The Water Dragon’s Bride has always explored issues of humans using religion to justify terrible actions, and this is brought home even more when a god who is actively seeking to meddle gets turned loose. The Water Dragon God’s aloof personality and general lack of interest in humanity other than Asahi was a bit of a protective factor for humans. The God of Darkness, with his damaged human sidekick Kurose has nothing holding him back from some active and severe meddling.
I appreciate the way that Toma has developed Kurose’s character. The intense trauma that he’s experienced in the past gives more context for his turn towards darkness, and although he’s an antagonist for Asahi he’s much more complex than a typical villain. The God of Darkness is portraying the other gods as weak by inventing a Sun God for the humans to worship. By covering up the sun temporarily with darkness, and then letting the sun shine again, the humans are led to dismiss the Water Dragon God as evil and ineffectual. The emperor gets dethroned and Asahi wants to aid him, but she’s again a target of hatred for the humans.
Kogahiko shows how malicious the combination of human and an evil god can be, even more than Kurose, as he deliberately manipulates everyone around him through the God of Darkness in order to get more political power. He still sees a use for Asahi, as a way of bolstering his new position by parading her in front of his subjects. Throughout this volume the Water Dragon God’s protectiveness and attitude towards Asahi is striking. When she asks him to forgo using his powers he complies, but his affection for Asahi ensures that he’ll find a way to protect her. As always, Toma’s deceptively simple art makes the most of the symbolism in this volume, as the humans turn towards the darkness in the guise of worshiping the sun. The Water Dragon’s Bride is surely one of the most philosophical shoujo series that I’ve read, which is also why it is a series I can see returning to and rereading in future years.