While the first two episode of studio Bridge’s The Royal Tutor (Oushitsu Kyoushi Haine) fall squarely into the genre of comedy, they also do an excellent job of charting a path of character discovery to give its jokes some weight.
In the anime adaptation of Higasa Akai’s manga with the same name, Heine Wittgenstein has been hired by the king as a teacher tasked with giving equal attention to the four princes of Grannzreich, a kingdom set in as past era of horse-drawn carriages, fluffy dresses and frilled suits.
Every royal tutor before Heine was chased away by the princes, who prove to be a bit of a handful in this anime’s debut, but Heine’s resolve to succeed in his job is unshakeable, and his motivation is briefly teased as a personal one.
Once we get a sense at how intelligent this adult is, despite what his diminutive body might lead you to assume, it seems likely that his objective is a complicated one that could be interesting to uncover over the course of this series — especially if it keeps the laughs coming at the consistent pace of the first two episodes.
The Royal Tutor keeps laughs coming at a consistent pace
Aside from the easy jokes born from Heine’s childlike height paired with the deep voice of Keisuke Ueda, each of the four pretty-boy princes flaunt quirks that make them not only interesting characters, but also funny ones to watch as Heine gives them each one-on-one interviews.
Leonhard shows in the first episode just how far out of the way he’s willing to go using his athleticism to avoid studying. A great red light/green light scene shows the prince on-edge, ready to bolt out of the room as soon as the word “studying” leaves Heine’s mouth. The tutor surprises Leonhard with some quick feet of his own by blocking the door, and a chance discovery of Leonhard’s diary reveals that the teenage prince really just wanted someone to care about him as a person.
The animations here fit the M.O. of a gag show — Heine’s rolling under the couch in his full uniform to get the diary away from Leonhard, for example — but the tone of the tutors interviews with the four princes sets The Royal Tutor’s characters up as more than just stand-ins for comedy roles seen in other shows.
Another case of an outwardly misunderstood prince comes from the steely glare and intentionally poor verbal delivery of Kai. The anime frames the early interactions between the tall Kai and the half-sized Heine well, showing him towering above the camera while he stutters what sounds like “get lost,” but later turns out to be “let’s get along.”
‘Get lost’ can really mean ‘let’s get along’
Kai is the only other example of prominent physical juxtaposition comedy in The Royal Tutor — a tall man with a pointed glare that can’t talk well, but loves soft things and afternoon naps — but his introduction still manages to focus more on his character than his appearance. That’s true for the other two princes as well.
Bruno, one of the middle princes who claims he’s never had a tutor smarter than himself, counters Heine’s introductory aptitude test with several of his own when he realizes that the new red-haired hire from his father never went to university.
The scene does an excellent job of establishing the elite intelligence of Heine while also cutting Bruno’s pompous behaviour down to size. The instant and robotic movements of Heine as he trounces Bruno in a game of chess, or the way he absorbs information as if he’s a computer builds up his impressive smarts.
“Incredible,” Bruno says at the sight. “I can’t believe there’s someone who understands my writing so well, and can give me such useful advice.” I’d add to that observation “Without even reading it,” because the detailed and considerate comments Heine make come mere seconds after scanning Bruno’s multi-page essay on civil engineering.
It’s easy to look past the surreal time aspects of the princes and Heine’s reading and writing within the context of the well-timed gags that they serve, and the scenes also create a strong sense of each princes’ personalities as Heine convinces each of them to accept him. That acceptance is least noticeable in the youngest prince, though.
Licht is by far the most conniving pretty-boy of the bunch
Licht’s womanizing aura and retinue of “special” female friends doting on him in his room set an initially silly vibe for his interaction with Heine, but the looks he occasionally shoots towards his new tutor are far sharper than Kai’s. By far the most conniving boy of the bunch, Licht seems the most suspicious when he asks Heine what is probably The Royal Tutor’s driving question: “Who are you?”
For all that these first two episodes teach us about the princes’ natures and Heine’s credibility, The Royal Tutor’s premiere effectively dangles that mystery in front of its audience. Who is this short genius that no one but the King has ever heard of, and what is his goal?
If the anime mixture of physical and intelligent comedy interest you in any way, I suspect digging into its deeper mystery will be worth your time to watch during this spring anime season.
You can watch The Royal Tutor streaming on Crunchyroll every Tuesday.