Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
For generations, the men of the Sakaki family have died early deaths. Is it a curse or simply bad luck? As his thirtieth birthday approaches, direct descendant Akihiko Odagawa (his father took his mother's name) decides to find out once and for all, and to break the curse if possible. Returning to the ancestral family home, Akihiko finds his cousin Ren already investigating...and that strange supernatural powers run in the family. When Akihiko goes through a time slip into the past and meets Eitaro, it looks like there may be more hope of solving the mystery. But can these three young men figure it out before it's too late?
Written and drawn by veteran yaoi mangaka Kano Miyamoto, Sleeping Moon's first volume is less of a yaoi tale than one of mystery and time travel with a more sinister supernatural edge. The story follows bespectacled protagonist Akihiko Odagawa, a direct descendant of the Sakaki family. For years the men of the Sakakis have died young – the last two generations made it to ages 30 and 35 respectively. Akihiko is now 28 and is feeling his death looming large. A graduate student well used to research, he decides to travel to the ancestral family home, currently occupied by his paternal aunt and her twenty-four year old twins, to see if he can find a way to break the curse. Soon after his arrival at the family manse, Akihiko begins to experience strange phenomena, most notably that he sees what he thinks is a ghost several times. Before long he learns that the man he is seeing is not a ghost – he is a distant relative who lived in the house at the end of the Meiji period and who is also involved in trying to break the curse. Akihiko is unsettled by this but is willing to work with Eitaro in the hopes that two heads will be better than one.
Eitaro has another way of throwing Akihiko off balance, and that is in his resemblance to Ren, the male twin currently living in the family home. Ren and Eitaro are almost dead ringers for each other in Akihiko's mind – it is a fault in the otherwise lovely artwork that this isn't quite as obvious to readers as it is to the hero – and given that Ren has been spending a lot of time hitting on Akihiko, this makes for a little awkwardness. Actually a lot of the romance in this volume feels more awkward than not, sort of stuck in for the sake of the publication rather than an integral part of the story. It's a shame, because Akihiko and Eitaro really do seem to have some chemistry. It is possible, however, that the second volume will do more with this, as the end of this first one hints at setting up a love triangle between Akihiko, Ren, and Eitaro.
On the whole, Sleeping Moon doesn't really need a romance plot to be an interesting story. Besides Akihiko's ability to time travel, there are other supernatural traits that are passed down in the Sakaki family. Spirits both harmless and malicious float in and out of the story, something Ren seems to know more about than he's saying. A particularly sinister woman looks to have a bigger role than we know, and readers of CLAMP's xxxHolic will be pleased to see the inclusion of a pipe fox, who admittedly is not as cute as Watanuki's. These elements give the story an edge of urgency and worry, hinting without actually telling us a whole lot and at times actually giving readers a bit of a scare. The role of the female characters, particularly Ren's twin sister Eri and Eitaro's cousin Shiho, clearly has some deeper significance, which feels unusual for a yaoi series and definitely adds some interest.
Despite the lack of guy-on-guy action (there's some kissing, but that's about it), the characters are drawn up to yaoi standards, all terribly beautiful and somehow elegant. Relatives all bear at least a passing resemblance to each other and backgrounds help add atmosphere to the story. There are some pages that can feel overtoned, but for the most part Miyamoto's art reads as easily as the text, with a smooth translation that helps to draw you into the story.
If you're looking for hardcore yaoi romance, this is not the series for you, but if you enjoy a supernatural tale with ominous overtones and the possibility of more serious romance in the next volume, give Sleeping Moon a chance. It is nice to look at, atmospheric, and has some real mystery to dig your teeth into. As of this first book, it feels safe to say that non-yaoi fans could find plenty to enjoy here, but as has been mentioned, that absolutely could change with the second (and final) volume. But as far as this book goes, readers looking for a light (but slightly dark) supernatural mystery populated by some very lovely young men should give this a try.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Atmospheric with some good mystery elements. Very attractive art, easy to read in several senses of the term.
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