Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty, Vol. 1

By Megumi Morino. Released in Japan as “Ohayou, Ibarahime” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Dessert. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Alethea and Athena Nibley.

We’ve all seen the type of story where you meet someone, start to fall in love with them, and then find out that either a) they have a terrible secret that they’ve been hiding, or b) they actually turn out to be completely different from how you thought they were. And sometimes it’s both, as is the case with Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty, which actually has the guy as the viewpoint character for once, and the girl as the one around whom the plot revolves. It’s a good plot, one that draws on the supernatural but doesn’t overly drown in it, and the story is dramatic and serious without being too angsty. I would argue that the heroine suffers from something of a lack of presence… but given that’s almost the point, it seems churlish.

Our hero is Tetsu, a bright young lad who has some tragedy in his life that is driving him to earn money, over the objections of his father, who doesn’t think he’s mature enough to move right into the workforce. (Dad is right, but Tetsu’s the hero, so he’s going to get away with it.) Tetsu ends up becoming a housekeeper at a mansion owned by a rich family. They’re under orders not to go into the small house at the back of the garden, where the family’s reclusive daughter, Shizu, lives. So, what does Tetsu do within the first few pages? Goes out to the garden and meets Shizu, who at least seems nice. Sadly, he also loses his bankbook at some point, and desperately goes to search for it. Shizu has it, and turns out to be a lot less frail and willowy than she first appeared – in fact, she’s a bit of a hyperactive terror. Is there a reason for the difference? And will Tetsu be able to keep being friends with her once he finds out the truth?

It’s sort of hard to discuss the manga without discussing its gimmick, but I will do my best. Shizu’s nature means that she is very different at different times, and for the most part we follow Tetsu as he finds out about it, falls into a state of shock, recovers, tries to be friends with her anyway, has a disastrous outing, tries to distance himself, and finally returns to the “be friends” with greater resolve. He’s a good kid, and I like his family as well – thank goodness that he’s fighting with his father but it’s not the standard evil uncaring manga dad. (I also love one of the sisters, Ryo, but I admit she barely appears – she just fits a type I really like). The book balances out mystery, romance and pathos in equal doses, and the leads are nice – you want them to overcome their problems. Also, it’s only 6 volumes, so should not wear out its welcome. If you want to try a new shoujo series with a sweet male lead who’s working hard, Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty is a good choice.

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