I’ve been on a romance manga kick recently—There’s Something Wrong With Us gave us a guilty-pleasure soap opera, Goodbye, My Rose Garden gave us romance and a history lesson, and now I got to read Perfect World. This manga delivers something different: a modern day, mature look at disability.
The setup should be familiar to romance readers: Tsugumi, our heroine, is a 26-year-old woman who by chance runs into Itsuki, her old high school crush. Itsuki has reached his goal of becoming an architect, but along the way, he suffered a spinal cord injury from an accident that’s placed him in a wheelchair. As the two rekindle their friendship, Tsugumi and Itsuki have to deal with their prejudices and barriers that they didn’t even know they had.
What makes or breaks this manga is the depiction of Itsuki, and I have to say author Rie Aruga did a good job of portraying his disability in a realistic way without victimizing him. Here, you empathize with Itsuki instead of sympathizing with him. Itsuki does have problems because of spinal cord injury, but that doesn’t stop him from accomplishing his dreams. He is still able to enjoy life, playing basketball and hanging out with Tsugumi. Stories like this can focus too much on the suffering, but Perfect World wants to show the melancholy as well as the joy in equal measure.
I also appreciate the more mature approach to romance. In some romance manga, the obstacles that separate the star-crossed lovers feel manufactured or frustratingly make you think “If anyone had a backbone, they would be together already!” Here the obstacles are very organic and compelling. Tsugumi finds out that she has some uncovered prejudices against dating someone in a wheelchair. She sees Itsuki in the hospital because an able-bodied person wouldn’t. Does she have the strength in herself to overcome a drawback like that? Then Itsuki, having been ditched by a girlfriend after he got his spinal cord injury, has shut himself off emotionally, channeling that emotion into his work instead. Should he make another person suffer trying to help take care of him? Why would anyone want to fall in love with him anyway? It’s questions like these that make the manga compelling to read.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. Stories like this are hard to tell, but Rie Aruga is able to tell it with delicacy and empathy. Here’s hoping that future volumes will be able to replicate and build upon the successes of this first volume.
A company get-together reunites 26-year-old Tsugumi with her high school crush, Itsuki. In the years they’ve been apart, Itsuki has realized his dream of becoming an architect—but along the way, he’s also suffered a spinal cord injury that’s left him in a wheelchair. Seeing Itsuki again rekindles Tsugumi’s feelings for him. It also forces her to confront her own hidden prejudices. Itsuki’s disability seems like an intimidating obstacle at first, but soon, Tsugumi discovers that her world feels imperfect without him.Add to CartLearn More