Thanks to the humor and Heine's role in Volume 2, The Royal Tutor shows a lot more potential than it originally seemed.
Title: The Royal Tutor (Oushitsu Kyoushi Haine)
Genre: Comedy, historical
Publisher: Square Enix (JP), Yen Press (US)
Artist/Writer: Higasa Akai
Serialized in: GFantasy
Translation: Amanda Haley
Original Release Date: July 18, 2017
Official page for The Royal Tutor Volume 2
Review copy provided by Yen Press
“What’s next?” That was the big question I had for the second volume of The Royal Tutor. Yes, Heine’s mission is to make the four younger princes of Granzreich into suitable young men, but that hurdle is much easier to overcome when he already has earned their trust and respect. Can The Royal Tutor keep up the humor without feeling like a rehash of its opening chapters?
For me, the biggest surprise of Volume 2 was the strong feeling of brotherhood. When their father shows up and demands Leonhard raises his grades, the others pitch in and try to teach him. That isn’t easy considering Leon literally doesn’t know what 1 + 1 is. They also band together to help Kai’s socialization issues. Considering how different these four are, I really like seeing them being a family and not just backstabbing rivals. Of course, they do get into fights sometimes, but their bonds remain strong.
Another strength of The Royal Tutor is that the titular character is not overused. We know there’s more to Heine’s story than just being an educator (and this volume confirms he has a history with the king), but the author lets Heine stay back and guide the story, not direct it. He plans an outing to the city but mostly lets the boys explore the area on their own. When Bruno and Licht argue, Heine debates whether to interfere as their tutor or let them settle their argument as family. There’s no doubt Heine could just give engaging lectures and lead them on inspiring adventures every day, but he prefers to teach from the shadows, to let Kai work up the courage to speak on his own rather than join him on a conversation. It’s a student-teacher dynamic not often seen in comedy manga.
On the other hand, a lot of his page time is dedicated to his chibi form. I’m sure a lot of readers will find it hilarious when little Heine is whisked away by birds, but it’s also the least immersive part of the story. Instances like Bruno whacking Licht or Kai spacing out are typical Japanese visual humor, but Heine’s transformations are designed to clash with the traditional manga gags. I chuckled when seeing a grown man looking like he barely takes up 1/5th of a chair, but I can see it getting old real fast. It reminds me a bit of Paper Sae from Peach Girl; the rest of the story is rather realistic, but the transformation reminds readers this is pure fiction.
Speaking of the art, I really didn’t notice much difference from the previous volume, which is fine considering I didn’t really have any issues with it before. The scenes where the princes visit the capital are particularly impressive with its carriages and tall buildings. The backgrounds look almost as good as photographs, and the characters don’t look as if they’ve been pasted on. Amanda Haley’s adaptation continues to be strong, explaining the real-life connections between Granzreich and Austria-Hungry.
The Royal Tutor has been described as an otome game without a heroine, but the second volume starts to shake off that description. The princes aren’t battling for a heroine’s heart or for the claim to the throne, and Heine doesn’t butt into their lives like many annoying heroines. Instead, The Royal Tutor Volume 2 is a welcome combination of zany rich boys and heartwarming life lessons not unlike Ouran High School Host Club. If I wasn’t excited for The Royal Tutor before, I am now.