Sleepless Domain is a fantasy web comic by Mary Cagle that Seven Seas Entertainment is publishing in print as part of their partnership with Hiveworks.
This is the second Hiveworks book I’ve picked up and it was another home run!
Undine is a magical girl, something that isn’t that uncommon in the city where she lives. Once they awaken to their powers, magical girls register with the government and can attend a special school just for them and earn money by taking part in the nightly “purge”. During this “purge”, most magical girls fight to defend the city from the monsters that invade it every night. The majority of magical girls form teams and fight monsters as a group for safety, and something of a celebrity culture has formed around them and their exploits. Undine is a member of Team Alchemical, along with her friends: Sally, Gwen, Sylvia and Tessa. Aside from some petty squabbling and troubles with teamwork, things have been going pretty well for the group – then tragedy strikes! Now Undine – probably the least confident member of Team Alchemical – is left to pick up the pieces and try and see if she can figure out just what went wrong.
If you’re a fan of magical girl manga, then I’d say that Sleepless Domain is a must read.
The story starts out with a typical setup. The girls in Team Alchemical have powers based on the elements (water, earth, wind, fire & aether) and each girls seems to embody common archetypes in the genre. They have the predictable tiffs over who’s the leader and how to work together properly as a team. All standard magical girl stuff, the only unique addition to the formula being the camera guy following them around and filming their adventures for the news.
Then a big event changes everything and the story takes a turn. I’m going to avoid any direct spoilers but, suffice it to say that, things get a bit darker than you’d typically see from most entries in the magical girl genre (intentional genre subversions excluded).
This is where the story really gets started. There’s a mystery afoot in the strange city that all of these magical girls are risking their lives to protect. Someone is working behind the scenes to cause mayhem and no one is safe. It’s a hell of a time for sweet and unassuming Undine to find herself on her own. Will she be up to the task? Even Undine is unsure of that, but she’s not ready to give up.
For someone who started out the story acting more like a side character than a heroine, Undine displays a lot of grit and determination. As the story progresses, she starts pushing herself to be more assertive and even acquires a new ally, the upbeat and independent, heart-themed magical girl: Heartful Punch.
I’m enjoying seeing Undine grow as a character, and I love watching her interacting with Heartful Punch, who just can’t be bothered with the publicity and other rigmarole that most of the other magical girls seem to be caught up in. These two seem like they could make a great fighting combo; I hope that they make their partnership permanent in future installments.
The mystery element is probably the most appealing aspect of Sleepless Domain. There is definitely something weird going on with the city, and there’s a villainous presence lurking in the shadows who seems to have it out for the magical girls, or possibly Team Alchemical specifically. There’s also a second force at work that seems to be trying to help Undine and her friends, though their true intentions also remain a mystery. With all of these different enigmas waiting to be explored, I’ve been fully sucked into this intriguing story and I’m eager to get my hands on volume 2.
Sleepless Domain has a lot to recommend it to manga fans. The art is cute and the character designs for all of the different magical girls are great; the lead character is brave and kind, but also has room to grow as a person; and, best of all, the story is full of magical battles, interpersonal drama and plenty of intrigue! I really enjoyed this first volume and plan to check out the rest of the series. Hopefully, we’ll get to see plenty more of Undine and Heartful Punch kicking monster butt!
Final Score: 8 out of 10.
For more information on this comic, visit Seven Seas Entertainment’s website.
What did you think of this comic? Who’s your favourite member of Team Alchemical? Mine is Gwen, the stoic earth magic wielder.
Be sure to check out my reviews of the other web comics published as a part of the Seven Seas Entertainment/Hiveworks partnership:
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