The Water Dragon’s Bride Volume 11 by Rei Toma
I was genuinely not sure what to expect in the final volume of The Water Dragon’s Bride. While I naturally tend to assume that a happy ending is a given in a shoujo series, this series has explored the nature of humanity through the slowly changing personality of a god. It has also been unflinching about portraying all the petty and dark aspects of human nature, especially the machinations of humans who attempt to take advantage of the divine.
In the end, the final volume of this series has an elegantly constructed ending that allows for multiple moments of closure, another opportunity to ponder the nature of immortality, and some flashbacks that add additional resonance and meaning to the previous volumes. The Water Dragon God’s power is now fading after investing power into Asahi. Before he becomes too weak and disappears, he announces that he will send her back to her world. Asahi decides that she wants to spend time enjoying regular activities like picking berries and going fishing. Asahi, Subaru, and the Water Dragon God enjoy some brief lyrical moments just doing basic human activities. Toma’s skills in paneling and illustration are shown off to great advantage throughout this final volume, as brief wordless scenes convey a depth of emotion that make dialog and description unnecessary.
As the Water Dragon God prepares his farewell, Subaru gets a chance to be heroic yet again, looking out for Asahi and her future in a way that she might not immediately appreciate. Themes of longing and loss are explored as The Water Dragon God moves into a new plane of existence and Asahi integrates back into the life that she’s left behind twice. Overall, this was a tremendously affecting series, with a mystical and elegiac quality that sets it apart from other fantasy shoujo that I’ve read. I hope more of Toma’s manga makes it over here.