Reviewby Rose Bridges,
The Royal Tutor
The kingdom of Granzreich is in need of a new royal tutor, to train King Viktor's four very different but equally obstinate sons for the throne. Enter the mysterious Heine Wittgenstein, who is determined to break through the princes' barriers to educate them for their future roles. As he does so, we get to meet the four boys: the athletic airhead Leonhard; brainy and intense Bruno; Licht, a pretty boy with hidden depths; and the quiet, sweet Kai. They all pose unique challenges as Heine prepares for this new life.
The Royal Tutor is the latest bishonen-filled comedy hit, and it's much like the ones that came before it. Think of it as the humor and affectionate nature of an Ouran High School Host Club, with the pomp and grandeur of Black Butler's historical fantasy, trading England for Vienna in the same time period. A few of the The Royal Tutor's characters are based on real historical figures, but they're mostly the same character types in all these series: the smart one, the flighty flirty one, the bruiser with a heart of gold. You've seen this all before, and you'll know within a few pages whether this latest variation on the theme is for you.
If you watched the Royal Tutor anime, the manga will feel very familiar so far. These first three volumes focus on introducing the princes and other major characters, covering the anime's first few episodes. The real plot is only just starting to creep in at the end of volume 3. This means many chapters are sluggish retreads for anime viewers. There isn't much new material here, nor much in the way of plot at all. The two biggest conflicts—involving Leonhard's test and Licht's secret escapes from home—are fun to watch unfold, but have predictable outcomes. They're also covered well in the anime adaptation. These early chapters will be the most thrilling and entertaining for The Royal Tutor newbies.
That's not to say this leisurely, character-focused approach doesn't have its upsides. I felt like I really got to know each of the brothers, and their relationships with their tutor and the rest of their family. In the anime, I often struggled to remember who was who and tell everyone apart, but no worries here. The manga gives everyone more room to breathe, and for the reader to learn each of their distinct quirks and what makes them tick. Even the supporting characters stood out more, like Kai's tomboyish fiancée Beatrix. Additionally, while the chapters are fairly long for manga, they clip by fast.
The manga also takes much more time to outline the historical setting. In the anime, Granzreich was never explained as more than generic early-modern Europe, with a dash of German linguistic flavor. This makes sense, as that kind of exhibition is much clunkier to convey in film and can take viewers out of the story. Luckily, manga has margins and endnotes, and it uses those to reveal Granzreich's specific historical analogue: the Austro-Hungarian Empire around the turn of the last century. There are even nods to this in-story, like a reference to Marie Antoinette (who grew up an Austrian princess) in a history lesson. The specific historical details are what make The Royal Tutor unique in its genre, so it's nice that the manga gets more room to flesh those out. And for history buffs, it raises intriguing questions about what The Royal Tutor will do with its setting going forward.
The art is also close to that of the anime, and while bubbly and charming, not dissimilar to other bishonen series. There's a lot of SD physical humor, especially involving Heine and his short stature, which is cute at first but can have diminishing returns. If you're reading the Kindle/Comixology edition, it renders this in “manga fixed format”—meaning you cannot zero in by panel. This can be frustrating, but everything is still large and readable. There aren't many marginalia to get lost in; translation notes (there are a few untranslated German terms) mostly come at the end of the book, where they are easier to keep track of and in larger print.
There isn't much to say about The Royal Tutor that cannot be just as easily applied to its anime adaptation. It's the same story with some extra details to round out the cast and world. This makes it a frustrating recommendation for existing fans; you might be better off waiting until the manga catches up with the show. For newbies, it'll be much easier to lose yourself in the quaint yet bustling world of Granzreich, and the many good boys who populate it. The Royal Tutor is familiar material, but with just enough twists throw in to feel fresh again.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Heartfelt historical twist on bishounen comedy, manga gives characters more development than the anime, helpful setting and terminology notes
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