This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Married to the Dragon God. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to death, self-deprecation, cheating, child labor, child abuse, prejudice, bullying, arranged marriage, murder, child grooming, sacrifice, assault, violence, kidnapping, and blood, as it appears in the manga.
Tsuwabuki, the illegitimate child of the head of the wolf family to a lion-dog mistress mother, is a lion-dog. His life as a young child starts out well enough with the protection of his mother, but when she dies, his worth to the family severely declines. Though he's related to the legitimate children of the family head, he is treated just like any other servant, except by his half-sister, who bullies him incessantly just because she can. Tsuwabuki does his best to ignore her taunts, serving the wolf family as best he can while honoring the god of the mountain they live on, just as his mother taught him when he was a small child. He's perfectly content with his life, though he secretly longs for a bit more freedom and the affection he lost when his mother passed.
The members of the wolf family are considered the divine messengers of god, so it only makes sense that they are called upon to offer a bride to the god in order to heal him of his impurities. The god specifically requests the youngest child, who happens to be Tsuwabuki's cruel older sister. She doesn't want to marry the god and is disgusted by the idea of having to cleanse the impure god, as it requires having sex. Instead, she demands that they offer Tsuwabuki, as he is also a child of the wolf family. Without a word, Tsuwabuki accepts his new role.
After being taken underwater, a gateway to where the mountain god Shuro resides, Tsuwabuki is married and bedded. Though Tsuwabuki doesn't feel worthy of being Shuro's bride, Shuro assures him that no one else could be worthy enough to be by his side. Still, Tsuwabuki is sure that there is a better bride for Shuro. As it happens, his elder sister is sacrificed to marry Shuro after the wolf family is destroyed. Tsuwabuki is sure his sister would be better for Shuro, but deep inside, Tsuwabuki loves Shuro and wants him all to himself.
Does Shuro really need Tsuwabuki? And even if he doesn't, can Tsuwabuki let Shuro go?
The art in this is super cute. It's very clean, with two very attractive characters in Shuro and Tsuwabuki. This also has one of my favorite dynamics with a beautiful, smaller top and a cute, puppy-like, bigger bottom. Their difference in size isn't enough to call it a true size difference, but it's just enough to scratch that itch for me. I love it. Tsuwabuki, in particular, is such a precious bean with his dog-like features and sensitive personality. It's wonderful. I actually don't feel like the cover art for the first volume does the series justice, so please give it a shot if you're even a little interested in this, despite the cover art.
Beyond the cover art and how precious Tsuwabuki is, the relationship between Tsuwabuki and Shuro is to die for. Shuro dotes on and pampers Tsuwabuki, and as it is revealed later on, the reason Shuro becomes tainted, to begin with, is because he rescued Tsuwabuki after a devastating fall that would have otherwise taken his life. Shuro felt that a good child like Tsuwabuki deserved to be saved, and, in exchange, he would one day take Tsuwabuki as his bride. I don't care for the whole child grooming aspect of this, but I like how cyclical this makes the narrative. Tsuwabuki makes offerings to Shuro, Shuro gives Tsuwabuki regenerative abilities, Shuro saves Tsuwabuki from death, and then Tsuwabuki returns to him as a bride to rid him of his impurities. It's very give and take, with Shuro seeing Tsuwabuki's actions as equal to his own despite their large social gap and the disparity in what Tsuwabuki offers to Shuro. Shuro truly sees Tsuwabuki as an equal partner, which is so lovely.
Furthermore, I like seeing more of Tsuwabuki's background in the wolf family household. I feel like many of these shorter works focus solely on the smut and the relationship, which isn't bad, but it makes it feel much more superficial. In this case, we get to see how poorly Tsuwabuki was treated as an illegitimate child, to the point that his horn is shaved down to be used as medicine for one of his elder brothers, the sickly one who treated him kindly. It sets up Tsuwabuki's personality and self-worth, being tied to how much he can help those he cares for. On the other side of things, it provides Shuro with his ultimate regret: not taking Tsuwabuki's hand and holding on. He regrets letting Tsuwabuki return to the wolf house time and time again, only to be hurt and abused, and he ends up regretting letting Tsuwabuki send his sister off back to the surface only for Tsuwabuki to be stabbed. This repetitive regret leads to Shuro's ultimate sacrifice: becoming an evil god to save Tsuwabuki's life. It's such a powerful narrative because it constantly calls back to all of these moments in their lives that culminate in them making decisions that bring them together. It's just so good and is masterfully done for how short this series is.
It's also fun seeing all the alternate universes the author treats us to. There is an alternate storyline where Shuro takes Tsuwabuki as a child and adopts him as his eternal child since they don't age in the world that Shuro lives in, which is just so sweet and fluffy. Then, there is another alternate universe where Shuro becomes an evil god when Tsuwabuki is a child, and he kidnaps Tsuwabuki to raise him up in the surface world. Tsuwabuki grows up to eventually long for Shuro romantically, but Shuro staves off his advances. I don't care for the latter storyline since it is way more child-groomy and uncomfy, but I do appreciate seeing all of the different ways these two grow together. It's also impressive how the characters develop so differently with such different personalities based on these differing decisions, yet are still, at their core, the characters we know and love from the main storyline. It's just another impressive aspect of this author's masterful storytelling.
I love this. It's so well-crafted and with tons of smut, too. It's just a gift that keeps on giving. It's a rather dark story with all of the abuse Tsuwabuki is subjected to, but with Shuro, Tsuwabuki is loved and pampered as he should be because Shuro knows Tsuwabuki is worthy of being loved. This is one of those works I reread because it just does the heart good. I highly recommend it.
Have you read Married to the Dragon God? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!