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.