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Friday, December 29, 2017

Selah's Manic Manga Reviews: Sweet Rein by Sakura Tsukuba

by Sakura Tsukuba
November 5, 2013
200 pages
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
Genre: Fantasy, romance, manga, comedy
Demographic:  shōjo
3 Volumes
A magical romance from the creator of Land of the Blindfolded

Sad at the thought of spending Christmas alone, Kurumi Sagara goes out for a walk. While she’s crossing the street, a boy bumps into her, and a rein suddenly appears that binds them together. The overjoyed boy tells her she’s his master and that she’s a Santa Claus. Kurumi dismisses him as a crazy person, but then he transforms into a reindeer?!

Reads R to L (Japanese Style) for teen audiences.

Since we’re still in the season, I thought it only appropriate to cover a series that not only encompasses the imagery of Christmas, but is also pure, unadulterated, sugary crack. I want to start sliding into some Shojo titles as we get into the new year and February (since so many titles are all about the lurv), but this one is perfect for the holiday season. This time, we’ll be taking a look at the delightfully over-the-top Sweet Rein.

Part of what I love about manga is the range of stories. You get things like 20th Century Boys which is somewhat close to a traditional plot arc (many times over), and there are titles like Natsume’s Book of Friends that are episodic and really take the time to delve into the emotional experiences of the characters.

Then there are the titles that seem like they’ve sprung from random word-association exercises. And while I may not always be the best source of how good these things are, I can tell you that in the right mood I absolutely live for stuff like this. And so do the friends who suffer through my texting them through each volume.

All I have to say is: reindeer shifter magically bound to a girl by invisible cords.

A quick tutorial for those unaware: Christmas in Japan is more or less focused on the secular and is more of a date night than what we consider the holiday. So it’s much more about Santas and getting cake and fried chicken (no, seriously), and hanging out with friends and crushes. Their new year is somewhat closer to what we’d consider our Christmas. Kinda. (Really, the best ways to get the feel of these differences is to just read a lot of manga). So if you’re expecting that this might offend any sensibilities whatever, nah, you’ll be fine. It’s mostly Christmas silliness throughout the whole year long (Reindeer on trips! Reindeer on the beach!)

Kurumi is the classic manga character whose parents are conveniently not around that much to interfere with the plot. She’s sad at spending Christmas alone, so she goes on a walk. She bumps into a random dude (Kaito), and out of nowhere a reign (like you use to drive a horse) appears, binding them together. Dude declares that she’s his master and Santa Claus because…he’s actually a reindeer shifter. Well, that’s my explanation for it because he does have a human form and I’m just really not sure I want to consider the other options. While a lot is explained, there’s a lot of subtext that will probably give you entertainment for whole other reasons if you’re older (or have a terrible mind, like me). Through the first volume we’re educated on what the Santa/reindeer contract is (Most of Kaito’s family are reindeer), and see Kurumi help deliver presents and come to grips with her new role (In this world, there are multiple Santas who help deliver presents, which is actually an interesting take on the whole situation).

The Good: It’s just adorable and if you’re looking at something for surface value, it’s a cute little romance. It’s cute and funny, and at 3 volumes, it’s not going to take much time to read it, and it’s a nice little alternative if you’re tired of traditional Christmas stories.

Also, I mean, come on, this is sheer insanity covered in frosting and It. Is. GLORIOUS. You meet the reindeer family and follow Kaito’s brother and his feelings on finding his Santa at one point, there are DARK REINDEER AND DARK SANTAS who put Kurumi and Kaito’s bond to the test, plus there’s the whole fact that they’re connected by this invisible ribbon and Kaito can be fairly tactile. There are plenty of transformation scenes and Kurumi trying to help Kaito cope as she struggles with her feelings for him. Because he’s a reindeer and kind of supposed to be somewhat subservient to her. I know! This really doesn’t delve much into innuendo like some Shojo titles do, though it’s a little impossible to read it without inserting some of your own, because I’m sorry, you cannot give me a book on a Santa and reindeer shifter bound by a contract with light exploration of power balance and expect me to not wonder what the heck that’s supposed to imply.

Plus, mating season is covered in volume three, so there’s that.

Look, I just review em, people.
Ahem. There’s some nice emotional exploration with Kurumi, and some fascinating little tidbits about the actual implications of reindeer/Santa bonds (what happens to one when the other dies, what if they start falling in love, what if one likes the other more than they like that person, what if they don’t connect and pass their tests). There’s some other, more cliché vignettes where Kurumi and Kaito make visits to people out of season (one where they visit and ailing boy springs to mind), which are interesting breaks in the main arc.

The Bad: I don’t think there’s anything really bad, just that the series really doesn’t go into a huge amount of depth, which is fine. It accomplishes its goal of being a cute little story, but I was a little confused as to whether the third volume was the definite end or not (I think it is? I doesn’t look like there’s anything published in Japan or in progress, but each volume seems to have followed each other after a wait, so I’m not sure). It also feels a little rushed in places, and some things could have been explored a little deeper. When it’s going with definite vignettes/side stories, it’s fine, but strangely, the parts that serve as the arcing plot never really are enough for me. I honestly don’t know what else you could do with something like this and keep it YA, so I applaud the author for that, but I did kind of want a little bit more to the actual story.

The ick: None. It’s all pretty clean, and anything that may have you going ‘wait, what’ is most definitely provided by your own thoughts.
I’d honestly recommend it if you want something different than the norm and still want your holiday vibes. It’s definitely something you can read on a holiday vacation or break. Plus, these are the kind of titles you read just to experience a chaotic jumble of plot elements that you normally wouldn’t necessarily see portrayed in this way. These are the titles that are AWESOME to tell your friends about, because there is nothing so effective as shutting down a conversation as saying “So I’m reading about this female Santa in a bond contract with a reindeer...oh, and there are dark Santas trying to keep them apart, and then they go to the beach.”

3.5 Sheep with antlers

About Selah Janel:
Selah Janel is a writer who is trying to start doing that again instead of reading manga all the time.

1 comment:

  1. "Sweet Rein is a delightful manga that seamlessly blends Christmas charm with a touch of magical whimsy. The concept of a reindeer shifter magically bound to a girl by invisible cords adds a unique and entertaining twist to the shojo genre. The over-the-top and sugary crack nature of the story makes it a perfect festive read, capturing the spirit of Christmas in Japan's unique cultural context. Embracing the silliness and joy, Sweet Rein is a must-read for those seeking a lighthearted and charming manga experience."
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