Kodansha Comics has been releasing romance series Perfect World digitally since early 2018, but this year the manga is finally being put into print for those of us who prefer to own our books physically. Of course, the important question is if the series is worth your time or not, which I’m here to answer!
The story follows 26-year-old Tsugumi Kawana, who is reunited with her high-school crush Itsuki Ayukawa at an office party. Tsugumi now works at an interior design company, while Itsuki has achieved his dream of becoming an architect. While the two haven’t changed all that much since their school years, Itsuki has been through a life-changing accident since the two last saw one another.
During his third year of college, Itsuki was hit by a car while riding his bike. This accident resulted in a spinal cord injury that has left him disabled and in a wheelchair. Although he appears optimistic and unfazed by his disability, Tsugumi soon learns that there is inner turmoil under that smile of his.
It’s not long after the two reunite that Tsugumi begins to have feelings for Itsuki again. Back in high school he already had a girlfriend, but now he’s single. Itsuki quickly realises that Tsugumi is falling for him and tries his best to push her away, explaining how difficult a relationship would be with his disability.
Tsugumi is forced to face the reality of Itsuki’s life when he is hospitalised due to an infected bedsore, something he couldn’t have noticed before the infection set in, due to his damaged nerves. Not only is she worried about his health, but she also realises how frustrated Itsuki is with his inability to live an ordinary life. Despite this Tsugumi is still determined to make a relationship work and continues to pursue Itsuki.
I find myself with mixed feelings for Volume 1 of Perfect World. On the one hand, I think it does a remarkably good job at showcasing what life is like for someone with a disability like Itsuki’s, as well as the prejudices they face. On the other hand, I wonder if Itsuki’s personality is too off-putting for some readers, at least in this initial volume.
The problem with Itsuki is that he is incredibly pushy with Tsugumi, telling her over and over again how they couldn’t be together and that she’s better off not being in his life. I can certainly see why he acts like this, he wants what’s best for her and acknowledges that his situation would be a burden on her. However, they’re both adults and I often felt that Itsuki needed to back off and respect Tsugumi’s stance.
By the end of Volume 1 things are getting better in regards to Itsuki, but it’s too soon to say if the series is moving away from it for good or if it’s a temporary respite. I’m sure there are many challenges ahead for the two characters, but I certainly hope they at least face them together.
Perfect World has been created by mangaka Rie Aruga and is her first multi-volume series (with Aruga’s previous work only being 6 chapters). The artwork for the series is not overly detailed but captures the feelings of the characters nicely. A lot of panels are empty except for the cast, which helps to draw you into the emotion of the scene but I hope we have a bit more to look at going forward (which seems likely, judging by the later chapters in this release).
As previously mentioned, Perfect World comes to the West thanks to Kodansha Comics and has been translated by Rachel Murakawa. The translation reads well with no issues to speak of and there are some informative translation notes at the back of the book. Perfect World is on-going in Japan at 10 volumes, 9 of which Kodansha have released digitally in English. The series has also won the award in Japan for best shojo (despite being a josei) manga in Kodansha’s Manga Awards, which is certainly promising for the future of the story!
Overall, Perfect World offers a realistic and honest look at living with a disability. Rather than shy away from the hardships of a relationship with someone in a wheelchair, Perfect World embraces everything to offer a satisfying read. While I have some small issues right now, given time, I think this manga could become something incredibly promising.
A free preview of Perfect World Volume 1 can be read on Kodansha’s website here.