Perfect World Volume 1
Perfect World volume 1 by Rie Aruga is the story of how Tsugumi learns to love a man in a wheelchair, and how she learns, as a result, what life is like for someone who has a spinal cord injury.
Tsugumi had a crush on Itsuki when they were in school together, but she had lost touch with him. A work meeting brings them back into contact, but he’s since had an accident and is paralyzed. In this first volume, she moves from “I couldn’t date someone in a wheelchair” to “I’m falling in love with him again” despite his insistence that he doesn’t want to be in a relationship.
The story, as you might expect, is somewhat didactic. Its educational aims can be a little obvious, but this sweet romance is a great framing structure for teaching readers more about life as a paraplegic. Itsuki is an architect who focuses on barrier-free design. Much of the drama and obstacles to their growing feelings result from how Itsuki is treated or the challenges he faces and what it will mean for her as his potential girlfriend.
As an American reader, the lack of accommodations available in Japan was somewhat surprising, as was the co-worker’s willingness to tell Tsugumi all about the medical issues Itsuki faces. But it’s her spending time with him at his hospital bedside that ends up changing her mind, as she sees his determination and dedication to making something of his career in spite of his circumstances.
There’s lots of emotion in this first book, as the two go to their school reunion, where they meet Itsuki’s old girlfriend. The two broke up after his accident, providing for dramatic discussions between him and her, and her and Tsugumi.
The art focuses on faces and bodies for reactions, with a lot of blank space around them. Backgrounds are mostly non-existent. The simple stylings and ease of reading will be helpful for those who are interested in the series because of the subject, particularly those who don’t normally read manga.
Itsuki and Tsugumi also work with an adolescent boy, also in a wheelchair, whose parents are having their home remodeled for his needs. He used to be a basketball player, and there’s much discussion about the need for him to “accept his disability” and get on with his life. His girlfriend has been waiting for him for a long while, and that’s the ongoing theme of this series: that the love of a good woman will be patient and accepting enough. Sometimes it’s the mother, as she’s the one who ends up encouraging Tsugumi to be honest with her son.
Perfect World begin digital serialization in 2018, and it was successful enough that it began releasing in print in 2020. The tenth volume has just come out.
There’s a preview posted at the publisher’s website. A digital copy was provided for review; I finally got around to reading this as part of eliminating anything I had left in ComiXology, given the recent changes Amazon has made to make the digital comic service much less useful.