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Yaoi Review: 9th Sleep

Luke was born without a father.  No, not in the sense that his father was unknown, but that his mother, Marian,  had never known a man's touch, and was a sixteen year old virgin when she bore him.  Such an event became known as a "Maria possession", although many doubted the veracity of such claims.  Luke dreams of things he does not understand, of places and people, of a castle in the sky.  His planet had died once, and only the intervention of a savior – a "god", if you will – who purified the polluted atmosphere, saved it from death.  In the city known as "Birth", the legend of this god still lingers, and people believe that he still lives in the sky above them.


As Makoto Tateno's 9th Sleep begins, Luke is accosted on the street by a stranger who calls him by name and claims to be his older brother.  But more importantly, he is wielding a huge sword, and he is trying to kill Luke!  Luke protests that it is not possible for him to have an older brother, to which the stranger finishes his statement, "because my mother was a virgin", claiming that his sword knows better, and it says Luke is his brother.  He slashes Luke with the sword, but Luke manages to escape, running to his home, where his mother sits vegetatively in her bed, under the care of friends, who tend to his wounds.  The next time Luke is on the street once more, the strange comes up behind him, and only thanks to a bystander's warning is Luke saved – leaping nimbly out of the other's grasp, to his own amazement!  Realizing that they might endanger others with their actions, he takes the stranger into a safer area, that they may speak, but he is astounded to feel great changes taking place in his body – he is stronger and faster than he ever was before.  The stranger maintains that they are  indeed brothers, and that they are always trying to kill one another.  A shaken Luke uses his newfound speed to elude him once more.

Luke falls asleep, to be wakened from his dream by his brother, who has been observing his slumbers, and then explains about the castle in the sky, which is "Utopia", a beautiful place with every type of plant and animal imaginable, whose king is absent at the moment – having fallen to earth, and into Luke's body! (If all he wants is to kill Luke, why did he not do so when he was helplessly asleep?)  The "king's soul" is inside Luke, and that is what his brother wants, in order to become king himself.  That is the way that it works, that is the way that it has always worked.  As he cruelly reaches for Luke with his sword, Luke's mother unexpectedly intervenes, taking the blow intended for her son.  But is she his mother?  Or is she Marian, the woman that he loves?  He's so confused, as the  memories come flowing back, and he changes back into the "White King" Luke, and recognizes the other as the "Black King", his brother Malchus.  But rather than let his brother kill him, Luke commits suicide, using another of the king's nine lives, and then they are in the castle in the sky once more, and their fight continues….


This fight between the two brothers is an ongoing one, because of the nature of the "King's Soul" – they duel to the death, the winner taking the soul and his place as king, while the other goes into an extended sleep, to wait while the son that is born to the victor and to the chosen vessel grows up, at which point the sleeper awakens and the duel begins again.  Luke fights hard to break this chain, for all he wishes is to be left in peace, with Marian, on earth, not wedded to someone he does not love.  But his brother will not allow it.  So Luke keeps killing himself before yielding to him, and ends up reborn to another virgin.  But somewhere along the line, a difference occurs in the way things happen, and this change will either break them, or bring them closer together, as harsh realities are brought to light, and great realizations.  9th Sleep, although part of the June manga line, is not a yaoi book in the true sense of the word, for there is no boys' love per se, no romance – not even any kissing!  Makoto Tateno – best known for such classic yaoi tales as Yellow and Hero Heel – even admits to the lack of boys' love in her apologies at the end.  I didn't find this disturbing, however, as I enjoyed watching the relationship between the brothers, wondering if they could ever resolve their differences long enough to recognize their love for one another.  Perhaps this could be an introduction to this wonderful mangaka's work for some who are not comfortable with the yaoi genre.  There are probably some who might draw comparisons between the idea of Luke's immaculate conception and the Christian idea, as well as parallels with the "god" in the sky, but on the whole it isn't strongly emphasized and should not be offputting to anyone.  Her artwork is beautiful as ever, and she lends the story the appearance of a fairy tale.

Comicsonline gives 9th Sleep 4 out of 5 King's Souls. Look for this volume at Amazon!

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