Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Water Dragon's Bride
Asahi has grown up and continues to be trapped in the world she was taken to. Although she enjoys spending time with Subaru and her attendants, she still yearns for home. She suspects that the Water God could help her get there, but he continues to be disinterested in her life…or does he? When Asahi is kidnapped by a village seeking her powers as priestess and later sought out by the Emperor for those same abilities, the Water God decides to spend more than just the three days of her yearly “sacrifice” with her by coming to the village in human guise…
For the first two books of Rei Tōma's fantasy series about a modern girl whisked away to another world where she becomes the sacrifice, and later priestess of, the Water God, there was a suspicion that ultimately the story would boil down to a question of whether Asahi would end up being romanced by the eponymous god or her friend Subaru. We perhaps should have known better – Rei Tōma's previous series to be released in English, Dawn of the Arcana, proved itself to be much more complex than initial forecasts of romantic rivalry predicted, and that may hold true for The Water Dragon's Bride as well. It's the reason that could be surprising: Subaru, once the Water God comes to spend time in the village, is willing to step aside.
Whether or not that will continue of course remains to be seen, but it's an interesting change from many shoujo series featuring a heroine and two men. There's also the fact that ten-odd years down the road from her initial journey to this world, Asahi remains firmly attached to her original one. She enjoys aspects of her current life and she loves her friends, but she can't forget where she came from, and her greatest wish remains returning home. Again, that's a distinct difference from other similar-themed shoujo series, such as From Far Away or Red River, where by this point the heroine either has accepted or is on the verge of accepting the fact that this new world is where she's going to be staying.
Of course, those heroines are also leading more exciting lives. Asahi's is very routine: every year she performs a dance to the Water God before spending three days underwater with him (initially the result of a fall from the dock) and the rest of the time she simply lives day-to-day. Until the other village comes to capture her in volume three, there's the firm impression that she's never really varied from this routine – she's the protected priestess in a secluded rural town, and she lives according to that expectation. This means that she still has plenty of time to think about where she came from, and the fact that she still doesn't have her voice (which does change in these volumes) means that she's still restricted in how she is able to interact and communicate with people.
The restoration of Asahi's voice is almost as big a turning point for her as her chance to venture outside of the village. For the first time since she initially met him, Asahi is able to vent her frustrations with the Water God, blaming him for not only her present life, but also for his “gift” of summoning rain when she cries. This has caused Asahi to repress her emotions, not wanting to worry Subaru or to cause catastrophic flooding when she's sad. The Water God's confusion is what ultimately makes him decide to spend some time with Asahi in the human realm – he honestly thought that he was giving her a useful power when he gave her the gift of rain, and the fact that she has both compassion for others and deep emotions are utterly foreign to him. It's not clear whether it is Asahi specifically or humans in general that he wants to learn more about, but his descent (ascent, since he lives underwater?) to the regular world may be a sign of great changes to come.
In the meantime, Asahi's powers, or at least her status as a priestess who actually has the ear of her god, is no longer unknown to the outside world. That, too, likely portends major changes for both Asahi and the village – not only does her kidnapping lead to a pitched battle between her town and the kidnappers, but now the child emperor of the land knows about her as well. One of his priestesses is able to see through the Water God's human guise, and although Asahi denies any great powers when she is summoned, the fact that she has the modern knowledge of a couple of tricks to help with the emperor's asthma means that she's not likely to be away from the capital for long. This slow-paced series may be gearing up for something more in the next volume or so.
The Water Dragon's Bride remains an interesting take on both mythology and the isekai genre, while still holding itself apart from the herd with its languid pacing and reluctance to telegraph where it's ultimately headed. Both of those are good things, although they may make the series too slow for some readers, and these two volumes open up Asahi's world a little bit. By returning her voice, the series also allows her to take a more active role in her fate. Between that and her increasingly known powers, it feels like these volumes may just have been a prologue to what will really shape Asahi's life in this other world.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Asahi's world begins to open both literally and figuratively, Water God and Asahi both taking more active roles