Manwhaka: Mi-Kyung Yun
Review Status: Incomplete (5 Volumes/? Volumes)
Licensed: Yes, this is licensed in the US by Dark Horse
Art: This is lovely, elegant, detailed, and absolutely gorgeous. There’s a lot more detail here than I ever see in the average shoujo manwha!
Summary: When Soah’s impoverished, desperate village decides to sacrifice her to the Water God Habaek to end a long drought, they believe that drowning one beautiful girl will save their entire community and bring much-needed rain. Not only is Soah surprised to be rescued by the Water God – instead of killed – she never imagined she’d be a welcome guest in Habaek’s magical kingdom, where an exciting new life awaits her! Most surprising, however, is the Water God himself…and how very different he is from the monster Soah imagined. (Back cover of first volume)
Review: I’m going to start off by saying that this is a slightly incomplete review, since my copy of volume 4 was stolen when I was halfway through it. However, I still have plenty of good things to say about this series, and I don’t think that what I missed would really affect my rating.Bride of the Water God is based off of a Korean fairytale that I am vaguely familiar with due to having a copy of it when I was a kid. This reinvents that story, creating a tale of romance and palace intrigue. Habaek is a god at the mercy of his peers, from his controlling and frightening mother to even his closest friends. At the center of his misery is the fate of his first love – a girl who might have been murdered at the hand of his best friend.
Soah is brought into this world a little unwillingly. She was indeed sacrificed to the Water God, but the true tale is that it’s more like she was sold out. Even with that betrayal, she still cares for the people who live there in her own way.
Their relationship is rocky, to say the least. Habaek has more than a few secrets he doesn’t feel any need to share with his new bride, though the other Gods tease her and control her with bits and pieces of the truth, or twisting it to meet their own ends. The only hint to the end that this will have is the clue given in the first chapter; the prophecy that she is destined to have two loves. The mystery of what’s going to happen is what makes this particularly intriguing. There is no predictability in the plotline. It wanders from point to point, revealing more about the characters, their pasts, and the circumstances they came to meet under bit by bit. What I do appreciate is that there does seem to be some real(ish) romance there. My experience with romances in manwha is that they appear out of nowhere and have no support, whereas here attraction is marked by a turn of the head and a turn of phrase. It is still rather abrupt, but I can see where the mutual affection could arise from.
These five volumes clear a few major plot hurdles, where the extent of their attraction is finally being tested and we’ve met all the major players in the story. Habaek, instead of being controlled by the others, is starting to show some backbone and stand up for himself and what he wants, including Soah. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Recommended: 15+. Some of the content borders on a little racy, and there is some violence and death though never terribly graphic.
Overall Rating: 9/10. Points off for the relationship developing so quickly in one volume, but with such solid relationship support later on I can’t complain too much. It’s beautiful and mysterious, and completely enthralling.
Mangaka: Izumi Tsubaki
Review Status: Incomplete (4 Volumes/9 Volumes)
Licensed: Yes, this is licensed by Shoujo Beat Manga.
Art: Typical shoujo art. It could be a template for other shoujo.
Summary: The star of her high school’s Massage Research Society club, Chiaki Togu is otherwise a normal, quiet girl until she falls in love at first sight with a gorgeous back – a back that happens to belong to Yosuke, the hottest guy at her school! Unfortunately, Chiaki’s attraction to Yosuke is thwarted by her own insecurity and the scheming of other girls – especially her twin sister Sayaka! Although Yosuke seems to be out of Chiaki’s league, she would do anything to give him a massage. The two eventually strike up a deal in which she will be allowed to touch his back…if she can make him fall in love with her! (back cover of 1st volume).
Review: This manga has by far and large the most unique premise I’ve come across in manga; A romance that happens because of massage. And I don’t mean any massage parlor, either – it’s a school club dedicated to the art, and a girl who’s obsessed with it because it’s the only skill she has. Chiaki wants nothing more than to be a great masseuse, so that attracts her to the most irritated, painful back she’s ever seen.
It’s amazing how such a unique and interesting plot can fall so hard into all the tropes of shoujo ever. Chiaki is very much a typical heroine, torn over her feelings towards Yosuke and determined to do her best no matter what. The issue is that she’s torn over her feelings – she clearly was attracted to the prospect of massaging him from the beginning, and we the readers are explicitly shown that. So why all the drama about whether she had actually fallen in love with the person it belonged to first? It simply didn’t happen. Yosuke is a little different from the typical love interest by being angry and irritable. He’s not into other girls. Or, heck, other people. The issue comes in when he’s attracted to Chiaki for her charm…which is cheesy to begin with.
A lot more could have been done with that if they hadn’t decided to ignore the family dynamics and relationships of these two. The first volume introduces Chiaki’s twin sister who’s been busy making Chiaki’s life miserable, ruining her good name, and it’s resolved with barely any issue in that same volume. That same volume also brings up an interesting relationship dynamic between Yosuke and his brother, and that brother with Chiaki’s sister. All the mistaken identity issues just wrapped up for the sake of introducing club activities! Bah.
It wasn’t a total loss, though. I thought the club activities and trickery were pretty funny – I’ve never seen so much involvement from a club president in a manga before, and he’s crazy enough to make me forgive a lot in this series. The only goal is to learn massage and if that means entering an underground massage tournament, then so be it! Summer parties? Massage! Sleepovers? Massage! There is no rest for these kids. (wat) I’m also rather fond of the opponents introduced here. It provides an interesting mash-up of quirks and personalities, and I really enjoyed how it worked with that.
Overall, it’s cute, but a fairly typical shoujo romance. If you have a particular interest in massage then it might be a little more entertaining, but other than that nothing special.
Recommended: 12+. There is some innuendo in some later volumes, especially after Chiaki mistakes a comment about her being ‘small’ as about her breasts. This is discussed.
Overall Rating: 6/10 – I’m scoring it a little higher than I normally would because of my particular interest in the subject matter (massage is really a VERY unique premise), and the characters aren’t annoying.