Is there really such a thing as a bad Santa?
Story/Art: Sakura Tsukuba
Translation: Tetsuichiro Miyaki
Adaptation: Nancy Thistlethwaite
What They Say
Kurumi and Kaito have remained together for a year, but a Dark Santa appears, intent on breaking the two apart. Kurumi and Kaito’s rein is severed, and the Dark Santa takes control of Kaito. Can Kurumi manage to get Kaito back, even when she’s still unsure if he’s truly happy as her servant?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Another year and another summer vacation, and yet Kurumi and Kaito are still seventeen. They’re stuck in that Simpson’s time loop where events progress but no one is aging. Sure, the author could have had multiple events transpire during the same Christmas night, but for a series that is built on such a silly premise to begin with it’s easier to just wave away concerns like continuity.
In this volume we meet two other santa’s and their reindeer. One of whom is a ‘dark santa’ who tests other present givers to make sure they’re up to the task. Sort of the krampus of the Sweet Rein universe, except far better looking. He takes control of Kaito and dares the two to reconnect their broken rein. It’s one of those nature versus nurture arguments, as a reindeer is naturally affectionate toward their santa soul mates. Except Kurumi and Kaito actually do like each other beyond that forced bond, and it’s no shock they overcome the trial.
The other santa in this volume is another unwilling participant in the gift giving business. Kaito’s brother Rihito accidentally bumps into the person who is his santa, dragging him into the family business. The new santa, Daisuke, isn’t thrilled with the idea either. Of course they end up saving the day for Kurumi and carrying out their duty perfectly, but they also end up tied together for the rest of the year because neither dude is willing to kiss the other to undo the rein in the off season.
The finale chapter of the main story of the volume returns both good santa pairs to the beach for some fun in the sun. It gives Rihito and Daisuke time to become friends as they attempt to win a volleyball tournament. Kurumi and Kaito take a back seat to the bonding of the other two.
The last quarter of this volume is taken up with a unrelated short story called The Door to Eden. Romance is still a factor in the plot, but it’s more about the length segregated boys and girls will go to in order to find love. Two schools, one boys only and one girls only, are separated by a wall in the forest and mixing between the classes is forbidden except during festivals. A rumored hidden door is only accessible to the class presidents of both schools. A young man named Dai tries to pass the current president’s trial in order to gain the privileges to visit between schools. The catch is the presidents can only visit while dressed in drag, in order not to get caught! The author comments she ended up using the cross dressing theme in her later work Penguin Revolution and isn’t so sure about how the one shot holds up. It holds up just fine, and probably could have supported it’s own short series. Unfortunately, most of Tsukuba’s other works are long out of print in english now, as both Land of the Blindfolded and Penguin Revolution were CMX titles.
Sweet Rein continues to have one of the stranger shoujo manga premises I have ever read. I happen to be drawn to the meet-cute style romances, and Kurumi and Kaito are an adorable couple. You won’t find any drawn out drama here, or any huge surprises, just warm feelings all around. The short story included in this volume is equally silly and cute, lacking the eye raising conclusion that the vampire short did in volume one. Perfect light reading material for anyone who doesn’t want to get looped into a long series and the angst that goes with them.
Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: April 1st, 2014