Takeuchi, Mick. A Wise Man Sleeps. Vol. 1. Trans. Christine Schilling and Brynne Chandler. Go! Comi, 2008. Summary
: Miharu's bankrupt father has gone missing, and her mother has just died. All this strong-willed, resourceful young woman has left to her worldly name is her mother's ring. As it turns out, however, the ring is no small thing—the stone in its setting is a “wise man's stone” with the power to bring out a person's full potential. Unwilling to relinquish it to alchemist Rintaro Akechi, Miharu swallows the ring, and the stone is absorbed into her body! Entrusted by the wise man's stone inside her with newfound powers that she does not yet understand, Miharu teams up with Rintaro to solve a series of gem-laden, supernatural mysteries. Comments
: As a storyteller, Mick Takeuchi bears striking resemblance to her heroine: she, like Miharu, dives into things headfirst. Unlike countless other run of the mill shoujo manga of modest commercial ambitions featuring a school-aged protagonist, A Wise Man Sleeps
does not begin with the first day of school or the arrival of a transfer student. Instead, it begins, right from the very first panel on page one, with a mysterious man who insists that a ring is causing all of the heroine's misfortune. (Wait a minute! What misfortune? And what ring?!) By page four, Miharu has a yakuza kingpin in her home demanding that she make good on her father's debts. Needless to say, the plot's zero to sixty introductory lurch is shocking, and I actually found myself flipping back to the beginning of the book to make certain that I had not inadvertently missed a couple of pages…but nope. Takeuchi is just that gutsy.
As is Miharu for that matter. Virtually all of the plot's momentum is driven solely by her unwillingness to take anything life throws at her except on her own, stubborn terms. Thus does she refuse to hand over the wise man's stone, even when Rintaro offers her a substantial sum of money for it. And thus, once the foundation for the series' ongoing plot is laid, does she pursue all of the alchemical phenomena she happens upon that the stone gives her the power to perceive with both conscientiousness and curiosity. Each chapter after the first, roughly episodic in format, presents both a mystery and a resolution. They did run in the Susperia Mystery
magazine, after all! The first volume includes stories about a young man driven to rage and passion by a garnet, a jeweled bracelet haunted by a ghost, a bloodstone endangering a young actress with corrosive sentiments of jealousy, and an insane man who lives his life as if trapped in amber. Happily, Go! Comi's English adaptation is excellent and reads naturally. A short list of endnotes appears at the end explaining a handful of Japanese pop cultural references.
In her afterward, Takeuchi readily admits that she did not intend for Miharu to be so “wild” or for Rintaro to be so “socially awkward” but that things just kind of turned out that way. Her intuition clearly served her well though, and the presentation of this manga is all the stronger for it. It is always delightful to encounter such a smart, resourceful heroine, and the way she bosses around the decidedly beta-male boys in her life is hilarious. Rintaro is equally bizarre; in powered down mode he's a weepy whiner who bangs his head against walls and talks to an “Annie doll” (actually a homunculus), while in powered up mode he's a sexier-than-thou letch who addresses Miharu with unwanted endearments. There is likely a not too subtle dig at shoujo manga romantic heroes such as Mamoru/Tuxedo Kamen of Sailor Moon
here—and the delivery is laugh out loud funny.
The series' only weakness, if it could even be called that, is its artwork. Though it was begun in the early 2000s, the artwork looks for all intents and purposes like vintage early 1990s, and it is not nearly charismatic as it could (and perhaps should!) be. Also, the characters' eyes look vaguely like something traced out of Yu Yu Hakusho
, which is definitely not appropriate. For comedy the effect of it all works okay, but the serious bits still tend to look silly. Fortunately, Takeuchi's panel layouts are those of a veteran and despite their shoujo-style asymmetry, follow basic visual narrative rules that are quite easy to follow intuitively. This makes it easier to ignore the art on its own mediocre terms and focus upon the entertaining story on offer.
Complete at two volumes, this series was almost undoubtedly given the axe prematurely by its original publisher Akita Shoten. As such, it is unlikely to live up to the promise of the first volume. Even so, A Wise Man Sleeps
is a fun page turner that skips along with an appealing heroine, intriguing yet not overdone alchemical premise, and an unabashed dose of lowbrow humor. Recommended to shoujo manga fans. Notes
: paperback, 1st American edition; first published in Japan by by Akita Shoten in 2002 Rating
- Okay, so it's not all that challenging on the brain cells. But it is a lot of fun--while it lasts--and that's what counts.