The Water Dragon’s Bride Volume 1 by Rei Toma
I remember being delighted when I heard that another Rei Toma title was going to be released by Viz. Then many months passed between the announcement and actually getting the volume in my hand, I totally forgot about it and then was delighted all over again! I do enjoy fantasy manga and this volume was an excellent start to the series.
Asahi is a modern girl who has the misfortune of standing too close to a pond, where she is promptly whisked away to a village with no technology whose inhabitants don’t quite know what to make of her. A young boy named Subaru stumbles across Asahi and takes her home despite his sister’s protests. Unfortunately the village has a habit of offering up human sacrifices to the Water Dragon, and when Subaru brings home his new friend his mother decides that the odd girl will be a great way to ensure the prosperity of her family. Asahi is a bit stunned by being catapulted into another world and she doesn’t realize that she’s going to be a sacrifice until it is too late. Subaru tries to prevent the ritual but is unable to do anything to save his new friend.
Asahi finds herself in the Water Dragon’s realm. He’s a cold, stoic sort of god who says that he’ll wait to make Asahi his bride until she grows up. She asks him if he’s wearing cosplay and accuses him of being a pervert. The Water Dragon seems to find Asahi mildly entertaining, but he takes away her voice and then sits calmly while she starts to starve. Asahi finally realizes that the world she’s lost in is horrible. Other gods intervene to see some drama when Subaru and Asahi are reunited, but the humans in Subaru’s village prove to be even more terrible than the gods.
I think that Toma’s art, which was always good, has improved since Dawn of the Arcana. Her clear and simple style does a great job highlighting all the variants in facial expressions and reactions as the characters deal with the extraordinary. Subaru’s mother shows hints of evil in her smirk, and then devolves into full-out evil as she takes on the role of putting Asahi to trial for being rejected by the gods. Asahi’s personality is inherently bubbly and open, and it takes her a while to realize the truth of the world that she’s found herself in. Her body language completely changes after meeting the Water Dragon and the villagers. There aren’t a lot of detailed backgrounds in this manga, but the absence of setting is used to great effect when Asahi is in the Water Dragon’s world because the lack of detail in Asahi’s surroundings just makes everything seem even more surreal.
The inhumanity of the humans and the possibility that a god might change due to having to take care of a small girl are interesting themes for this manga to explore. This is a solid shoujo fantasy title and I strongly recommended it for fans of the genre.