Monday, February 17, 2020

Missed it Monday - The Water Dragon's Bride volume 1 (Manga Review)

a young girl with red hair and a blue dress smiles in front of a handsome god in a field of water
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't read/watch when they first came out.

The Water Dragon's Bride vol. 1 - 3.5/10

This will be a short review. I thought The Water Dragon's Bride (Shojo Beat/Viz) might be a cute/romantic story of a god and a young woman falling in love. Maybe it will become that over time, but I will not be reading past volume 1. Between bland art, bland writing, bland characters, gratuitous violence against a child, and the setup being about a young girl (and not a young woman) and the god, I'm just not going to waste more money on this series.

Asahi is written like an elementary school-age child (I did not know she was so young when I bought this volume), but I don't know her age for sure. She is transported to another world where she meets Subaru, a young boy, also probably elementary school age. Subaru lives in a time-period reminiscent of something from a few hundred years ago, maybe middle-ages-ish. 

Subaru convinces his mom to take Asahi in while they figure out how to get her home. But the mom is evil and powerful (a total trope if ever there was one). She decides to sacrifice Asahi to the water god to get protection and blessings for her village. Subaru protests but can't prevent Asahi from being drowned in a lake.

Except, Asahi doesn't drown, she actually meets the water god who is represented as a beautiful man. He's also sort of an ass, but little Asahi gives him a piece of her mind. She ends up calling him a perv and a molester after he decides to make her his bride. It was a funny moment in an otherwise joyless volume. 

A few other gods (fire, tree, gold...) show up to stop the water god from starving Asahi to death (her starving is quite painfully depicted). Those gods also decide to help Subaru in his attempt to rescue her from the water god. These other gods could have character potential as the series progresses, but only have a brief scene or two in this volume.

I'm going to give more spoilers now than I typically would in a review, so if you don't want to know what comes next, just scroll down to the end of the spoiler section...

SPOILERS: Ultimately, Subaru rescues Asahi and tries to hide her back in the village. Asahi is found and Subaru's mom who decides the only way to tell if she's been rejected by the god and misfortune will fall on the family is to force Asahi's hand into boiling water. If Asahi is telling the truth, she'll be fine. If she is burned, then it means she is lying and the village will suffer (basically like the poor witch from Monty Python's Holy Grail).

This scene was what finally killed the volume for me. They do dunk her hand in the boiling water (she's a child!) and she does get seriously burned, enough that she takes quite ill and it looks like she's going to die from it. So already she's been stolen from her own world, thrown into a lake to drown, nearly starved to death by a god, and now her hand is completely burned. She's a CHILD. I just don't want to pay good money, nor waste my time, to expose myself to gratuitous violence against a child. However...the water god does come and heals her hand, and while doing so, seems to feel some sort of actual emotion towards her. Whatever.

SPOILERS OVER

So a child gets treated really terribly, gratuitously if you ask me, but that could, at least in theory, be excused in a really powerfully written story. But this is not it. The writing is so bland, like out of a B-rate Saturday morning cartoon or something. And the art. It's so normal. Just simple, moe-ish art. Bland like the writing and the characters. 

And speaking of characters, they don't really offer much to talk about. Asahi maybe has some spunk, but she's a child with limited insight for adult readers. Subaru is the bland male child hero. The water god and the other gods might have potential for complex personalities, but it isn't revealed here since they just appear occasionally with no backstory or much interaction. And Subaru's mom, as mentioned above, is cartoonishly evil. All of this reinforces my belief that this is either written for or by an elementary school child. Volume 1 at least doesn't have any of the qualities that appeal to this 39-year-old.

Bland art and writing, minimal character insight, and gratuitous violence against a child mixed with children as the protagonists means that it isn't my cup of tea. I could see how the characters and story could evolve over time in the hands of a good writer. Who knows, maybe volume 2 picks up 10 years down the road and Asahi is nearing adult-hood so it isn't creepy that she'll fall in love with the Water God or that he is pursuing her. Maybe he'll fall for her but she'll fall for Subaru? But volume 1 just didn't give me enough to care about to want to find out what happens next. The Water Dragon's Bride volume 1 gets a disappointing 3.5/10.


*SCORING RUBRIC
BASIC SCORE:
  • Story interesting (0-10): 6 - I could be more into this story if the lead female were older, but I'm not opposed to capricious gods who learn to be more human over time.
  • Characters interesting (0-10): 6 - I think the lead girl and the human boy will be predictably boring, although I do like how Asahi calls the water god a perv and a molester. Also, the water god has the possibility of growth given what an ass he is to start wtih.
  • Quality prose/writing (0-10): 5 - this is functional writing, but it isn't very interesting textually.
  • Emotionally plausible (0-10): 4 - I just don't find some of Asahi early reactions to being transported from home believable, and Subaru's mom is so wicked as to be overly tropey.
BASIC SCORE (avg.): 5/10

BONUS POINTS:
  • Emotional insight/depth (0-5): 0 - to early in the story, maybe later
  • True LGBTQ+ representation (0-5): 0 
  • Female agency (0-5): 0 - poor Asahi is the victim throughout this volume
  • Character growth/change (0-5): 0 
  • Quality art (0-5): 0 - very simple, moe-ish, fine but not deserving of bonus points
BONUS POINTS (sum/8): 0

PENALTY POINTS:
  • Homophobic/transphobic (0-5): 0
  • Misogynistic (0-5): 1 - presents Subaru's mom, a powerful woman, as being the bad guy
  • Fan service (0-5): 0
  • Child/adult relationship (0-5): 1 - Asahi's a little kid, I think, and the water god wants to make her his bride, but at least he says he'll wait until she matures. But still.
  • Exploitative (0-5): 0
  • Other (0-5): 2 - awful and unnecessary violence against Asahi - we watch as her hand gets shoved into boiling water! (amongst other horrors)
PENALTY POINTS (-sum/2): -1.5

FINAL SCORE: 3.5/10


🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

All comments are moderated by a real person who only checks them once a day. Therefore, comments may take a while before they show up. Thanks for understanding. It's how we keep this a community of lovingkindness.

2 comments:

  1. I can concur that this series is actually really mediocre, I have read all of the volumes, which I will be reviewing myself after a quick reread. I don't recommend for you to continue this series. The story of it is bland, as you said, and stays that way throughout. More characters are introduced in the continuing volumes but they don't bear any significance to the story. They don't add to the story and the story isn't interesting enough to compel you to read the rest. The ending left much to be desired and just wasn't all that satisfying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad to know I don't need to bother reading the rest. Sometimes I worry that a series will get great after a bad first volume, but it sounds like this one doesn't!

      Delete