March 18, 2015
Sakura Tsukuba – Viz – 2014 – 3 volumes
This volume brings us another Santa pair, and one more Christmas (mostly, it’s Christmas for a second in another chapter), but otherwise, just more of the changing-into-a-reindeer weirdness. Cute, but still very middle-of-the-road, and it doesn’t look like the characters are getting developed.
It’s strength is actually in the cute sentimental stories of Kurumi and Kaito interacting with giftees. The first story in the volume was my favorite, where Kurumi gave presents to a young boy who lives at an orphanage and tried to give candy to the kids who still believed in Santa. How can you not like that?
For some reason, summer holidays are still a very prominent theme here. One story is about a “Black Santa” testing the bond between Kurumi and Kaito. Another is about Kaito’s reindeer brother hanging out with his santa on the beach and disgracing some bullies.
The second santa pair is Kaito’s brother and his 17-year-old construction worker stereotype santa. They’re pretty cute, in that they both kind of hate each other and gruffly like doing cute, good things.
There’s an unrelated one-shot at the end about boys trying to sneak from an all-boys school to an all-girl’s school next door. The author says she drew it as an excuse to show crossdressing, and is now embarrassed of it. Okay.
One more volume. Still a cute, Christmas-y read, so I’m happy I picked it up this time of year (which, because this will inevitably be posted later, is a few days before Christmas).
February 13, 2015
Sakura Tsukuba – Viz – 2013 – 3 volumes
It’s Christmas time (when I wrote this), so what better series to clear out of my backlog? I bought this one because of the cute Santa covers, but I didn’t read the premise before I pre-ordered all the volumes last year. Turns out it’s way weirder than I thought. Kaito is from a family of “reindeers” who need to find their santa “masters” so that they can make Christmas happen. Kaito bumps into lonely Kurumi one day, and the magical rein binding them together appears, so Kurumi and Kaito are fated to be Santa and Reindeer partners. Kaito does absolutely everything Kurumi says, including impossible things like flying, appearing next to her from several towns over, et cetera. He also turns into a reindeer, and Kurumi has magical powers that help her find good children and give out presents at Christmas.
Kaito and Kurumi’s reltionship is a little creepy, but not quite for the reasons you’d suspect. Kaito is openly attracted to and a bit clingy around Kurumi, who’s not really into the whole touchy-feely thing, or completely sure she wants to date Kaito. This is neutralized by the fact that Kaito is magically compelled to do everything Kurumi says (keep away, don’t touch me, et cetera), a dynamic that would be super-creepy if he had that power. Thus, it balances itself out, but you feel bad for both characters.
Aside from the bizarre premise, it’s a cute, middle-of-the-road series. Only the first chapter really characterizes either of the characters, and it’s the only one that deals with Santa/Christmas directly. The other two take place at the beginning and end of summer. The first is about Kurumi and Kaito befriending a terminally ill little boy and wanting to pull off a Christmas miracle for him ahead of schedule. The second is about Kaito’s legendary grandfather and his Santa pairing.
The fourth chapter is about vampires. It was… surprisingly okay, but not overwhelming.
This is clearly a collection of chapters that ran intermittently throughout the year, so I’m curious to see if the other volumes get back to Christmas content, develop Kaito’s intriguing family further, go into more detail about Kurumi’s loneliness, etc. It doesn’t here, because it sounds like Tsukuba wrote the story to be a one-shot. I wonder if she was ever given more than random one-shot chapters.
In any case, it’s still an adorable Christmas story. Not super-memorable, but bizarre and worth reading this time of year.