Monday, February 10, 2020

Missed It Monday - Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty volume 4 (Manga Review)

Two male teens and a female team holding hands walking through falling purple roses
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime I didn't read/watch when they first came out.

Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty vol. 4 - 8/10 (*see below for full scoring rubric)

"Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty" volume 4 (Kodansha Comics) is my favorite so far in what has been a surprisingly solid series. This volume gives you everything you might want: great art, an amazing "moment" or two, a solid cliffhanger into the next volume, and some real momentum to the story. If you've liked the series to this point, you won't be disappointed in this volume (particularly after a slightly lame 3rd volume - too much Tetsu and soccer in that one!)

Backstory: Shizu is possessed by ghosts. The current ones are benevolent and they keep other ones out of her when they can. In exchange, more or less, they get to have some time living using Shizu's body. Her father is away on business, but clearly runs the family and has insisted that his wife, Shizu's mother, keep her locked in the house and away from society.

In volume 4, Tetsu, who has been hired to clean the house, continues (with the mom's blessing) to spend time with Shizu. After keeping it secret that they've been leaving the house together, he convinces the mom that Shizu should be allowed to go out. She agrees because of how well Shizu has been doing, and Shizu and Tetsu go to the local festival.

We also learn that Tetsu's friend, Chihiro, can see ghosts and that is why he was always alone growing up (see prior volume for how Tetsu and Chihiro connected). He uses that skill to help with their outing, and with an adventure that wraps up the volume.

The big stuff in the volume (and maybe the series) begins when Shizu's father finds them coming home from the festival and drags her home. Tetsu keeps her from being hit by her father but is unable to prevent them from leaving. This is exacerbated when the father tells Shizu that Tetsu has been getting paid this whole time. Tetsu is certain that Shizu must hate him for that, even though the money is to support his sick mother. Wow, shoujo drama, huh?

Anyway, I won't spoil the rest, because there's some stuff coming in the final chapter. But there's really some great stuff throughout the entire volume. It has comedy, romance, drama, and it is starting to pick up pace. I don't like it when series needlessly draw things out. Sometimes that can be okay in slice-of-life series. But in a supernatural romance manga like this, we need some plot related to her possession each volume as well as some relationship developments and we get both in volume 4.

I love in this volume when Tetsu realizes, and tells Shizu, that there's nothing wrong with going outside the house and that they are going to stop hiding it from her parents. He expresses just how much she's learned each time she's out, getting used to being in society. He shows faith in her and faith in what is right. 

Also, the look on her mom's face when Shizu leaves for the festival and waves goodbye is very powerful. The art really depicts the range of fear and worry, and maybe hope, in her mom's eyes. These feelings get confirmed when her mom opens up to Tetsu later in the volume about their early experiences, believing Shizu to be psychotic. Her mom also echos Shizu's own fear that there really isn't a "real" Shizu anymore, that it's impossible to know who she really is. It gives nice insight into both character's psyches.

Shizu's father is depicted as very very controlling. Not just of Shizu, but of her mom too. There is a strong emotional abusive side to this, and perhaps a physical one with Shizu as well. But it is clear that this man is considered an antagonist by the author. The juxtaposition against Tetsu's emotional openness, warmth, and kindness is evident when he confronts the father (as well as Tetsu's overall depiction in the series).

The art is also really strong in this volume. It's been above average throughout the series, but there are some really top-notch panels in this volume and the whole last chapter looks especially good. It's pretty realistic as shoujo manga art goes with no moe and no fan service, and just some comedic super deformity.

Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty volume 4 is strong in every respect for this type of teen shoujo supernatural-ish high-school romance. Shizu's multiple ghosts are fun personalities, the art is good, the pacing strong, and the story is moving along. There are some real heart-throbbing moments in this volume too. It gets an 8/10!

  • Story interesting (0-10): 7.5
  • Characters interesting (0-10): 7 - Shizu and her ghost crew are a very good mix. But Tetsu is still sort of boring (but handsome and nice)
  • Quality prose/writing (0-10): 6 - Functional, but not deep
  • Emotionally plausible (0-10): 6.5 - what was almost a big reveal for Shizu about Tetsu wasn't as big a deal as Tetsu thought, and rightly so.
BASIC SCORE (avg.): 7/10

  • Emotional insight/depth (0-5): 1 - Shizu (the real one) really makes you feel when she's feeling, but the rest is fairly typical shoujo histrionics (and mild at that).
  • True LGBTQ+ representation (0-5): 0
  • Female agency (0-5): 0 - this is one of the great either disappointments or eventual developments of this series: will Shizu develop agency? Not much in this volume. Still waiting for a hero to save her.
  • Character growth/change (0-5): 2 - can't deny that both Shizu and Tetsu takes some steps forward in this volume.
  • Quality art (0-5): 3 - this is above average art, particularly the final chapter which for some reason just looks really good.
BONUS POINTS (sum/8): +1

  • Homophobic/transphobic (0-5): 0
  • Misogynistic (0-5): 0 (Shizu's father is really bad, but the author explicitly positions Tetsu as the opposite type of man)
  • Fan service (0-5): 0
  • Child/adult relationship (0-5): 0
  • Exploitative (0-5): 0
PENALTY POINTS (-sum/2): -0



Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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