This fall, Viz is debuting something a little different—"Sweet Rein," a Christmas-themed shoujo manga by Sakura Tsukuba, who is also the creator of "Penguin Revolution" and "Land of the Blindfolded," both published by DC's now defunct manga imprint CMX.
Since we don't speak Japanese, we talked to Viz editor Nancy Thistlethwaite about Christmas in Japan and what we can expect from "Sweet Rein."
I see a lot of Christmas stories in American comics, but this is the first one I have seen in a manga. Is this an unusual theme for manga?
Though many shojo manga do include a story about Christmas, it’s about the romantic aspect of the heroine spending time with the boy she loves on that day. This manga is unusual in that the heroine becomes a Santa to deliver gifts to children.
How do the Japanese celebrate Christmas? Is it as important there as it is here?
Christmas is not an official holiday in Japan, and for most it’s a secular celebration. People exchange gifts and eat Christmas cake. In shojo manga it’s portrayed more like Valentine’s Day.
The Christmas tradition is a little different in this book than what we know; there are many Santas and each one has just one reindeer. Can you explain it a bit for our readers?
In this story, magical reindeer (in human form) search for their Santa who can command them to transform into reindeer. The invisible rein that connects the Santa to the reindeer is like the red string of fate: the two are destined to share a special relationship. The manga is about this bond between Kurumi (the Santa) and Kaito (the magical reindeer). Kurumi and Kaito aren’t supposed to fall in love as Santa and reindeer, but they might not be able to help it.
What is your favorite part of this story?
Tsukuba’s work focuses on relationships and how we are connected to other people. She depicts profound human moments, but draws them in a whimsical, heartwarming style. And I also love her scenes of human Kaito flying through the air.
How many volumes are there in this series, and what sort of adventures can we expect to see for our Santa and her reindeer in the future?
There are three volumes. Although Kurumi and Kaito are growing closer, another Santa is sent in to test Kurumi. If he doesn’t think she’s worthy, she’ll lose Kaito forever.