Archives for October 2013

Sweet Rein Vol 1

Sweet Rein Vol 1 by Sakura Tsukuba

I had totally forgotten that Sweet Rein was coming out, so when I saw it I got to be pleasantly surprised all over again. Sakura Tsukuba had two series published by CMX, Penguin Revolution and Land of the Blindfolded. Both of these series fit well into the low-fi, cozy vibe that was characteristic of many of CMX’s fantasy series. I was very happy to read Sweet Rein, and I’m calling it now – this is the perfect feel-good shoujo for the holiday season.

Sweet Rein has the sort of premise that is most enjoyed when the reader doesn’t think about it too hard. Kurumi is walking along alone when she bumps into a boy. Kurumi and the boy are suddenly tethered together, and he rushes up to her and yells “Master!” He then proceeds to explain “I’m your reindeer and you’re my Santa Claus!” It turns out that mystical reindeer with the power to take human form are bonded forever to a human Santa Claus, who is the only person who can release the reindeer’s magical powers. Kaito comes from a family of magical reindeer, and he cheerfully and happily fulfills all of Kurumi’s commands. Kurumi is extremely dubious about the invisible tether that connects them and also is very uncomfortable with the idea that she has any form of power over another being. Kaito is just happy that his Santa Claus is a nice and cute girl who is so concerned for him.

Kaito being at Kurumi’s beck and call is played more for gentle laughs than anything else, as he shoots away from her in the air when she yells “Get off of me!” and promptly appears outside her window when she wishes for his presence. Kurumi is genuinely kind, and Kaito’s presence eases her loneliness. She’s extremely careful not to get entangled in a romantic relationship with him, because she doesn’t want to abuse her power over him. In the meantime, Kaito’s enthusiasm serves as a counterpoint to Kurumi’s introspection, and it is clear that he’s fallen in love with her almost immediately.

For a manga dealing with Santa Claus and reindeer, it is actually a bit surprising how many stories in this volume take place in the spring or summer. Kurumi does deliver presents on Christmas Eve, but much of the manga is centered around Kurumi fulfilling a wish for a sick boy she encounters while on summer vacation. Readers also get a glimpse of Kaito’s extended magical reindeer family. I was actually a bit disappointed that a there was a lengthy vampire back up story, not because it was poorly executed, but I wanted to read a bit more of the main story. Tsukuba’s light and playful illustrations complement the story, ably depicting Kaito flying through the air or swooping in to comfort Kurumi. In the hands of a creator with less of a deft touch, the master/servant relationship in the manga might have seemed a bit off-putting or odd, but here it just seems like a way for two people to slowly discover how much they care about each other.

A Dark Fable of the Forest, Vols. 1 and 2

A Dark Fable of the Forest Volumes 1 and 2 by Yuriko Matsukawa

As I started reading A Dark Fable of the Forest I thought that the art style looked pleasingly familiar, and then I remembered that I’d previously read Matsukawa’s other books published on, Late Advent and two collections of short stories. While I enjoyed her other books, I think A Dark Fable of the Forest is my current favorite manga by this author, simply because there are some enjoyably gothic elements in the book that are getting me in the Halloween mood.

Dark Fable of the Forest Vol. 1 is available on


Alyssa is a student who works at a reporting agency that specializes in paranormal and unexplained happenings. As she’s hunting down a myth about a particular type of rare bird that lives in a forest in Austria where young children frequently disappear, a strange brooding man dressed all in black seems to observe her. Black birds and dark feathers are interspersed with panels showing Alyssa’s investigations, creating a bit of a foreboding air. Alyssa and her companion are rescued by the mysterious stranger, who remains silent as he hosts them in his house, taking time out now and then to brush the hair of an elaborate porcelain doll. Alyssa is determined to investigate the silently mysterious Chevalier Bayard Gran d’Or, but there are events happening in the forest that are being caused more by human greed than the supernatural.

As the story progresses, Alyssa begins to learn more about her mysterious protector as she continues with her investigations into other unexplained phenomena. The porcelain doll ends up actually being a sentient being named Pineau Rouge, but it is amusingly over the top to see the brooding Chevalier carrying around what looks like a miniaturized Victorian girl who has no problem expressing herself.


