Manga Review – Sweet Rein

Sweet Rein Volume 1

Sweet Rein
よろしく・マスター (Yoroshiku Master)
TSUKUBA Sakura
Shoujo – Comedy, romance, supernatural
3 Volumes (complete)
Viz Media

Summary:

It’s almost Christmas, and Kurumi expects to spend the day alone. While walking home one day, she bumps into a guy. Suddenly a rein appears and binds them together. The overjoyed guy, Kaito, then introduces himself as a reindeer and reveals Kurumi is his Santa Claus!

Review:

Sweet Rein both is and isn’t a Christmas manga, which may be good or bad depending on your opinion.

How do you take a holiday and turn it into a manga series? Lots of manga include Christmas-themed mini-arcs or one-shots, but a whole series? With Christmas being an annual holiday, an author does not want either the characters or readers to age out of the series. So what do you do with a Santa and her reindeer after Christmas? Jump to next December?

Well, Sweet Rein‘s second chapter jumps six months to summer, and it stays in summer until the end of the main volume. This continues for the subsequent volumes: Christmas, summer, and a pair of spring and Halloween stories. Time does not flow in Sweet Rein, as Kurumi and Kaito remain the same age through all three Christmases. So this is very much a light read, and it’s not a series you need to save for Christmastime with all the summer stories. I don’t blame Tsukuba for not aging the characters, but considering the first volume has two chapters set during summer vacation and the second Christmas is only 16 pages long, I wish there was a little more Christmas in the series.

Anyways, the Santa-reindeer relationship that Kurumi and Kaito have is a pretty unique setup for a manga. The “there’s many Santas” aspect has been done before, but having a human reindeer who doubles as a servant is pretty unique. The magic isn’t limited to Christmas Eve, so the fun supernatural aspects happen throughout the year. Other characters with the same secret are introduced, and Kurumi ends up telling several people about her true connection to Kaito. It’s a nice change from “must keep our relationship/powers a secret” like in most manga. (Quite a few people learn about the “secret” over the course of the series.)

As I alluded to before, the overall story is pretty episodic. The first chapter is basically a one-shot, and then Tsukuba jumps to summer (because, I assume, the second chapter was published in a summer issue of LaLa DX while the first was published in winter). Tsukuba admits she struggled with continuing Sweet Rein, and I have no doubt it’s difficult trying to implement Santa and reindeer outside of Christmas. However, once you ignore the flow of time, readers are treated to a cute tale of a devoted boy who doesn’t mind being attached to his master.

Unfortunately, the third volume makes it sound like Sweet Rein, but nothing has been published since 2009 in Japan, and the series started in 2005. As such, the story just ends. Yes, Kurumi and Kaito are closer than ever, and Tsukuba could always publish another chapter in the future, but as of right now, it’s complete. It’s even more disappointing when you consider all three volumes have unrelated bonus stories, so the series is really closer to two volumes. While not every shoujo manga should end up with a couple in love, the main draw to this series is its cuteness: cute reindeer, cute holiday, cute male lead who likes the protagonist. Instead, it just ends. There’s no buildup, so there’s no need for readers to rush and pick up subsequent volumes.

The characters are a nice change of pace compared to most shoujo manga. While having a tsundere male or female lead has become the standard, neither Kurumi nor Kaito fit this description. Kurumi is a bit lonely, but she is not hopelessly optimistic. She is not oblivious to her own or Kaito’s feelings, but she’s a bit confused on what they really are. Kurumi is the kind of character many people can relate to. Kaito, meanwhile, is an adorable idiot. He truly cares about Kurumi, a nice change from many male leads who treat the female lead like scum. As I mentioned, a few others in the story share the same secret, and one pair has more of the typical “got to try to get along with this sullen/strange person” storyline.

The art is quite bright and crisp. Tsukuba is quite experienced by  this point in her career, and it really shows in this manga. I love Kaito’s unique cat-like eyes; they help show that he is different from regular people. His reindeer form is pretty realistic and not just some weird super-deformed ugly animal. Backgrounds are usually pretty minimal, but it does make the more important scenes stand out. Kurumi’s first Christmas sleigh ride in the opening chapter is quite striking. You can almost see the city aglow with Christmas lights. The only real complaint I have is sometimes hands are very oversized. I wouldn’t put her artstyle as one of my favorites, but it’s good.

Translation:

No honorifics are used. I’m not going to dive into this series too deeply, but the adaptation follows most Shojo Beat conventions. For instance, while four speech bubbles in the Japanese are broken up into “Ku-ru-mi-chan”, Viz Media replaces the “-chan” with “I’m here.” Of course, any “-sama” is ignored except when others want to call her “Kurumi-sama”, which is replaced with “Mistress Kurumi”. Kind of funny considering “Master” is used everywhere else. Otherwise, the team did a nice job on it.

Final Comments:

Sweet Rein is a cute, light series that doesn’t need to be saved until Christmas to enjoy. However, with the series’ short length and the loose storyline, readers will probably be better off borrowing it.

Now-defunct CMX published the author’s series Penguin Revolution and Land of the Blindfolded. The former has a side-story included in the third volume of Sweet Rein.

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