Bride of the Water God Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, April 18, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Translated by:Heejeong Haas
Adapted by:Philip Simon
What They Say
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. Instead of being killed, Soah is surprised to be rescued by the Water God, and she never imagined she'd be a welcomed 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.
The cover design is a nice preview to the artwork you are in store for in Bride of the Water God. It is rendered in elegant shades of jade green, gold, and orange. Against a pure white backdrop surrounded by white blossoms stands Soah in rich formal Korean raiment. Her traditional robe and headdress are intricately drawn down to the details of the tiny flowery pieces comprising her golden headdress. She holds in her hands a water lily, and a blue and white butterfly flutters close by. The title logo, rendered in white in a calligraphy script, is placed at the bottom against a curved swath of jade green. The manhwa artist's name in Hangul and in Roman letters is placed at the top right hand corner along with the volume number.
The same white backdrop and blossoming branches on the front cover decorate the back. The manhwa artist's name (in Hangul and Roman letters) and volume number are repeated at the top left hand corner. The title logo rendered in jade green is centered midway down the back cover and is followed by a story synopsis and a blurb about the manhwa artist in plain black text. Interestingly, this manhwa does not include an age rating on the cover.
This manhwa is printed in the larger A5 size. The cover has a nice matte feel to it, and the first four pages are printed in color (it includes an especially gorgeous two-page spread of Soah in her wedding garments). However, despite these nice touches, the print job leaves much to be desired. Extraneous thin lines mar at least six pages and significantly detracts from Yun's gorgeous illustrations in two panels. In addition, small white speckles show up in a number of small drawings.
Yun's artwork is nothing short of breathtaking. In regard to the character design, her style is highly reminiscent of CLAMP at its best. Her characters are gorgeous, as befitting the inhabitants of the land of the gods, with luminous, expressive eyes and exquisite attention to hair style and lips. Yun isn't shy about showing off Habaek's toned body as he skinny dips in his watery element, and interestingly, this is one of the first titles I've seen in a long while where it is the men that show more skin than the women do.
The interiors, backdrop, clothing, and housewares are designed with traditional Asian themes, and even the more unusual objects of Suguk, such as Judong's eyewear and the flying fish machine, are drawn such that they blend seamlessly into the rest of the environment. There is an overall harmony to Yun's illustrations that really draws you, like Soah, into another world.
The story is a romance involving many characters with secrets, and Yun does an excellent job conveying the story through good pacing and tone work, especially with the flashback and teleportation scenes. However, she also includes comic relief moments and switches to deformed characters and minimal backdrops at those points in the story. Unfortunately, her chibi characters really aren't that cute and are a bit of a jarring contrast to their more elegant forms.
Sound effects are translated side-by-side the originals in a style comparable to the original SFX. Korean honorifics are maintained in the translation, and explanations of Korean cultural references are made in footnotes.
For the most part the dialogue translation is satisfactory. However, there are a few areas where I'm puzzled by the words selected. In a few places, the homesick Soah unconsciously calls out, "Mommy," which seems odd considering she's at least in her midteens. Also, in another place, Habaek describes his cursed situation saying, "... I only grow at night." The phrase "only grow at night" sounds a bit strange, and if there's supposed be some sort of mystique to that wording, the translation doesn't exactly convey that.
After years of drought, the shaman of an impoverished village delivers an ominous revelation. In order to appease the angry water god, the most beautiful girl in the village must be offered to him as a bride. As a result, Soah is sent alone to sea for the water god to do with as he pleases. But rumor has it that the water god is a monster, and Soah's family mourns their daughter as if she's been led to her death.
However, something much different is in store for Soah. Instead of meeting a watery end, she finds herself transported to Suguk, the magical realm of the water god. There, she is welcomed into a sumptuous mansion and meets her new husband, Habaek, the water god. But to Soah's surprise, he's no monster. In fact, he doesn't look threatening at all. The god that she's been sent to marry looks nothing more than a little boy! However, appearances are deceiving, and not only does he hold sway over his realm, he has a particularly bad temper and treats Soah with contempt.
Powerless to control her situation, Soah does her best to adjust, but things are difficult when one is a human living amongst gods. Murah, one of the goddesses of Suguk, seems to take pleasure in tormenting Soah about the mysterious, unknown fates of the other brides who were sacrificed as offerings to Habaek, and things become particularly nerve-racking when Habaek's mother, the goddess of punishment and torture (and disease!), comes to visit Habaek's new bride.
However, Soah is not the only one struggling with her circumstances. Habaek lives under a curse, one that Soah is ignorant to. And not only that, he seems haunted by the memory of his first human bride, Nakbin...
For those who love Asian folktales and period pieces, Bride of the Water God is a real treat. From what I can tell, the plot and characters have been drawn from Korean folklore and myth, but Yun turns the story into her own by adding personal touches on each of the cast from the clumsy Chungjo to be enigmatically gallant Huye.
Like many fairy tales, the manhwa tells the tale of a human girl, who by virtue of her beauty, is taken to a magical place, and we get to explore this brand-new world through her eyes. Suguk is the water god's realm in the land of the gods, but it isn't a stereotypical fairyland. Although the inhabitants are blessed with immortality, they can also fall prey to illness, and among their eclectic number is an inventor. But in addition to the wonders she experiences in her new home, there are deep, dark secrets in the hearts of her new companions that wait to be revealed.
The plot drips with intrigue. Most of the pages are taken up by Soah exploring Suguk and trying to find her place in her seemingly indifferent husband's courts. Though every character seems to have a secret or secret agenda, Habaek seems the most burdened with the curse he's unable (or unwilling) to share with his new bride, his strained relationship with his mother, and his lost first bride Nakbin, who continues to keep a hold on him. His brusque behavior with Soah seems to stem more from awkwardness about his situation than real contempt because his actions are indicative of concern for her. There are only a couple of action scenes; however, their purpose is more to heighten tension between the characters than to thrill, and Soah's rescue by Huye isn't that convincing (he shoots the monster point-blank with an arrow, but isn't a bow a more long-range weapon?).
There is no age rating, but I would probably rate it as "teen" due to violent images in a flashback and the near-nudity images of Habaek skinny dipping.
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Dark Horse
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Bride of the Water God