At the time of this review, The Royal Tutor has an anime going on right now. So with the print release of this manga, it’s the perfect time to give it a look.
Translated by: Amanda Haly
Lettering by: Abigail Blackman
Publisher: Yen Press
Yen Press’s synopsis:
Accepting the post of Royal Tutor at the court of the king of Grannzreich, Heine Wittgenstein is a little professor with a big job ahead! Each of the kingdom’s four princes has a rather distinct personality. Does their diminutive new instructor have what it takes to lay down some learning? It’s a comedy of educational proportions!
Having read the first volume, the word “setup” springs to mind. This is entirely what the book is all about here and not much else. It introduces us to the premise of the series–Heine trying to teach and groom the four princes into potential kings if need be. We also see what kind of character Heine is, what the princes are all like, and what kind of dynamic the princes will have with Heine himself. Story wise, that’s pretty much it and if you are into characters, you may like this. Otherwise, there’s not a whole lot to really dig or chew into unfortunately. Outside of the final page hinting at something, there’s no real hook to the plot so far.
The strongest aspect of the manga are the characters. Heine reminds me a lot of Negi from Negima and Koro-Sensei from Assassination Classroom–a great, but unusual teacher. In the case of Heine, he is a short young man who looks like a child, but is intelligent and quite capable despite his appearance. He’s able to match wits and keep up with each prince, while also being no-nonsense and strict about his lessons. There seems to be an angle to him surrounding his education and lack of background, but that is not yet explored. His attitude, personality, and comedic timing help make him easily the most intriguing character of the series so far.
How you think you are doing something may look completely different in reality.
The princes are kind of interesting; the creator doing a bit of a bait-and-switch on us. In the first chapter, we see a side to them that implies something about their personality, but after a chapter that focuses directly on each of them, we see something else. The fourth Prince, Leonhard, acts like a very haughty, arrogant, and angry individual, especially towards Heine. After we learn more about him, we see he’s more of the tsundere type (sour attitude, but with a soft, nice heart on the inside) and his frustration towards teachers comes from a bad, abusive experience with one as a child. He has the most to develop and grow as a character no doubt. The third Prince, Bruno, also starts off arrogant and elitist, but with a brain that he prides himself on. However, his attitude comes from enormous pressure to always succeed and be number one. When Heine is shown to be better, Bruno immediately pledges allegiance to him, hoping to become better. himself
The fifth Prince, Licht, is harder to get a read on. He appears to be a very carefree playboy. However, he is also shown to be incredibly perceptive and more intelligent than he lets on, letting his façade drop a bit around Heine. What there is to him remains unseen. The second prince, Kai, is much different than the others. While he looks incredibly serious and threatening, he has almost a childlike attitude and sense of wonder, loving all things cute and caring deeply about others. Given his behavior and slow method of talking, I can’t help but wonder if he is mentally challenged in some capacity. It would certainly be a very interesting route to go, since I really don’t see many series, let alone in Japan, have such a character. It will be interesting to see what the creator does with this character in the future. While the supporting cast otherwise is pretty lackluster (no signs of the king or the first price anywhere), I find the main five characters decently written and established. However, I do not think there’s enough to them yet to really hook you in and keep you around.
The writing on the book is pretty solid. Each chapter is packed to the brim with character and personality The story moves from scene to scene without missing a single beat. The characterization, like stated, is solid so far and the character dynamics are great. Everyone plays off of each character wonderfully, leading to a lot of personal to humorous moments that build everyone’s relationships with one another well, especially during the interview-focused chapters. The dialogue is decent, though I do find the narration odd. Every once in a while, there’s narration from some unknown individual and it feels out of place and distracting. The humor doesn’t always land, mostly playing off the quirky personalities of the princes or the fact that Heine looks like a child repeatedly. However, when it works, it works and can get a chuckle out of you.
Then we come to the artwork and I’m a bit mixed on it overall. The characters are designed well enough and are easily distinguishable from one another, even if there’s an occasional case of same-face. The problem lies in proportion and appearance. All the brothers are mentioned to be 14 to 17 years old, but their body types and faces seem to indicate they’re at least 18 and up. Add onto the fact that body size seems to vary and be inconsistent in areas, like when Heine is riding a horse and he looks as big as Licht (still being compared to a child), and there’s a weird disconnect between the story and how the characters look. The art often uses chibi-style characters for comedic or goofy moments, which does work and can make things quite funny at times. The layout work isn’t too bad either, helping to pace the scenes and the comedy rather well overall. There’s very little detail put into the environment and backgrounds are often blank voids, making the world feel dull and empty. In the end, while the artwork is perfectly serviceable and gets the job done, it doesn’t make for the most visually exciting or interesting experience.
The Royal Tutor Vol. 1 is a good start to a new series. While it makes a good impression with its main characters, the fact that the book is mostly just setup with little story leaves the audience without much of a hook. The writing and artwork are competent, but there’s just not enough initially here to recommend. Maybe wait until the second volume is out physically before jumping into the manga.