Mar 27, 2011
Athena (All reviews)
Haunted by a family curse, a man fights against the sands of time that are quickly running out for him in this supernatural mystery.

The supernatural and Miyamoto Kano are both high on my favourites list, so I was excited getting into Sleeping Moon. But while Miyamoto has previously dabbled in the supernatural with shorter stories, this is the first series where she’s made it the focus. The result is a compelling manga that invokes equal amounts of suspense and sympathy.

The story revolves around Akihiko as he returns to his father’s hometown to investigate the truth behind the curse that has afflicted his family for generations. The isolated village, the eerie house, the withdrawn twins, and the perpetual chill in the air combine to effectively create a sinister atmosphere. Add to that the ghost, deity and long-lost relative that Akihiko meets along the way, this could very easily have turned into a tragic, dark story, but strangely, it incorporates lighthearted moments within the fabric of the events and showcases the complexity of human emotion in a way only Miyamoto-Sensei can. There are genuinely scary moments and occasions when the characters’ desperation and agony really come through, but the execution prevents it from being gloomy; perhaps it’s due to the juxtaposition of the serious, matter-of-fact narration and the normal, everyday interaction and dialogue among characters.

The story builds up brilliantly and it remains gripping throughout as the puzzle unravels. I found myself constantly wondering if a person or an information is a red herring or the real thing, or if they’re even relevant at all; in other words, it’s everything a great mystery should be.

Another aspect in which this series deviates from the signature Miyamoto Kano style is that it’s a plot- rather than character-driven story. However, it’s through the realism in the characters that Miyamoto strikes a balance with the occult nature of the plot. As though to emphasise the dichotomy between modern rationality and ideas like sorcery, the protagonist is made out to be a scholar who’s up against a fuzzy, yet very real curse. For Akihiko, this results in a mishmash of disbelief, denial, helplessness, worry, and learning to deal with it through humour; so for the most part he lives life normally but with the threat of the curse constantly lurking at the back of his mind. I find this makes the characters more endearing than if they had been angsty or overly emo the entire time.

Inevitably, though, the lurking threat surfaces occasionally, rendering the characters desperate and vulnerable - circumstances that are highly conducive to romantic developments. It sounds cliché, but it actually falls together quite well. Until the somewhat rushed ending.

Miyamoto cites Poe, King and Lovecraft as some of her favourite authors. I don’t know if their works influence her, but I believe she has managed to create her own distinctive suspense style - and a good one at that. While Sleeping Moon is full of Lovecraftian elements and has King’s unputdownable factor, as well as an obvious classic Japanese horror influence, Miyamoto makes sure her quirks prevail. Besides her talent for making the supernatural seem real, she also has her very distinct art to her advantage. The leafless trees, the snow in the background and the seemingly uninhabited village certainly create a spooky atmosphere; not to mention the frightening ghost that jumps right out of the pages. I’m not sure if this was the intended effect, but I found the art creepy yet not terrifying.

Overall, Sleeping Moon is a really gripping supernatural mystery with a touch of romance, and not just in a “it’s good for a BL” kind of way, and anyone who enjoys mystery would probably find this interesting.

- Written for the Miyamoto Kano Society -