Slumbering Beauty, Vol. 1

By Yumi Unita. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Rakuen Le Paradis. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Angela Liu, Adapted by Marykate Jasper.

It can be difficult sometimes when your name becomes synonymous with something notorious. Slumbering Beauty has a lot of things I love. A snarky, emotionally repressed heroine who gradually opens up to other people even as we see that her home life is a wreck. A premise that can involve “situation of the week” yet still have an ongoing plot. Twists that become much darker when you think about them. And some very amusing humor. That said, it’s still hard for me to get past “from the creator of Bunny Drop” and not think “uh oh”. Fortunately, so far there seems to be absolutely no sign of any imbalanced and unsettling relationships here, though I felt the same way when I started Bunny Drop. It’s a good series with a dollop of fantasy, and I’m interested to see where it goes, though we appear to have caught up with Japan already.

Our heroine is Yaneko, a high school girl who really loves to sleep – in fact, it’s difficult for her to get up every morning. This is a problem for the sleep spirit Nerimu, whose job it is to ensure that humans get enough sleep and wake up on time. Yaneko has one of these things down. She can also see him, for reasons that aren’t quite clear yet, and over the course of the series becomes an apprentice as she accompanies him on his rounds to quiet flailing babies, ease the brains of constantly texting young ladies, and otherwise become the Japanese Sandman (it’s not clear whether she has to sneak out with the dew as well). In her interactions with him, Yaneko begins to make real human friends – she was very much the loner no one talks to before – and develop a bit more empathy, and Nerimu, the sleep spirit, is there to guide her.

One of Nerimu’s fellow spirits suggests that he take her on as an apprentice, and this was the part of the book that fascinated me the most, as it almost feels like a metaphor for suicide. Yaneko is making a couple of friends now, but her home life is so oppressive – the reason she seems to sleep so much and so deeply is her parents fighting all the time – that at one point she readily agrees to take on Nerimu’s job. He has to talk her down from this, saying that in effect she will be vanishing from the world, and pointing out his own tragic situation from centuries earlier – it’s not that he misses his mother, it’s that he can no longer even remember her face. I am hoping that Yaneko resists the urge for a volume or two longer, as I’m liking the way she’s gradually opening up and starting to care about others.

As I said earlier, this is the only volume out in Japan, so be prepared for a wait for the next one. It’s pretty good, though, and shows off the author’s innate skill without having any of the disquieting plotlines of her prior series. Give it a look.