This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Perfect World. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to ableism, miscarriage, and suicidal thoughts as it appears in the manga.
Tsugumi has been in love with Itsuki since high school. They were never in the same class, but they would often share moments in the library or the hallways, and in these innocent times between friends, Tsugumi's love for Itsuki blossomed. Itsuki was an active and popular kid, ready to take on the world. He dreamed of becoming an architect, and Tsugumi was prepared to support him. However, just as Tsugumi was working up the courage to confess to Itsuki, he gets a confession from someone else and begins dating her. Heartbroken, Tsugumi fades into the background of Itsuki's life, and the two naturally grow apart.
Now, Tsugumi is a grown woman working at a job she loves as an interior designer. Deep down, though, she can't shake the torch that still burns for Itsuki even after all these years. One evening, she is invited to a small reunion with her classmates, and Itsuki happens to be there. They hit it off immediately, which only fans the flames of Tsugumi's dormant crush. Feeling like this might be destiny, she begins working up the courage to pursue him again, but as everyone begins to leave, Itsuki asks for his chair. He has a spinal cord injury from a car accident and is now wheelchair-bound.
This shocks Tsugumi, and she's unsure if she can handle dating someone in a wheelchair, but as time goes on and she finds herself actively seeking out Itsuki, the fact that Itsuki is in a wheelchair begins to matter less and less. However, Tsugumi's acceptance of the new Itsuki isn't the only problem. Since his accident, Itsuki has sworn off love. Can Tsugumi break down the walls Itsuki has put up around himself? Or are they destined to forever orbit around each other?
Let me go ahead and say this is a rough one, emotionally and mentally. There are 2 to 3 volumes in the middle of the series I nearly skipped because I couldn't handle the tension between Tsugumi and Itsuki. I knew the ending was happy, so I could persevere, but if you are not into heavy, heavy drama and some on-again-off-again moments, this is probably a miss for you. Another reason I wanted to skip those volumes is because of Nagasawa. She causes so many needless issues just because of her selfishness and her unrequited crush on Itsuki. Not going to lie, I was pretty pleased when our second male lead, my man Koreda, ended up in a relationship while Nagasawa didn't. Is that hateful of me? Yes. Do I feel bad about it? Not at all.
Before we get into the story, I have to talk about the art. The first volume is rough. Like super rough. I almost regretted buying this entire series because the quality of the art so turned me off in the first volume. Thankfully, it cleans up nicely in subsequent volumes, so if you are interested in the story, persevere. It does get better, I promise. Now, that's not to say it's perfect for the remainder of the series. The point where Koki is a toddler is a bit rough simply because Koki looks a bit odd from time to time, and there is a section where there is a large, muscular character who looks wonky 99% of the time, but it is pretty to look at for the most part.
Now, back to the story. My favorite point was actually after the couple finally gets together for good. I found that to be the best part, while the whole “will-they-won't-they” section was just incredibly stressful, primarily because of Nagasawa. It just went on for way longer than I would have preferred, and then, the subsequent arcs with their marriage, newlywed life, fertility issues, adoption, and child-rearing sections all felt jammed in together. So, I didn't feel like we got to explore each arc to its full potential, which was super disappointing because I think it was a good opportunity to focus on Itsuki's experience.
For example, once they have adopted Koki and Itsuki takes parental leave to take care of him, we get glimpses into what that looks like for him, but it all feels rather superficial. The deepest part of it is when we see a moment where he drops Koki and then cannot pick him back up, which is heartbreaking, but it's all resolved within a page or two, and we don't get much more past that. I would have liked to have seen more of that arc in-depth, especially to get more insight into how Itsuki felt or how Tsugumi felt about everything. I know the series could only be so long, but I would have lost some of the romance drama earlier on so we could get more of the family-life stuff after, as I felt there was more to be explored.
Unfortunately, I think this had way more potential than what was ultimately put out. However, I am happy I read it, as it was nice to see some representation prominently displayed, especially since my sister is now wheelchair-bound due to a stroke. It touches on many issues that hit close to home, but I can't help feeling like there could have been more. It presents many important parts of life that I was really interested to see framed from a disabled person's perspective, but then it glossed right over them with a very superficial lens. I don't think I will be rereading this one, but it was an emotional story, and I am a sucker for a good cry, which this will make you do.
Have you read Perfect World? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!