by Sakura Tsukuba; adapted by Nancy Thistlethwaite
published by Viz; $9.99 US
Sad that the holidays are over? Check out this odd little magical manga for more seasonal celebration to recapture feelings of Christmas. Only twisted through the lens of another culture, one that loves the holiday without being tied as tightly to the history and expectations.
Kurumi is lonely at Christmas. Her mother has passed away, and her father works too much to spend time with her. Suddenly, crossing a busy street, a stranger, Kaito, bumps into her and calls her master. It turns out that’s he a reindeer, and she’s his Santa Claus. That is, he’s part of a family that can turn into magical reindeer at the command of their fated partner. When they do, invisible ribbons appear connecting the two, the “reins”. He’ll do whatever she says, plus he can fly.
Kurumi understandably thinks this is all nuts, but she still winds up delivering presents on Christmas Eve. She’s leery of having an instant friend and sidekick, although she craves the companionship and is happy to no longer be alone. Thankfully, she’s very considerate of him; otherwise, her ability to make him do anything she wants could become difficult. His family is also helpful and complimentary — sometimes backhandedly, as when they say, “Kaito isn’t very bright, so we’re glad his Santa is clever” — and they fill the need she lacked.
It’s bizarre, but somehow charming. Sweet Rein is a great way to remember good things about the holiday — unselfish giving, wishing others well — at any time of year. I like the way the premise allows for each chapter to be a different story, as the pair helps grant someone a Christmas wish in some fashion.
If you thought that the concept would be limited, the second chapter exists to show just how far it can be taken. It’s a summer beach story, perhaps the most opposite setting possible. While there, Kaito gets heatstroke, which leads to Kurumi helping a young patient at the hospital. The third chapter is also full of summer events, with a festival and fireworks, as well as a grandfather ghost. The series is only three volumes total, with the second due in translation in April.
The author’s notes discuss the creation of the concept, providing insight into how it all came about. There’s also an unrelated extra story, “Sweet Bite Mark”, an odd little piece about a vampire who discovers he has a young human daughter. Sakura Tsukuba previously created Land of the Blindfolded and Penguin Revolution. (The publisher provided a review copy.)