A Wise Man Sleeps Volume 1 by Mick Takeuchi (amazon)
Takeuchi’s other series Her Majesty’s Dog is one of my regular reads, so I was curious about this earlier work. A Wise Man Sleeps is a little more lighthearted than Her Majesty’s Dog, and has much of the charm that I’ve come to expect from this author. Miharu is in a bit of a pickle; her mother has died and her father has vanished, leaving behind nothing but a pile of yakuza debts. When the local mob boss comes to collect, he promises that he’ll always “take care” of Miharu. In the meantime, she’s accosted by a creepy looking guy on the street who remarks that she’s been having bad luck. Rintaro is dressed entirely in black, wears one glove, and wants the ring Miharu’s mother left her because the jewel in the ring is a powerful alchemical agent called a Wise Man’s stone.
When the yakuza find out about the stone they want it too, but Miharu impetuously swallows the ring before Rintaro or the mob boss can get it. Rintaro is horrified, because the ring’s powers are unknown. Rintaro reveals that he also posesses a Wise Man’s stone. When he activates it, he turns into an outgoing blond man with a penchant for calling girls endearments like “my little kitten.” Blond Rintaro easily defeats the yakuza with his alchemical powers.
Rintaro’s timid Eyeore-like personality makes an amusing contrast with the outgoing ladies’ man that is his alter ego. Miharu is boisterous, outgoing, and totally willing to try to manipulate men with crocodile tears in order to get out of the predicaments she finds herself in. She also possesses a unique fashion sense, as this is the first manga where I’ve seen someone wearing arm warmers and a slightly off-kilter cowgirl outfit. Miharu ends up metabolizing the Wise Man stone, becoming an alchemical agent herself. She and Rintaro team up to track down mysterious jewelry pieces.
This manga ends up becoming a variant on the spooky shop genre, as Miharu and Rintaro encounter a variety of people with cursed jewels. Where A Wise Man Sleeps differs a little bit from other manga of this genre is that with each short story, we learn a little more about the characters’ background and the relationship between them progresses. Takeuchi’s art easily details Miharu’s dynamic action scenes, Rintaro’s dual personalities, and his favorite doll (!) Beatrice. While I think that Her Majesty’s Dog is a stronger series overall than A Wise Man Sleeps, this was still a well-done shojo manga which is worth checking out if you don’t have spooky shop genre burnout.