Mangaka: Meguru Hinohara (@hnhr_mgr)
Publisher: SuBLime (@SuBLimeManga)
Translator: Adrienne Beck
Touch-up Artist and Letter: Annalise “Ace” Christman
Editor: Hope Donovan
Cover/Graphic Designer: Yukiko Whitley
WHAT IS IT?
A struggling writer returns to his hometown only to discover his grandmother promised his hand in marriage to an ancient god in this magical boys’ love romcom.
Think Spirited Away meets Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Chiharu Izunome is a novelist suffering from serious writer’s block. After he reluctantly returns to his rural hometown with the hope of finding some rest and inspiration in the countryside, he comes across a strange silver-haired man lying unconscious in the bushes. Providing him some food and assistance, Chiharu discovers that this strange individual’s name is Rin and he’s out looking for his wife. Chiharu wishes him the best and believes they’ll never come across each other again, but Rin quickly entangles himself in the struggling author’s life - and his family home!
Trying to clear his head from the sudden chaos, Chiharu finds himself in danger when cornered by the local wildlife on a walk. Fearing the end, Rin comes to the rescue just in the nick of time. With loud proclamations of love, Rin reveals himself to be a real life dragon and he’s claiming that Chiharu is his long-awaited bride! Turns out, Chiharu’s grandmother gave him away to the water dragon in exchange for a prosperous season of rain to help keep their small town afloat, unwillingly sealing Chiharu’s fate from a young age. Now, Chiharu must find a way to exorcise this ancient god before he winds up spending the rest of his life with the boundary-less Rin, or worse, actually falling for him in the process!
Meguru Hinohara is a prolific BL mangaka and those who are familiar with her work will absolutely love this charming new title. Containing her signature, stunning style, The Dragon’s Betrothed is a beautifully illustrated series with soft artistic choices, expressive characters, and detailed scenery. Every panel is full of soft shading, fun textures, and precise line work.
The writing is charming and well-paced, with a sense of actual development happening between the leads while growing their personalities and relationship in a manner that makes sense for their personalities and the timeline. The narrative is simplistic, but Rin and Chiharu - along with the supporting cast - are easy to root for because of it.
SuBLime’s team handled the intense amount of sound effects and conversations that make up this manga with exceptional care. The varied choices in fonts help sell the emotions without being distracting and the overall design is pleasing to read and look at.
In any other story, Rin’s naivety and try-hard character traits as he desperately fights for Chiharu to love him would come across as irritating and manipulative, but the manner in which Meguru wrote him creates a sense of whimsy and innocence that makes him endearing, especially on a second read of the volume. There’s almost a purity to his motives with his lack of understanding of human decorum and it grows on the reader as much as it does Chiharu.
Though it isn’t shown much, Rin’s dragon form is beautiful and full of tiny details that make it an instantly memorable design. He transforms parts of his body throughout the volume to show off to Chiharu, which allows that magical illustration style to pop up at opportune moments that help remind us that this is a fantasy story when so many similar titles tend to forget those elements for the romance.
The small cast of minor characters helps flesh out the story. They add a needed expository vehicle that helps enhance the world without dumping it all on the readers. It feels natural as they converse and reminisce, allowing us to peek into their histories as they catch up after a long separation. It’s well executed and adds to the real-world setting and challenges the characters must face.
I love the integration of folklore and fantasy in this series. It feels like a Ghibli film, where the magical creatures are a natural part of the world hidden just out of view, and the way it delves into traditional Japanese legends with a fresh looking style makes it a fantastically unique read that feels both nostalgic and cozy.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: Language, mature themes, one brief scene of intense violence. This volume is, like most SuBLime titles, plastic-wrapped but honestly it’s really tame compared to 95% of their library and doesn't contain anything overly sexual.
Rin does suffer from that chronic BL trope of being aggressively flirty while refusing to listen or back off when the love interest says no. Unlike most, however, it doesn’t come across as creepy or manipulative, but more naive and filled with misunderstanding. It can still be a bit irritating for the first bit of the volume, but it lightens up toward the end.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The Dragon’s Betrothed is a recent addition to the ever expanding library of BL titles from niche publisher SuBLime and one that I highly enjoyed. The sense of whimsy and wonder in the world had me instantly hooked and the cliffhanger ending had me desperate for volume two! A simple story about a legendary dragon, a misunderstanding, and a man desperate to find his purpose, this sweet and soft manga delves into the importance of found family and the safety it can provide.
Significantly more lighthearted that Meguru’s previous titles, this fun fairytale rooted in folklore is a wonderful summer read that will fulfill that need for a cute, easy going story to make you smile. The mythology elements peppered throughout adds an air of mystery and the well-earned, gasp-worthy ending will have you rushing out to see what comes next. Lighthearted and surprisingly human, The Dragon’s Betrothed is a must for BL and romance fans looking for something magical to add to their collections.
HOW DO I READ IT?
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