Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty
おはよう、いばら姫 (Ohayou, Ibara-hime)
Shoujo – Comedy, drama, romance, psychological, supernatural
6 Volumes (complete)
Money-loving Tetsu works as a housekeeper, but he’s caught sleeping on the job by his client’s daughter! Shizu agrees to keep that a secret if he visits her. Tetsu can’t help wondering why the mysterious Shizu can’t leave home, nor can he keep his feelings for her from growing stronger.
Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty may put you to sleep for the first few volumes before getting to the better drama.
Tetsu wanted to enter the workforce after middle school, but his dad would only agree to Tetsu working after school at his housekeeping service. Tetsu is almost deliriously glad to earn more money for his family, especially at a high-paying gig working for a rich family. However, his coworkers gossip that the daughter of the family has never been seen, but Tetsu dismisses it because one, it’s ridiculous and two, he doesn’t like scary things. But the rumored daughter appears in front of him one day while he’s napping on the job, and Tetsu is so startled that he ends up dropping his bank book.
Tetsu timidly returns for it, and who should answer the door but Shizu. She agrees not to tell his dad about Tetsu sleeping on the job, but he has to hang out with her in return. Shizu lives in an auxiliary building, not in her family’s home, and she isn’t allowed to leave for reasons unknown to Tetsu. Tetsu is drawn to her cheerful and upbeat personality, and he ends up blurting out a confession. Shizu is taken aback but eventually says to return next week and see if he can still say that he likes her. But instead of the smiling, almost big sisterly Shizu, he’s greeted with, “Who are you?”
Most of you are probably imaging something like One-Week Friends, but that’s not the case here. Shizu, who is rather expressionless throughout the whole exchange, says that she didn’t see the stars with Tetsu; Haru did. Those of you assuming it’s a case of twins are also wrong. Tetsu learns that Shizu has been diagnosed with multiple personality disorder (now known as dissociative identity disorder), but that isn’t the truth either. Shizu, as later revealed to Tetsu and readers, is some sort of medium. Spirits are prone to take over her body, and while they can witness what happens when one takes over, they can only communicate with Shizu through a diary. The first two spirits Tetsu meets are Haru, a man in his 30s, and Shinobu, Shizu’s great-grandfather. Shizu’s parents do not know of Shizu’s ability; they’ve pretty much given up on her and banished her to the annex while mom is in the main house and dad spends most of his time away. Because of her sheltered upbringing and the fact so much of her life has involved other people in her body, the real Shizu feels like she has no personality, no likes and dislikes.
Mom is not completely cold to her daughter, so eventually she secretly offers Tetsu money to hang out and assist Shizu. Tetsu must navigate his feelings as he interacts with Shizu and company, as he is afraid of the occult. Meanwhile, those around him, including his friend Chihiro, notice Tetsu’s mopey behavior, although he insists it has nothing to do with the fact he’s stopped playing soccer in order to work.
But of course soccer plays a role in his depression. He secretly quit in order to work, believing it’s his responsibility as the oldest sibling to help out his family. There’s a dramatic irony that even though he’s trying to help Shizu find things she likes, he has to hide what he likes. Of course, Tetsu has a deeper reason why he’s so adamant about trying to earn money for his family, but he starts feeling guilty about getting paid to be friends/friendly with Shizu. Both of these eventually come to a head in the story.
I wasn’t too impressed with Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty initially. First off, I don’t think the jokes land as well as Morino was hoping for. Tetsu is made fun of a lot for his short height and his love for his sisters (and money), and there’s humor in the fact two adult men must act like a teenage girl. But much of the gags felt forced and repetitive. We get it; Tetsu looks like he should be in middle school. I imagine part of the purpose of all this was to make this Tetsu’s story as much as it is Shizu’s. The author I’m sure wanted Tetsu to grow in the ways that count — learn to be less afraid and depend on others — and to explain why he took a rather sudden interest in Shizu.
