Asuperu Kanojo: A Bittersweet Manga About A Girl With Asperger’s Syndrome

Trigger Warning: There will be discussion of heavy topics such as self-harm, depression, child abuse and the usual uncomfortable topics that have to be brought up when mental health is discussed. Please be warned.

Today, I’m gonna be toeing the line of what’s okay and not okay to discuss in terms of mental health with this fascinating new manga, Asuperu Kanojo (Asperger’s Girl).

Official Summary:
Yokoi Taku has trouble getting along with people, so he moved to Tokyo as soon as he graduated from high school. He now lives alone, making a living by delivering newspapers and drawing doujinshi, though people totally ignore his non-erotic works. One day, a girl named Saitou Megumi suddenly shows up at his door, claiming that she came all the way from Tottori to meet him because she’s a big fan of one of his doujinshi. It ends up that she has faced many hardships herself, and with no intention of leaving, she ends up living with him.

There will be very minor spoilers.

The portrayal of people with a different mental state is nothing new in the medium of anime and manga. Welcome to the NHK and ReLife have given us some heartfelt and genuine portrayals of characters who have struggled because of their trauma and possibly being on the spectrum. However, Asuperu Kanojo is unique in that it’s unflinchingly honest about the darker sides of mental health. There’s no sugarcoating the challenges of living with someone with Aspergers, especially with the way our main girl grew up.

I’m not an expert on mental health by any means, but I have done a lot of research and have friends on the spectrum. Even knowing that, mental health is such a broad subject. With how varied people are, they might be affected differently by their environment.

Saitou’s portrayal is, if nothing else, honest. The manga makes no excuses for her impulsive outbursts or harsh observations of people and herself. Characters are understandably shocked or unsettled by her actions. Where most manga would chalk these outbursts to rudeness or ironic cold humor, her distaste for people in general is very apparent in her chats with our protagonist Yokoi Taku.

Here’s an example very early on in the manga that firmly establishes Saitou’s personality and mindset:

In basically any other manga, the character that kicks a dog for no good reason would immediately be seen as callous, cruel, or worst, a sociopath. This scene shows just how differently wired Saitou is compared to most people, which when paired with her upbrining, makes you understand why she did what she did.

The manga does a fantastic job of explaining why Saitou did such a thing without absolving her of it. She was abused as a child and kept in a cage for her outbursts. Not just any cage, but the same cage that their dog sleeps in. In her own head, she saw the dog as a threat and didn’t like it. She didn’t think about the little girl’s feelings or that the dog wasn’t a threat at all, but acted on her first impulse because all she associates with dogs are bad memories. It’s not a failure of Saitou, it’s a failure of the people who raised her poorly, which is even worsened by her self hatred.

On the flip side, the manga shows that despite these problems, Saitou is still very much somebody you should empathize for. She has wants and needs like anyone else, as well as fears and anxieties. It’s only her upbringing that keeps her from reacting to them in a healthy and logical way. Her brain is wired in a different way from everybody else, which in of itself is not a bad thing. However, she understandably suffers a lot because of misunderstandings, since her parents never bothered to help her deal with society in a healthy capacity.

On the other hand our main guy, Yokoi Taku, has this complete stranger dropped into his life, along with all the baggage that entails. While Saitou is an “open book” in many respects, (she’s honest about everything to fault, after all) Yokoi is a bit more enigmatic. He knows a lot about mental health and is willing to take care of this problematic stranger, whose sole connection to him was that she enjoyed his work.

It’s almost encyclopedic how in-depth he gets into the finer points of dealing with a person like Saitou. The character of Yokoi Taku acts as a sort of mouthpiece for the author to give the reader a feel of what it would be like to live with someone struggling like Saitou. If nothing else, it gives the reader a clearer perspective on how work needs to be put in for a better understanding of those on the spectrum.

What helps this manga palatable despite the heavy subject matter is the surprising amount of heart it can show to our flawed characters. We get moments of levity and even short periods of genuine improvement for both characters, which make the heavy moments all the more upsetting when they happen.

Asuperu Kanojo was only recently translated by scanlators. It has 76 chapters in Japanese and is still ongoing while English translations have made at least two volumes worth (equal to 15 chapters). I HIGHLY recommend you guys give it some love. I feel like we have a story on the same emotional depths of Oyasumi Punpun and Flowers of Evil on our hands here, and I’m quite excited to read more manga again.


21 thoughts on “Asuperu Kanojo: A Bittersweet Manga About A Girl With Asperger’s Syndrome

  1. This manga looks great! I put it on my list and your review hit all the things I look for in manga…

    Although I do have trouble with animals getting hurt but like you said it is explained, even though it makes my heart hurt that she was treated in that manner.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like that they went there, though. A thing that bothers me about the portrayal of mentally ill people is that in fiction, they are often portrayed comedic or quirky. Here, we see that even if a person is nice, when something is wrong with them, they can’t help but do things they think is satisfying at the moment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the way you explained it in a way that doesn’t step on anyone’s toes; even mine!
    Not to self diagnose myself here but I too am experiencing a mental issue which makes the manga so real and true-to-life.
    Thanks for this!!! Keep on writing!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. loved all the drawings you showed. Fascinating storyline. Hi there. I am going around the neighborhood introducing myself. My name is Marc. My blog contains excerpts from my book The Driveway Rules. It contains memoirs about growing up with undiagnosed autism. I hope you stop by.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this review. I read up to chapter 27. I’ve read works within the drama genre about « being different », that I thought were better drawn, better constructed (I’m thinking about Takako Shimura’s Hourou Musuko for example) and I have zero personal experience with developmental disorders, yet I felt more than usually touched by this manga.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This was a really great review for what seems to be a truly amazing (and also honestly quite brave) manga. It’s great that this is a manga that tries something very different than the normal stuff, without it going to places that might offend people. Thanks for sharing this one, I will definitely add it to my to read list for sure😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank-you for posting this. After stuffing myself with Isekai manga lately (translated) I got it into my head to write a light novel base for one. I wanted to have a mental health theme and have been researching how one would be done in Japan. However, other than the sudden “shut in” syndrome that’s talked about there seems to be a distinct lack of “mental health issues due to mental health problems” in other words, someone has issues because someone or something ELSE inflicted damage. I was wondering if you knew of any translated manga or light novels which had people without any tragic background, who had no horrible circumstance, but still had mental health issues?

    Lastly, as someone on the autism spectrum (Aspergers) I just wanted to chirp up on whoever else may read this. While the girl in this manga shows real problems, her “early life from hell” makes it distinctly unlikely she has Aspergers (though not impossible). I see Borderline Personality Disorder for sure, but autism is not caused (though I won’t deny that it could be) by others actions, people are born with it. The fact the author would choose to slang this title I feel is slightly disrespectful for those who really have this disorder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As for manga where there’s mental illness without any tragic backstory, I think pet Sakurasou fits the bill, kinda.

      Yuri on Ice as well, but not super deeply, as its more of an emotional story.

      Unfortunately, mental health tends to be marred by some sort of tragedy in media because often times that’s how it is in real life. At the very least, I’m glad most authors have been understanding.


    2. ok wish I knew how to edit this comment. I had a reason to go back and try to read this again. Frankly I only made it as far as her dog kicking the first time around, but after plunging in deeper I came to understand the author gets a lot of things right. So I am revising my opinion in the regards that the early shock value was totally unnecessary, but overall the portrayal of A PERSON (not all persons) with Asperger’s is acceptably accurate.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s