This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series The Lord's Bride. 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 arranged marriage, classism, social gap, homomisia, gossiping, dubcon (dubious consent), confinement, death, violence, attempted murder, and abuse, as it appears in the manga.
Shion is part of a powerful family, but as a branching cadet family with no blood ties to the main family, he gets all the ire from all the other branches, but without the power the main family has. The main reason for all of the ire? It's due to a long-held tradition between his bloodline and the head of the main family. Their ancestors were once in love but could not be together due to their differing classes. Unwilling to be without each other, the ancestors performed a bonding ceremony, rebelling against their families and solidifying their love for one another.
Now that Ao, Shion's former childhood friend, has obtained the role of head of the main family, he fully intends to carry on the tradition of binding their two families together through this bonding ceremony. Unfortunately, this needless tradition has caused immense fury amongst all of the other family members, all of it directed toward Shion, who doesn't have the power Ao does to defend himself. Shion never wanted to go along with this stupid tradition and, as such, fully intends to escape as soon as he gets the chance. Ao, though, has no intention of letting Shion go.
On the surface, it may seem that Ao is just going along with all of this for the sake of tradition, but there are much deeper reasons that even Shion can't fathom.
The art in this is okay. Everyone has the same face, which can make things confusing. Most of them have different shades of hair color and, of course, different hairstyles to help differentiate them all, but our main character, Shion, looks almost identical to the main antagonist, Rinne. Their hair is shaded the same, they both have short haircuts, and because of their identical faces, they are hard to discern just based on looks. Unfortunately, though Ao is more distinct with his darker hair and eye color, his haircut really bothers me. It's very much Sebastian from Stardew Valley. Not the worst, but not the best either. If you really want perfect and distinct art, this is probably not the one.
On the other hand, the story is quite sweet. I like the whole arranged marriage due to tradition forcing people together concept. It has the added backdrop of interfamily corruption, which adds some interest and intrigue but doesn't feel as powerful as it should since the person commanding the pawns is a no-name relative only seen for a few panels. I wish Rinne hadn't been just another servant in a branch family but someone more powerful and with more of a reason for getting rid of Shion beyond just being loyal to his master. I know why he was given the role of a servant, as it makes him more redeemable in the end, but I still just think the plot to get rid of Shion is weakened because of our visible antagonist's reason for doing it.
As much as I love a good childhood friends plotline, too, I'm not fond of this one as much. It feels a bit like an afterthought, and it presents an unrealistic character change. Shion comes off as doting and super affectionate toward Ao, which is completely counter to how he is when initially reintroduced to Ao. If anything, Shion seems to vehemently hate Ao when they come back together as adults, which doesn't make much sense since it seems the only reason they grew apart was due to Ao working towards becoming the heir of the family, naturally and gradually growing apart. I'm not sure how that would cause such rage and anger from Shion toward Ao, especially when he seemed absolutely devoted before, but here we are. I just think the flashbacks to their childhood friendship could have been better utilized to establish their strained friendship.
However, what I do love is that they end up breaking the bond. That probably sounds completely counter to what you might expect me to say, but hear me out: Shion and Ao's marriage was based solely on tradition due to the bonding ceremony. Everyone sees it as nothing more than a farce and something that can easily be tossed aside once they have gone through the motions. To legitimize their relationship, they must break the bond and go through a traditional marriage instead. This not only shows the families that this is not just tradition but also proves Ao's love for Shion to Shion. Shion can no longer assume Ao is only being with him due to the bonding ceremony but because he genuinely loves him. It's such a nice touch and was an integral moment in developing Shion and Ao's romance. I loved it.
This is another fine BL manga. It's not a favorite by any means, especially since it is so, so short. It is a single-volume work (one shot), so there's only so much content to be had. Still, it's a sweet time for what time we get. As always, I wish there had been more time to develop more characters and plots, but I'll take what I can get. If you just want something quick and sexy between some longer series, this isn't a bad one.
Have you read The Lord's Bride? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!