However, the drama in the last two volumes are excellent as it concentrates more on the spirits and the balance between living and not living. Only one of the four is old; the others are middle aged to younger. But they all have regrets, and they’re so close yet so far away from the people they care about. Unfortunately, two of them don’t get as much resolution as the other pair. I personally think the story would have been so much stronger if their struggles and regrets had been more clear and spaced out throughout the story. The fourth ghost joins Shizu during the story in the height of supernatural drama in Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty, but then it’s back to Shizu and Tetsu. I don’t have anything against the leads, but the final two volumes are so much more emotional than Tetsu’s debate on money vs loving something/someone. The stakes feel higher as well. On the bright side, the last two volumes are quite long (about 250 pages each), so that alleviates some of my complaints, as it feels more like a seven or eight volume series rather than six.
But considering how strong the later volumes were, I wish Morino had cut back on Tetsu’s issues. Between his family drama and and Tetsu narrating about his conflicting feelings for Shizu — first falling in love with her, then becoming frustrated, then scared and confused, and so on — it’s just not nearly as strong as other characters’ dynamics. It’s a lot of “I want to see Shizu smile!” and “I need to look after my sisters!” over and over. I mean, those are both key to his development, but take Chihiro for instance. As we learn, he’s been keeping a big secret from Tetsu, and he also has a differing view on his relationship with Tetsu. But for a key character, he’s not really integrated until the third volume. Normally that wouldn’t be an issue until you realize the manga is already halfway over.
I think that, had the series done a better job balancing development, comedy, and the all-important (and beautifully sad) drama, it could have been closer to something like Fruits Basket. Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty hits those same emotional notes. Plus, Shizu is a heroine where it’s easy to understand her insecurities and issues. To not know who you truly are, that someone completely else can take over and either no one notices or prefers that self? Yeah, sad. But as Shizu starts to “feel”, we see more from her perspective.
The melancholy also spreads to Shizu’s and Tetsu’s family. Despite the fact that their moms were friends, their families haven’t been close in years. And we can see two different types of families as a result. We have Tetsu’s understandably bossy dad, Ryō the strict and blunt sister, and elementary schoolgirl Suzu. We also learn about the spirits’ families to an extent, and while the comparison is not as emphasized as Tetsu’s overly caring family versus Shizu’s indifferent parents, it still shows some different dynamics and their regrets/mistakes. We get some that are downright bad, others who are misguided, and other members who are caring. Again, a little like Fruits Basket.
The one thing that stood out to me about the art was how big it was. So many pages felt like they were 3/4 one character’s face, grimacing or smiling — usually against a sold white background. I think that’s another reason why the early volumes felt like a slogfest to me. The cast hasn’t fully been expanded yet, so it’s mostly Tetsu and a couple of different forms of Shizu.
Speaking of Shizu, each spirit dresses Shizu in a different way when they’re possessing her. Shinobu wears glasses and long skirts. Haru tends to have big, goofy smiles and shorts. The other two wear hoodies or trendy clothing. Shizu’s family is rich, and the spirits tend to stick to a schedule, so it’s not like Shizu randomly bounces between herself and her ghostly companions. Otherwise, expect a lot of close-ups on big smiles and tearful faces on all the characters. In the more humorous scenes, characters are drawn like blobs (think teru teru bouzu). Overall, Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty is very shoujo. The art is crisp and clear, but it’s also more of a poster feel versus a manga feel a lot of the time, especially with the color inserts.
Honorifics are used. Terms like “oku-sama” are also kept. Each volume contains rather detailed translation notes. Not much can be down about the spirits’ various forms of speech (English only has one “I” for instance), but the English version tries the best it can to differentiate between them. Accent marks are used in some of the names.
If you don’t normally read stories about girls hopelessly in love with someone who doesn’t understand their feelings, then even the supernatural aspects aren’t going to make you adore Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty. But the last few volumes focusing on regret, independence, and strengthening family ties are as beautiful as Sleeping Beauty herself.
Kodansha is publishing Morino’s A Condition Called Love digitally.