Bride of the Barrier Master, Vol. 1

By Kureha and Bodax. Released in Japan as “Kekkaishi no Ichirinka” by Kadokawa Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Linda Liu.

Sometimes you get the feeling that you’re reading something in the wrong medium. Bride of the Barrier Master is a shoujo manga. Everything about it screams shoujo manga, and the personalities of the two leads are designed so that we can watch the expressions on their faces as they react to each other. Unfortunately, while there *is* a manga adaptation of this light novel, this isn’t it. I mean, I get it. Sometimes the written word is all a creator has. It’s fine. The problem here is that without visuals, everything just feels a bit too harsh. We’re supposed to admire the perseverance of the heroine and laugh at her biting cynicism, but I found her a bit too mean. Likewise, the main guy has a bit of that “I can be an asshole to you because I’m hot” vibe that really doesn’t work when you can’t see him being hot, so it just makes him seem controlling. This isn’t a bad book, it’s perfectly readable. It just feels off.

We are, for once, in modern Japan, but it is a supernatural-tinged Japan in danger of being overrun by Shades. To combat this, five huge pillars are set up as a barrier, each pillar controlled by one of five families – who are very rich and powerful as a result. A family in the biggest clan has twins, Hana and Hazuki. They’re delighted with both of them… till Hazuki shows off impressive supernatural power, and Hana shows off bupkus. Hana is immediately shunned by her parents, who don’t physically abuse her but certainly there’s plenty of mental and emotional abuse. Over the years even her sister, sympathetic at first, grows to look down on her. Then, when she turns 15, Hana suddenly comes into a huge amount of power. Sadly, she’s far too worldwise and cynical at this point, and does not desire any sycophants saying they always knew she was wonderful, so she hides it. But can she hide it from the head of the family, who is looking for a bride?

This is something like the 4th title in a few days I’ve read featuring an abusive family and their daughter, and that might be tainting my viewpoint a bit. Hana’s bitter wit can occasionally be amusing, and I do like the genuinely loving relationship she has with the three shikigami she has created. You certainly sympathize with her desire to simply forget about the supernatural altogether and become an OL. As for Saku, well, we’ve seen his type in shoujo manga before. He’s attractive, powerful, and smart. Women throw themselves at him, and he’s totally uninterested in them. Hana, on the other hand, is rude and dismissive towards him. It’s almost love at first sight. That said, I’m nev3er fond of the “I will manipulate you into loving me by this written contract” as a plot device, and I don’t like it here. He’d be better off being sincere… except I’m not sure Hana can even accept sincerity at this point in her life.

Again, this isn’t bad, it just feels a bit sour and fatalistic. I’m sure if the manga is licensed (only one volume is out in Japan to date), it will be more pleasant to read.