There are times where I can't find myself second-guessing where an author is taking its reader. Questioning how far a writer will go to have their audience snared into their story is what makes the mystery of a new tale always fun, even if it doesn't quite hit all the marks. I feel this way about Mitsuru Hattori's manga adaptation of NISIOISIN's Imperfect Girl, a story about an elementary school student kidnapping a struggling college writer. Its first two volumes had its share of narrative flubs, but the overall tone of it kept me hooked as I wondered what would happen next. Now after reading the final volume, I now have my answer to that mystery.
Kicking things off right where Volume Two ended, the final volume of Imperfect Girl starts with I thinking of an escape plan while taking a bath. An uncomfortableness sinks in when U nonchalantly walks in and joins him, leading I to discovers many cuts, bruises, and lacerations all over her body. Here, he realizes that U is as much of a victim to whatever torment her parents pushed onto her as he is a victim of her mind games. It's when U goes off to school where I does some final detective work, discovering why U acts the way she does, and finds out whatever happened to her mother and father in the process.
A feeling of sympathy splashes over I when he discovers what sort of mentality has been thrusted upon U. While it doesn't take away from the fact that she was doing something bad, it gives you a look into why she is just a scared little kid with no sense of internal freedom rather than a beast within the body of a child. As such, the discovery of why her mannerisms are the way they are is a Hitchcock-ian revelation that are presented via a solid twist. (The discovery of what happened to her parents is also quite shuddering, but I'd rather let you readers find out the true nature for yourselves.)
It's right before the story ends where you finally see I and U looking at one another as a source of comfort and reliability. When she asks him to read her a bedtime story, it's this moment where he starts to bring forth tales filled more with realism than the fantastical. As such, it's these moments where the likes of Monogatari, Medaka Box, Zaregoto, Magical Girl Risuka, and all of NISIOISIN's other creations first sparked life, resulting in the evolution of aspiring author into a legit writer. Although it took something big and traumatic for it to happen, this episode somehow helped I to unlock the potential that he was desperately seeking.
However, while the conclusion to Imperfect Girl is somewhat satisfying, I cannot help but feel like it suffers from Hollywood Ending Syndrome. Though I see it best not to give anything away, it should be noted that how the story wraps up takes away from the realism factor that NISIOISIN was presenting in his original book. As such, it becomes too apparent that this tale is a work of fiction, one that chucks you back into a safe space without any warning whatsoever. Because of this, the sheer shock value that was presented kind of fades away near the end.
Despite all this, I do feel like Imperfect Girl is still worth checking out if you're looking for a good quick read. It no doubt has its flaws, but the strengths that are showcased through the good character drama and unexpected reactions help to outweigh its issues. Even if fictitious, the story does a good job highlighting how one's fear can unlock a creative mind and give birth to many a memorable story. With that being said, please don't have yourselves get kidnapped for the sake of curing a creative slump.
FINAL GRADE (Volume 3):
FINAL GRADE (Full Series):
Promotional consideration provided by Tomo Tran of Vertical Comics