Manga-ka: Makoto Tateno
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: December 2009
Synopsis: “The planet had died once before… On the day of Despaira, a god appeared in the sky and saved the world. His name was King Shishioh. But now with the throne of the king empty, a vicious battle between two brothers is unfolding. Who will ascend the throne?”
The story follows Luke, a young man who finds himself hunted by a man claiming to be his brother. When the truth of his existence is revealed the two brothers set into motion a series of events doomed to repeat themselves in a battle for the world’s throne that transcends a life time – and perhaps a readers’ level of patience despite its whimsical platter of eye-candy.
Most notable about 9th Sleep is the distinct lack of boys’ love- distinguishing content. This being the case, it’s entirely worth knowing in advance that there’s nothing past a brotherly love between the two leads and even that particular liaison proves the crescendo of the story as a whole. The artist apologies for the lack of boy on boy content and June’s decision to publish it under their yaoi line is presumably a direct correlation with the way it was originally published in Japan, not a personal decision. That being said, take 9th Sleep’s boys’ love distinction with a grain of salt and, knowing this much in advance, jump in with less genre-based expectations.
Hunt, find, fight, die – hunt, find, fight, die – rinse and repeat. Once the book finishes its first rotation, it immediately falls into a cycle of repeating it. It’s easy to get worried part way that you’ll be stuck in a cycle along with it and unfortunately to an extent you really do. Everything repeats several times but at least it’s apparent with each reincarnation that Luke remembers more and more of his past lives which helps save them from being entirely pointless. It becomes a refreshing change of pace when suddenly his older brother appears earlier than the anticipated and whisks Luke away at a young age to raise him himself.
The bulk of the story sees Luke’s brother hunting him for the right to take the place as God-like King of the world but he’s repeatedly foiled by Luke’s avoidance of battle and the lengths he takes to avoid it. It’s more than a little apparent that his brother doesn’t want to kill Luke as much as his words would suggest, and while this hampers some of the little drama that manages to work in 9th Sleep, it does offer some proverbial food-for-thought. It along with his eventual raising of Luke helps bolster the bond they’ll need to face the real threat when it emerges at the book’s end before it all wraps up on a dissatisfying low-key note. Come on guys, can’t you immortals at least look like you’re trying to find a purpose in life past laying there being alive?
The role of women in the story is perhaps the feature most stereotypically akin to the boys’ love genre. Shallow and relatively non-existent as actual people, the women of the story are really just wombs for the reincarnating Luke. Past that they serve as the occasional fodder for a sort of dead-girlfriend syndrome. A prior acceptance that women will be short-changed is the only real benefit to the yaoi-stamp on the cover, past the added warning that the men on these pages may be too pretty for their own good (but we love them for it all the same).
9th Sleep is a bit of a hollow read – it relies too heavily on its repeating scenes and because of this the suspense relying on them in turn falls flat under the weight. Still, there is a particular charm to the flow of the story. It survives on a level akin to a fairy tale, coasting on its airy execution more than any substantial bulk. Though not her strongest works, suffice to say any fan of Makoto Tateno will do well to add it to their collections as well. This isn’t the kind of story anyone should run to the store foaming at the mouth for but it makes for a fairly worthwhile distraction as far as one-shots go for boys’ love fans and otherwise alike.