Margaret Comics, 2000
As you might guess from this cover, this is not your typical shoujo manga. I picked this one up because it looked like it would be something fresh and different from my usual cross-dressing, idol singing, teacher-kissing shoujo manga stories 😀 And it is. This is the first volume of a good 10 volume series. The covers of all the later volumes are so cute! It’s nice to read some longer series after so many one-shot stories. The art style is clean and unscribbly, but the characters do sometimes look a bit odd to me. However, it is still very cute and not odd enough to put me off.
On to the story. Aoi-chan is a bright, pretty, 14-year-old girl who is also an up-and-coming teen model. She is busy with her work and does lots of fun things like magazine interviews. She has many friends at school, including the pretty Yuuko, the studious Kouichi, and the handsome Hikaru, but the one she is closest to is her childhood friend, Ryuuta. Ryuuta is a sportsman type, who likes to get himself messy when going fishing, do crazy show stunts on his bike, and to tease Aoi with various slimy critters. Aoi is close to Ryuuta and has no problem kicking him when he is being a moron. 🙂
However, in an instant, Aoi’s world is turned upside down. Her friends have planned a camping trip, and Aoi has plans to confess to Ryuuta. Before the trip, her mother asks her to run an errand for her, and Aoi decides to ride her bike. On the way the store, she reaches a staircase, and foolishly tries to imitate a bike stunt she had seen Ryuuta perform earlier. Unfortunately for her, she is not successful as Ryuuta was, and she and her bike take a hard fall.
She wakes up in a hospital, covered in scrapes in bruises. Her mother is at her bedside, and she is surrounded by her friends. Aoi, bright as ever, is in good spirits, and freaks out a bit when she realizes what happened, but all her friends are there and everyone laughs and jokes around. Aoi really doesn’t want to miss her camping trip and is anxious to get out of the hospital. It isn’t until after her friends have left, indeed, it isn’t until much later, when she tries to get up, that she realizes she can’t feel her legs.
It takes a while for what has happened to really sink in. She is still obsessed/distracted by the idea of the camping trip and seeing Ryuuta, and missing her chance to confess, and not being with her friends. She is beginning to feel dread and worry about her legs and can’t quite think about the idea that they may be like this forever. Surely it’s just temporary. With this thought in mind, she tries to stay cheerful, and has some fun trying to learn how to use a wheelchair.
The manga follows Aoi as she realizes the reality of her situation and she and her friends struggle to come to grips with the change. There are awkward moments where her friends forget she can’t do some things any more, obstacles involving wheelchair access (while much better than it used to be, Japan is not as wheelchair friendly as the US is, many places are only accessible by stairs), and pain and frustration during physical therapy. Aoi’s modeling career is now over, and she must learn a new way to do things.
Aoi works hard to be cheerful, but obviously she can’t always put on a smiling face. Her life has changed, but it’s up to Aoi to forge forward and to try to not let her new situation hold her back. Her friends, although awkward at first, are very supportive, and Aoi finds inspiration in unexpected places. But with 10 volumes, you can imagine that Aoi and her friends face a lot of ups and downs!
This series is a good read. It is informative and rather unique for a shoujo manga. I recommend it!