Reading Imperfect Girl has left me with a weird feeling that maybe something was lost in translation. Or it’s possible those more familiar with Japanese culture would understand it better, which may not be the first time for me reading manga. I’ve stuck with the series mostly because I’ve hoped things would make sense in the end, and that end is being released this week. Time to find some meaning in this series!
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
A young author is being held hostage in the home of a grammar school girl. Held there by knife-point, and partially by his own curiosity, the author hopes to uncover the mysteries behind the child’s torment. He knows she lives alone in this huge home. But where are her parents? And what was her life like before the accident and this “kidnapping”?
Why does this matter?
This is a story about an author trying to find meaning in a tricky situation. If you like psychological drama you’ll dig how dark, and deep, this story gets inside the character’s head.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The first half of this volume continues the cringy and sometimes frustrating aspect of the previous two volumes. The main character continues to talk himself into not calling the police or fleeing. The difference in this final volume is that our protagonist is finally circling the inevitability that he must go to the police. It’s at the midpoint that the young author discovers two key pieces of evidence which solidify his worry that the girl has really been a victim all along. In these scenes, we get definitive evidence that the little girl needs someone to care for her. Said scenes also help solidify the emotional side of the story and make the conclusion earned and believable.
The last third of the volume closes the story out in a surprising way, flashing forward in time. This allows the narrative to come full circle; the protagonist has been speaking from the future via captions the whole time, and it gives the story another ending on top of an already satisfying ending. This story has always been about an author trying to find inspiration and both endings support the creative artist’s endeavor to find it. Considering the trials the protagonist has been through it’s certainly believable he’d be inspired, but not about the pain he’s been put through, but by the need to heal. It’s an inspiring sentiment and a nice way to close out such a perplexing manga.
The art by Mitsuru Hattori captures the cold demeanor of the little girl via her body language, as well as her dead-looking eyes. She’s quite scary and it helps keep you on your toes as you scream at the protagonist to call the cops already. The first theme comes back, and while I’m still trying to make sense of it (I thought she had powers, but that can’t be the case) it helps convey the emotional anguish this girl has endured.
It can’t be perfect can it?
There is a painfully uncomfortable moment in this manga that I’m sure a lot of American readers will refuse to read. At its core, I understand its purpose, although I’ve noticed some kind of sexual undertone in the story here and there. It’s a scene where the protagonist takes a bath and the little girl joins him in the bath. Good fiction tends to push the envelope, and while this scene is more about her suffering, it still has the awkward and unsaid idea of a boy and a girl nude together in an intimate way.
My only other complaint is how the first half carries on the protagonist’s never-ending nature of overthinking. It has put him in danger, forced him into a kidnapping for ten days, and it’s infuriating. The logical hoops he has to go through to convince himself not to do the right thing are frustrating as they prolong the story in an unnatural way.
Is It Good?
This is a manga that will make you think. You’ll take something away from this and many will have different reactions, but at its core, it’s a story about care and understanding strangers. It also mixes with the notion that creativity isn’t simply fabricated, but grown from real life anguish and torment.