By Rie Aruga. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Kiss. Released in North America digitally by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Rachel Murakawa.
We’ve been getting a giant pile of digital-only titles for the last several months, and it can be very difficult to keep up. But the benefit is that we’re getting titles that would not normally get the time of day over here. A good example is this manga which runs in Kodansha’s josei magazine Kiss, involving a young woman who runs into her old high school crush, who’s now in a wheelchair after an accident. Five years ago this is probably the sort of title that I would be tweeting about and saying “see, this sort of thing is what they should be putting out!”. And now they are. And for the most part it’s a good decision, as this is an excellent, thoughtful and romantic manga. The female lead is perhaps a bit too idealized, but when you’re writing a josei romance for young woman about the same age as the heroine, you’re going to accept that.
Kawana is an aspiring interior decorator. One day at a business lunch she runs into Ayukawa, who is an architect from the firm they’re doing business with. He was her old high school crush, and a fantastic basketball player. Much to her surprise, he’s now in a wheelchair. As they begin to work together on projects and reconnect, she starts to realize the problems that need to be overcome for Ayukawa in day-to-day life, as well as the casual denial of ease of access that a lot of other folks who use wheelchairs have. The other problem is that she’s falling for him all over again, and while he’s nice and pleasant enough he’s putting up quite a wall preventing things from going any further, telling her one or two things about his life now (such as incontinence) that might make her pull back. I’m not even sure he does this consciously. But, of course, she is made of sterner stuff.
As I noted above, Kawana is a sweet and likeable heroine, but I sometimes found her going a bit above and beyond – after seeing Ayukawa and his ex-girlfriend have a bittersweet discussion about her upcoming wedding to someone else, she immediately whisks him off to the wedding anyway, because he needs closure. I don’t doubt he does, but this felt a bit rude. For the most part, though, the manga does an excellent job of balancing out the cute romance between the two leads and showing the daily life of a paraplegic, with all the difficulty that this entails, including a higher risk of kidney issues, and bedsores that you don’t notice until they get infected. We also see them interacting with a teenager, who was also a basketball player who now has to be in a wheelchair (and who also has a nice, patient girlfriend) so that Ayukawa can show off a wheelchair basketball league and tell the teen (and the reader) that there is still fun to be had.
The book had a larger number of endnotes to it, with more explanation of things that “manga fans” would already know. I suspect Kodansha knows this might sell well to an outside audience who doesn’t normally read manga. I agree. It’s not perfect, but I am absolutely ready to read more about this world.