Bride of the Water God Volume 1

Review by Rob Vollmar

Like NetComics’ excellent Dokebi Bride, Bride of the Water God is a Korean manhwa that draws heavily on the animistic mythology of that country as the source material for its plot. Though the two series could not be any more different in execution, surprisingly, neither suffers in comparison to the other. In fact, they can be appreciated in context with one another as two different attempts to integrate Korea’s spiritual past with its materialist present.

Bride of the Water God Volume 1 cover
Bride of the Water God Volume 1
Buy this book

The “Bride” in question is a young girl named Soah who is sacrificed by her village to the god of Water, Habaek, in order to end a drought. To her surprise, she is not killed but rather brought to Suguk, Habaek’s kingdom, as his bride. Soah’s designation as sacrifice and subsequent voyage to the realm of the supernatural take up almost no space in the book at all. The reader is given very little information about Soah herself and is, then, forced to speculate on the details of her character as she goes through the process of orienting herself in an unfamiliar land.

Whereas Dokebi Bride juxtaposes a more grotesque imagination of these nature spirits against the ugliness of the modern world, Bride of the Water God presents them as an beautiful race of eccentric immortals and offers their world an escape from the brutish world below. Though the latter Bride lacks the former’s mystical leanings, it has plenty of strengths of its own to draw upon instead.

Foremost among them is creator Mi-Kyung Yun’s stunning artwork. Though working from the Korean sunjeong tradition (a style aimed at young women), Yun embraces with reckless abandon the decadent detailwork of the halcyon shoujo manga of old. As one might suspect, enormous detail is spent on costuming and architecture, both crucial in establishing Suguk and its inhabitants as otherworldly. Knowing nothing about the production arrangements that might have gone into the production of Bride (like how many, if any, assistants were employed in its creation), lavish illustration, however ambitious, doth not alone a good manga make. But Yun also demonstrates a comprehensive and dynamic palette of visual storytelling techniques that can not be explained away by a talented production staff. She deftly weaves the reader’s attention between the verbal and visual narratives, keeping both occupied and engaged as the story unfolds. There are a number of stirring, silent passages that, garnished by the relentless embellishments, taken on a transcendent lyrical quality reminiscent of Kyoko Ariyoshi’s Swan.

The plot, at least in volume one, is textbook fantasy romance material, but given Yun’s obvious ambitions as a visual storyteller, I am open to having my initial expectations surpassed in her execution of a timeless story. Even if what we’ve seen so far is representative of Bride of the Water God‘s average depth, there is already ample excuse to consider it as a satisfying diversion and an important addition to the sum of well-executed Korean manhwa now available in English. Highly recommended.

Similar Posts: Dokebi Bride Volume 1 § Ed Went to the Otakon Manhwa Panel § Kingdom of the Winds Book 1 § First Manhwa Moveable Feast Announced § Netcomics: Dokebi Bride, Can’t Lose You, Boy Princess, Not So Bad, Madtown Hospital

8 Comments

  1. Ed Sizemore

    Rob, does NetComics put any cultural notes in the back of their books to help explain Korean mythology?

  2. Ed,

    Thus far, they have not. From what I can contextually gather, Korean shamanism and mythology are complex and differ from region to region so it might be difficult to present just one facet of those beliefs without excluding someone else.

    Case in point, the cosmology of just these two examples (Dokebi Bride, Bride of the Water God) are so divergent that the only easy comparison between them is that they both originate from Korea.

    Thanks, R.

  3. Ed Sizemore

    Rob, Thanks for the information. I plan on checking out both books. Sounds like they will motivate me to look into Korean mythology also.

  4. [...] At Coffeeandink, Mely has a long and spoilery review of vol. 7 of Godchild. Rob Vollmar reviews vol. 1 of Bride of the Water God, a manhwa that has been getting some good buzz, at Comics Worth Reading. Evil Omar posts some short [...]

  5. ive read vol 1 and 2 all i can say is thats its a beautiful work of art… so worth reading… but you just have to wait until it get translated!

  6. Dark Horse Manhwa Trivia:
    Heejeong Haas (translator for BRIDE OF THE WATER GOD) also helps with some of the more complicated modern cultural references in the bonus pages of Park Joong-Ki’s SHAMAN WARRIOR series.

    BRIDE OF THE WATER GOD volume 1 was actually lettered by Andy Grossberg and Studio Cutie, NOT Steve Dutro (who letters SHAMAN WARRIOR — as well as Dark Horse’s BANYA and EDEN titles). The second printing of BRIDE OF THE WATER GOD vol. 1 will fix this error.

    BRIDE OF THE WATER GOD volume 2 will include several promotional photo pages of creator Mi-Kyung Yun right after her cartoony bonus pages — those were provided by her Korean publisher.

    Thanks for checkin it out!
    -Philip Simon

  7. [...] on the exploration of Korean natural mysticism that is used to such striking effect in manhwa like Bride of the Water God and Dokebi Bride. The cosmology in Kingdom hews closer to Dokebi Bride in the sense of danger that [...]

  8. Roger Perry

    Very excellent Manga! I was literally spellbound and blown away by the incredible detailed artwork and story. Went to my local bookstore to buy a copy of this Manga, because I read about it on the Internet. Being a “Naruto” series fan and a person who does fan artwork, I have to say the artwork of BofWG Vol. 1 is the absolutely most awesome of Manga I have ever read other than Naruto series.Definitely a must read book and hoping to buy Volume 2 of “The Bride of the Water God” at my nearest bookstore. Great book!

Leave a Reply