Sleepless Domain is an ongoing webcomic by Mary Cagle.
The time is now 10 PM. All citizens should be indoors, and all magical girls transformed.
The unnamed city is perpetually under siege; monsters have overrun the world. During the day, the monsters are kept at bay by a magical barrier. At night, the monsters are able to make their way into the city. At night, it is up to the city’s magical girls to protect the city and its mundane inhabitants.
Team Alchemical — Undine Wells, Gwen Morita, Sylvia Skylark, Tessa Quinn, and Sally Fintan, or, as they are known by the city, Alchemical Water, Alchemical Earth, Alchemical Air, Alchemical Aether, and Alchemical Fire — spend their days in school and their nights fighting monsters. Now they’ve found a new enemy to fight.
Team Alchemical have been friends since childhood. Their elemental powers combine to make them a good team. But long-time success may have been their enemy. Long-standing frustrations grow into open conflict. Sally is upset that Tessa is the leader of the team. Sally doesn’t think the team needs a leader, or, if it does, that Tessa is the best choice. She has been grumbling to other team members; finally she speaks directly to Tessa.
Tessa gives Sally her wish, at least for one mission. Tessa takes the night off, while the others transform and head out to hunt monsters. Sally will either prove her point or be forced to admit that Tessa’s leadership is valuable.
There is a third possibility.
After burying her friends, the remaining Alchemical, Undine, struggles to adapt. Solo patrolling is known to be hazardous; Undine’s water-based powers are best suited to a support role. She should sign on with a new team. But … no other team seems to fit. so Undine ventures out on her own.
Kokoru “Heartful Punch” Aichi’s abilities give her speed and strength. Heartful Punch has always worked solo. She’s afraid of loss. Better to risk her own life than to risk having to deal with loss.
A chance encounter between Alchemical Water and Heartful Punch ends in what both think will be a one-time team-up. But it doesn’t stop at one night.
There are a lot of details the author has yet to fill in. Is this a future in which magic has reappeared? A secondary universe? Is the city is the only surviving city or are there are other cities cut off by monsters? Nor are we told how a city-sized economy with no clear means of getting food and resources can sustain itself.
The source of the girls’1 magic is explained, to some extent. Each recruit meets the Woman in White in a dream most girls don’t clearly remember. They wake with the ability to transform themselves into a magical girl. Not all of the girls have combat abilities (or at least not all of them have figured out how to use their powers to do violence) and not all of them are willing to risk their lives fighting monsters.
The powers that be don’t seem to be all that interested in coaching the girls in combat tactics, but they are willing to facilitate the lifestyle. Class times at the magical girl school have been shifted, allowing the girls to sleep in after their night patrols. The authorities also turn a blind eye to the bullying directed at the timid magical girls who don’t want to become monster hunters.
This could be a grim story (and sometimes it is), but the characters and the art draw the reader in. Cagle makes the reader care for the beleaguered girls. While Undine, the protagonist, is likely to survive, it’s clear early on that no one else (her friends, innocent bystanders) has plot immunity. Every episode could be the last for some character you like.
Sleepless Domain begins here. It updates twice a week.
1: All of the empowered are girls, even if their bodies are male before they are given their special abilities. Hmmm. Aren’t we due an April Daniels novel soon?