Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holiday Things No One Cares About: Sweet Rein

This is the time of the year that everyone looks at Christmas related media and me being the eternal tag along I guess I should too. However to be original I shall do the whole review in rhyme. Oh wait, that is about as original as Doug Walker's It's a Wonderful Life parody and it's be totally annoying to boot. So on second though I will not be doing that. Anyway,what was I talking about,Sweet Rein...let's go with that

Sweet Rein is a shojo manga by Sakura Tsukuba recently released overseas to capitalize on the Christmas season. Tsukuba is probably better known for Penguin Revolution,a manga about the weirdest talent agency ever. My Anime List classifies this as a spin off of that manga but that's only due to a side chapter in the last volume. So for all two of you that were fearful that this story would not make sense without having read Penguin Revolution,rest easy.

The plot is a series of loosely connected one-shots about a girl,Kurumi becoming a Santa and her magical transforming reindeer partner,Kaito. Despite being a Christmas themed book,half the stories take place in the summer. They tend to involve Kurumi and Kaito helping fulfill a child's wish and Kurumi denying her feelings for Kaito. It also does play up the master/slave relationship the couple have and how the power dynamic affects said relationship.

It does toy with Santa tropes by making Santa follow a magical girl route and being more of a group of people rather than one old portly gentleman. It's interesting to see a different take on becoming a Santa that's not just a "oh god we have to save Christmas because Santa is a klutz" plot. It really doesn't use the magical girl tropes though that would have been kind of funny. Instead focusing on more of a child of the week structure in lieu of a monster. I feel there is more they could have done with that premise alone but they don't so the potential is out there lurking.

The plot introduces black reindeer who have hurt their masters and therefore are sentenced to live forever. Introduced in book two it really doesn't come back up till the final chapters of volume three. It doesn't do much for those chapters and is really just an excuse to do a redemption story for a new character. I could also nit pick about how Kurumi doesn't age past seventeen despite this taking place over three different Christmas. However the minor issues are lampshaded by the manga-ka. It does set the tone of this story as a silly little adventure that isn't letting little things like time get in the way. This also extends to the characters that are written with love.

Kurumi has the typical shojo protagonist problems of a dead mother and a workaholic dad. While she does not exactly jump at the opportunity to be a Santa by the end ff the first chapter she accepts it. So when it comes to actually letting go off the position till next year she's hesitant. There could be the underlying question of is she doing this out of the goodness of her heart or just to stave off the loneliness. However, she clearly enjoys the job so that angle is dropped pretty early on. She also really doesn't jump right into the relationship with Kaito despite his obvious affection. Their relationship grows as she realizes that his devotion has less to due with his servant like position and more with actual feelings for her.

Kaito himself is less complex but it is funny to try and figure out who is more desperate for this relationship to continue. He is an idiot to the extreme but he is also honest and his love is pure. His love and devotion to Kurumi is heavily influenced by his grandfather's own relationship with a Santa. While he doesn't have the (relative) depth Kurumi has,he is just a happy guy that you can't help but like. Plus he gets to be the receiver of most of the slapstick which can negate any ill will you have towards him.

The rest of the cast are unremarkable with the exception of the character who tests Santas to see if they are worthy and Katio's older brother. He get's his own Santa and the few chapters focusing on them are some of the funniest parts of the manga. Kurumi's friends are pretty blatant stock shojo characters that add nothing to the plot outside of being "like OMG you should totally hook up with him". Also they seem to take the fact that Katio is a magical transforming reindeer pretty well. In fact everybody's only reaction to him and Kurumi being a Santa is mild surprise. It is not a real problem,just rather weird.

The art is your typical Shojo style with beautiful people and sparkles everywhere. The author admits to really liking to draw naked people and animals,hence why there are quite a few beach chapters. Luckily she happens to be good at drawing what she likes as the art is fantastic. Special mention to Kaito as a reindeer as it's is very well drawn. He also has the happiest look on his face at all times as a reindeer He looks so happy that I wish I could be a reindeer just to look that happy.

As mentioned early there are a few side stories that are added to each volume that are mostly okay. There is a vampire story that plays like Usagi Drop as told by an idiot and seems to be here because the manga-ka wanted to draw a sexy vampire. The second one being about the Kurumi and Katio which is labeled a side story for some reason. Then there is the aforementioned Penguin Revolution story that I didn't read because I want to read that series first.

I'm going to be honest here for a moment this is cheesy as all get-out. The characters are not that complex and the plots make the third season of Hell Girl look brilliant. However the whole series is written with love and it shows. To me that,the constant poking fun at itself and the creative take on Santa mythology make up for all the cliches. It is something you will enjoy as you are reading it and then probably forget abut a few days later. Weather that makes it worth a read is up to you but I had fun with it.

Till Next Time:Stay Positive

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