Kyoko Himekawa, and a pair of unnamed girls. This volume’s story starts off with Gero reminiscing over what his childhood was like: bleak, alienated, and distanced. Forced to quite literally look through a one-way window at a family that was happy, a family that he couldn’t have. And lo and behold, that theme of isolation (alongside the concept of a savior) is mimed back at Gero with Himekawa when the pair celebrate making it out of the water-master’s clutches by going out to a theme park. Similarly, she struggled with having nobody in her life, but ultimately found her calling which created a sort of feedback loop in the manga. There’s two young girls featured at the center of this story, and both have the same hair style and freckles. Of course, they could never be the same due to the gap in time of Gero seeing one girl as a child, and another as an adult, but the sentiment remains the same. Where Gero (though really his family) ripped the first girl out of her life, he almost rectifies his past by returning a deeply valuable piece of family to the look-alike girl in the present.

And much like Gero’s experience with Himekawa, that’s gone on to shape his personality and bring him closer to a true version of himself, his next job is showing off much of the same. Here, it seems Gero’s directive with Shiori Ureshino is to find it in himself to be outgoing and social, living each moment to the max. Also as a little side note, it’s pretty fun to see how Joumyaku builds names with kanji. For Himekawa, her kanji was a combination of “princess” and “river”, alluding to the dialogue and situation with her job. With Shiori though, Ureshino is really just a literal embodiment of Shiori’s desire (and a bit of a pun). “Ureshi” means happy, and “no” (though not as kanji) is a possessive here that when read as last name-first name, could playfully be read as “the happy Shiori”.

Anyways, Marriage Toxin volume 2 rightfully hones in on Shiori and her disposition as a character to play against Gero, and I think it accomplishes a lot. Much like Himekawa’s turn, they make really good use of setting and circumstance to relay the struggles and challenges that face these women as individuals. For example, there’s Shiori’s manifestation of words in relation to her anxiety. Though, much like with Himekawa, the majority of the development of these aspects stems from the women themselves, which I think is a hugely important thing. In this volume alone Shiori harnesses the blistering speed of her mind in an attempt to save herself when falling. With the whole romance angle, I’m sure some readers would be concerned about the agency of the women as romantic foils for Gero, but through two volumes Joumyaku has been doing a really good job.

And really, that’s a great transition into Mizuki Yoda’s artwork in Marriage Toxin volume 2. I think that given the restraints that a debut volume imposes they did great work to start things off, but I think that their assimilation with Joumyaku’s story has been at an incredible level for a duo such as this. Immediately, it reminds me of other pairs such as AidaIro and Somato with how well they are able to marry their individual aspects. For example, Marriage Toxin hasn’t exactly shied away from bundling humor with sincerity or action, but the inclusion of shark heads or cat-eared headphones just feels like really great extension of that idea. It’s not so much that the two typically incompatible aspects magically mix, but rather that Yoda makes them work so effortlessly as background pieces. You can easily forget that Gero is wearing anything of that sort when he’s tossing one liners out like no tomorrow, or being a badass or whatever the job may entail. And truthfully, a lot of that does come from how Yoda works around them as a feature of a character. They’re not treated as something that needs to be in frame 100% of the time, and they’re not something that’s meant to be comedic 24/7. It’s a really smart decision, and really shows the degree of refinement and creativity that Yoda possesses.

Boy am I thankful I chose an image that’ll let me get to my next point. In the above (middle) image, you can see Gero’s next master he has to face: the sound master. Evidently, Yoda has chosen a rather brazen and literal interpretation of their powers, but ultimately meshes it with the visual approach of the series effortlessly. The way that Gero physically interacts with the sounds is just incredible, and is such a great way to integrate such a meta concept into the physical realm. Also, it really does help a great deal that Yoda has impeccable choreography in play for Gero, and that Joumyaku has thought up more than a few ways for Naruko, the sound master, to employ his ability. I’ll admit, it is a little similar in its simplest form to the visuals for the water master, but ultimately Marriage Toxin volume 2 does a lot to separate the pair. For one, Naruko’s ability is given quite a bit of a horror twist. Infiltrating the mind of its target, he’s able to create terrifying imagery of monsters rising out of forests, of faces giving way to more faces, and all sorts of other disturbing aspects. Similarly, when Naruko controls or influences a character, their irises changed to pitch black, accentuated only by varying versions of what’s meant to look somewhat like sound waves.

It feels like a dizzying amount of observations to make, but it’s really the tip of the iceberg. There’s still things like how Shiori originally used her hood to hide herself before it becoming a symbol of support from Gero, and ultimately arrives at ditching the hood completely. Or there’s the fact that Joumyaku and Yoda cheekily foreshadow Naruko’s abilities with a single instance of well-placed headphones at the mixer event. Or maybe even that little doodle of Gero that Kinosaki does in her notebook when we first see the trio actually at school.

Marriage Toxin volume 2 is proving to readers that the magic and enjoyment of the first volume was no fluke. Rather, our writer-artist duo is signalling that it’s just the beginning of their excessively fun antics, creative and unique power system, and of Gero’s rose-colored (and red-stained) youth.

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