A Dark Fable of the Forest Vol. 2 is available on

The series settles into a well-executed monster of the week manga, as the Chevalier keeps popping up just when Alyssa needs him if she’s investigating murderous plants, unexplained appearances of saints on castle walls, or issues with her own relatives. The episodic nature of the manga is nicely balanced by the developing relationship between Alyssa and the Chevalier, and the suggestion that they may share a connection other than happening to be in the same place at the same time far too often for coincidence. Matsukawa’s illustrations are detailed and attractive, and the Chevalier has enough bird like characteristics in his character design to seem quite otherworldly. Alyssa actually becomes the very type of thing that she’s investigating towards the end of this series, as the monster of the week type story ends up morphing into a climatic battle between good and evil. The ending felt a bit rushed, but that’s often the case with two volume series. Still, I enjoy reading the occasional shorter series like this just because it is nice to be able to read a complete series in a couple days. This is a fun manga to read in October, as the gothic elements are both amusing and creepy. I’m glad to see emanga continuing to translate the occasional shoujo title, as it is nice to be able to stumble across a more quirky story like A Dark Fable of the Forest.

Otome Games Review: Kiss of Revenge and Be My Princess

Kiss of Revenge

Kiss of Revenge is available on the iphone and on android.

This is another Voltage game like Pirates in Love which I reviewed previously. I’ve decided after playing this game that there was not nearly enough kissing or revenge, so the title was a bit misleading. Also, while the story is certainly going to appeal to fans of melodrama, I found the hospital setting to be not very interesting in the absence of pirates or ninjas. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this game more if it was a ninja hospital.

The storyline focuses on a young doctor who is determined to get her REVENGE after her mother was killed in a botched operation many years ago. She went to medical school and selected the hospital that was the site of her mother’s death in order to expose injustice and coldly execute her revenge. Unfortunately she is surrounded by a variety of handsome co-workers.


The current director of the hospital was the surgeon who botched the operation many years ago, so one easy course for revenge on the part of the heroine is to target his son.

Although she is occasionally distracted by the presence of her childhood friend, who just happens to have a salesman job pushing medical supplies.


While there are plenty of dramatic descriptions of close calls digging up ancient medical files and surgical preparations, I found the real world setting of this game to be a bit humdrum. Also, I was expecting more revengy antics earlier in the game but there’s more of a slow build to all of the emotional trauma that occurs in the later episodes. There’s also a narrative device that is interesting due to the branching storylines, but at the same time a bit annoying because it represents another set of episodes that has to be paid for. At one point in the story the heroine is prompted to chose revenge or give it up, and if you want to play the non-revenge ending (who wouldn’t choose revenge!) you have to buy those separate episodes.

The other thing that I found less than interesting about this game is that while there are other characters to play, clearly the one where the heroine concentrates on the son of the evil hospital director is going to be the most interesting one. I wasn’t all that invested in finding out what the story variations would be if I picked a different character. Overall, this game didn’t really capture my interest. The storyline also ensured that there wouldn’t be as much humor, and I wasn’t very entertained. If you enjoy more melodramatic stories with real world elements though, this might appeal to you.

Be My Princess

Be My Princess is available for itunes and android

This is a game that is actually fairly easy to play without spending any money on it, and after an attempt to buy game credit that didn’t show up in my account, I would really recommended that people do not even attempt to spend money on this game.

Be My Princess is the story of a young fashion designer who ends up in a tiny imaginary European country that seems to be bursting at the seams with princes! They all seem to be strangely attracted to her! They are also somewhat bland and fairly interchangeable, but their prince outfits have a hilarious amount of ruffles.



The storylines so far in this game are really not that interesting. So far I’ve played through three endings of a special event storyline, where the heroine runs off with a prince, and in each variation Their Love is not accepted so there’s an elopement scandal but it all works out in the end.

The virtual paper doll aspects of the game are probably the most entertaining aspect of it all. Here’s a screenshot of my character.


And her extremely cluttered room.


If you play this game you get five passes to read further along in each chapter that reset every morning. There are often checkpoints where you have to swap out your clothes for more elaborate clothes, and have to exchange your free virtual game money for a new handbag or dress. If you do not spend money on the game your closet and furniture storage is limited, thus you are Less Charming. I haven’t found this to be a tremendous hardship so far, although it sometimes led my character to have incredibly wacky outfits as she went through checkpoints. Overall, this game was fairly bland, and I wasn’t happy about the snafu that denied me the opportunity to buy more closet space. At the same time, it does seem to be ideally set up for very casual gaming. The plot might not be all that interesting, but it is entertaining enough to login for 10 minutes a day or so and progress through the princess rankings system.

Here are some random out of context screenshots from Pirates in Love, which I continued to play after my initial review.



Up next: the very entertaining Love Letter from Thief X, which is probably my favorite game so far.