Imagine a city, just like any other city… except for the being trapped under a force field that prevents monsters from entering during the day time, but at night said force field dissipates, and the monsters roam free. Luckily, there’s always the Magical Girls to protect the citizens!
Team Alchemical is one such team of monster-fighting MGs. Along with many of their classmates at the School for Magical Girls, every night at ten o’clock, they transform and fight the monsters flooding the streets of Future’s Promise, the city they must defend. Tessa, the leader, is best friends with Undine, holder of the water element, but the other three—Gwen, Sylvia, and Sally— are beginning to feel as if they’ve gotten the short shrift. So Tessa agrees to sit out this one time on patrol. Surely nothing could go wrong. Well, it does, and that leaves Tessa and Undine in a horrible position no one ever wants to be in. It’s going to take more than magic to set things right.
Written by Mary Cagle of Let’s Speak English and Kiwi Blitz fame, Sleepless Domain sticks pretty true to the MG genre. Several characters follow specific archetypes, such as Sylvia the tsundere or Sally the genki girl. Many anime tropes are used as well: school setting, extended transformation scenes, and a lack of adults to control the youth. So yes, this comic is, so far, just like any other Magical Girl story. And that’s fine. Sometimes, a comic isn’t good because it twists the genre or is an original product, but rather is enjoyable because it is a good story. As of this column, the plot of Sleepless Domain has not progressed very far, despite being a year in, but with Cagle’s abilities in other comics, it’s sure to be a fun read.
Originally a collaborative effort, Cagle took over as writer and artist after the second chapter when her partner, Oskar Vega, left the project. As such, the art changes in the third chapter, and in many ways for the better. Vega’s work in the two chapters he illustrates is well done, following the traditional anime-style of big eyes, small mouths, and angular bodies, whereas Cagle’s art is rounder and softer. When Cagle took over both tasks, the writing and art began to mesh better; Vega’s work had more of a fantasy element, while Cagle’s is more in line with the gritty turn the story takes. Her distinctive style of minimal lines and bright colors is present, though she draws her characters with a variety of hues, avoiding the “candy-colored heroine” typical of MG comics. Following another trope, the girls, their powers, costumes, and other associated items are primary colored, while the “normal” world follows a natural scheme.
The twist in the story occurs fairly early, and while there is no gratuitous violence or gore, is a shock. It is expected Cagle will include further scenes in her work, so readers looking for a wholesome magic comic should avoid this one.
Updating Tuesday and Thursday, you can read Cagle’s work at SleeplessDomain.com.