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December 16, 2013

Bento Bako Weekly: Sweet Rein volume 1

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Written by: Kristin
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sweetrein1Title: Sweet Rein
Author: Sakura Tsukuba
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 1 (of 3), $9.99
Vintage: 2005 by Hakusensha, November 2013 by Viz Media
Genre: Romantic comedy

First off, apologies for the lack of manga reviews over the past couple of weeks. I was sick, as in didn’t get out of bed for over a week sick. Miserable and coughing and not in a manga reading or reviewing mood. But I am back, and just in time for Christmas, with a Christmas-themed manga to review! It’s another lonely Christmas for Kurumi Sagara. With her mother long gone, it’s not unusual for Kurumi to spend even the holidays alone while her father stays at work. Something changes this year for the 17-year-old when she bumps into a similarly aged boy on the street, and finds herself inexplicably attached to him via a rein only she and the boy can see. This boy is named Kaito, and he claims to be Kurumi’s reindeer – Kurumi is a Santa Claus! Obviously Kurumi doesn’t believe him, so Kaito tells her to command him to turn into a reindeer, which he does, in the middle of the street, causing Kurumi to faint. She wakes up at Kaito’s house, where she’s surrounded by a family of magical reindeer (in human form) who attempt to explain the situation to her. Long ago, Santa delivered presents all over the world on his own, then God sent him a reindeer to help facilitate bringing happiness to children everywhere. Now magical reindeer around the world search for their Santas, their masters. Kurumi can command Kaito to do anything, which is not something she’s entirely comfortable with. Usually she uses the link to tell the very affectionate Kaito to stop hugging and clinging to her. With the help of Kaito’s family, Kurumi is ready for Christmas just in time, and sets off with Kaito to deliver presents in her sleigh with a magic presents bag. Since she would have otherwise spent the holiday alone, Kurumi enjoys herself, but doesn’t yet feel she’s “doing it for the children,” so to speak. That changes when she meets a boy named Mamoru while visiting a heat-stroke suffering Kaito in the hospital. Mamoru is a friendly, rambunctious little boy with terminal cancer, who likely won’t live until Christmas. Kurumi orchestrates a meeting with one of Mamoru’s classmates, playing Santa to fly the boy to the girl’s house for a visit, even though it’s the middle of summer. As summer continues, Kurumi spends a day at the beach with Kaito’s family, which is all highly unusual for a Santa. Typically a reindeer only meets with its Santa on Christmas, as Kaito’s grandfather would with his own Santa. Kaito’s grandfather is not thrilled to see his grandson playing servant to his Santa when it’s not even Christmas, but Kaito claims he’s in love with Kurumi. When his grandfather tells him it’s only the feeling instilled in him by the bond with his Santa, Kaito declares that he will make them real. The ongoing story of Kaito and Kurumi takes up two-thirds of this volume, and a one shot called “Sweet Bite Mark” fills it out. The story, as should be obvious, is about a vampire. One day a 10-year-old girl shows up at his door claiming to be his daughter. Knowing this isn’t true (as it’s biologically impossible), but realizing the spunky Maia has nowhere else to go, Ren takes her in. To his surprise, Ren becomes quickly attached to the girl, and they start a happy life together.

Sweet Rein is, well, sweet. It’s also very seasonal (though it does have a “celebrate the Christmas spirit throughout the year” theme), and only three volumes, which will hopefully keep the Christmas theme from getting tired. Kurumi is relatively cheerful, but then again we don’t get to see much of her life prior to Kaito’s appearance. The best glimpse into her prior life is her comment that she’s used to being alone, which suggests a lot of lonely time growing up with a father constantly at work. Her school life seems to be fine, however, and she has at least two close friends there that she spends time with. Except this Christmas, as they already have plans. Enter Kaito, an actual reindeer, and his reindeer, Christmas loving family. They happily welcome Kurumi into their fold, while giving her respect as a Santa, but mostly cheerfully watching her and Kaito interact (as none of them have Santas). Tsukuba admits to creating this story by seeking out a master/servant relationship, and the bond certainly brings up some questions. Namely whether or not Kaito’s feelings (which he makes no effort to hide) are genuine, or merely part of the magical bond between them. As female Santas are rare (and it also seems rare for a reindeer and Santa of the same age to work together), there is some hint that a relationship beyond the master/servant bond has never existed before, and that Kaito and Kurumi may be the ones to change that. Kaito is a sweet boy, but he is very simple minded, though also very open and honest about everything. They do make a very cute pair. The bonus story about the vampire and the little girl is cute, but ultimately nothing special. And at times a little weird given the interpretation of the lore Tsukuba takes. Overall, it’s a nice manga for the season.


Review copy provided by Viz Media.



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