Title: The Royal Tutor (Oushitsu Kyoushi Heine)
Genre: Comedy, historical
Publisher: Square-Enix (JP), Yen Press (US)
Artist/Writer: Higasa Akai
Serialized in: Monthly G Fantasy
Translation: Amanda Haley
Original Release Date: May 23, 2017
Review copy provided by Yen Press
Like many of you, I first heard of The Royal Tutor because of the anime. Many people were describing the series as “a reverse harem without the girl”.
The Internet did not lie.
In a kingdom reminiscent of Germany and Austria, the short Heine is appointed to be the tutor for the infamous second through fifth princes. In true reverse harem — or even harem — fashion, each prince has a unique personality: Kai looks scary but loves cute things, Bruno is a braniac, Leonhard is an atheletic, haughty idiot, and Licht is a perverted playboy. None are thrilled with having to put up with yet another tutor, but Heine is determined to succeed with his mission.
The entire volume is pretty straightforward: the royal tutor arrives and decides to interview each prince one-on-one. Thanks to his talents and his dedication to education, by the end of the volume, two have fully accepted him (one perhaps too much), one thinks he’s fun, and the fourth is just not ready to admit he likes Heine even though he likes his new tutor more than he admits. If you have experienced harems or reverse harems before, you will know exactly the kind of dynamic to expect; with Heine’s pragmatic personality, though, it’s more “ugh”-ing than blushing. (Great if you are bothered by protagonists who waffle every two seconds.) He’s probably the best part of the manga… well, after the cuteness that is Kai.
By the end, though, I felt like, “Okay, we met the princes; so now what?” The interviews Heine conducts provides a simple way to meet the four princes, but it also doesn’t really make me want to read more. Harems (reverse or not) usually give a little breathing room before truly introducing all the members; teacher-centered manga like Negima! and Assassination Classroom have a whole crew of students for the instructor to help while also dealing with the teacher’s own issues. Without more students who have their own quirks or a love polygon, I feel like some of the humor (like Bruno’s dedication to Heine) is going to get old quickly. It’s mostly because the princes don’t spend a lot of time together in Volume 1 to help play off of each other, like Licht’s freewheeling nature contrasting with Leonhard’s stubborn one.
The story does hint at upcoming drama: the king suggests he won’t necessarily pass down the throne to his oldest (whom we have yet to meet), and Heine admits to himself that he doesn’t belong in the castle. Does it really matter what Heine’s background is when both the king and the king’s mother approve of him? And if the ultimate goal is to choose the best king for Granzreich, is the titular tutor going to be pushed aside in favor of a battle royale? Even if the manga continues Heine’s journey to correct the princes’ behavior, do readers really want to spend three, five, eight+ volumes on stopping Licht from talking about adult matters or somehow giving Kai a makeover so he doesn’t look like he’s glaring at people? Heine has already cleared the biggest hurdle for an educator (getting people to want to learn), and I’m not really feeling a burning desire to see Leonhard act like a typical “I’ll never accept you!” hero/heroine who regrets his words. (Think Mikoshiba from Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, the basis for Nozaki’s manga character Mamiko.)
While Heine obviously isn’t pleased about being mistaken for a child, his short height does provide a lot of flair and humor art-wise. He may have only two expressions (blank stare and horrified stare), but author Akai includes several different versions of his “ugh” face. Heine’s super-deformed form looks straight out of World of Final Fantasy with his Nendoroid-like appearance. His sharp eyes provide a great contrast when he pales in disgust, not to mention the contrast that a child-like adult is using a whip to whip his students into shape. The princes, meanwhile, look as if they’ve stepped out of an otome game. They all have a feminine-like beauty, and the castle décor is just as gorgeous. So many first volumes are pretty cringe-worthy, but the comedic, shoujo-like style of The Royal Tutor bucks this trend.
As for the translation, in a series like this, I’m sure there is temptation to include foreign words to make the speech seem more authentic. Of course, the problem is that it makes dialogue more difficult to understand for the average reader. The translator limits the included German to horizontal speech bubbles. Instead, she focuses on making Heine’s mature, collected speech contrast with the princes’. I also like how Haley keeps “Brother” instead of using “Kai” or whatever; it makes the manga keep the formality found in the Japanese and emphasizes Licht’s habit of using nicknames.
Obviously, because there is an ongoing anime of the series, I know The Royal Tutor has a story beyond introducing the four princes. You get some laughs at Heine’s or Leonhard’s expense, and even if the second volume starts the true plot, the whole volume could easily be skipped thanks to “the story until now” summaries.
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