The Bride & the Exorcist Knight
花嫁と祓魔の騎士(エクソシスト) (Hanayome to Futsuma no Kishi [Exorcist])
Shoujo – Romance, shotacon, supernatural
4 Volumes (complete)
It’s the day that has been long foretold to Anne: her 17th birthday. It’s the day the Demon Lord Mephisto has come to spirit her away and make her his bride. But as she’s being captured, she’s suddenly rescued by a young exorcist… and he wants Anne to become his bride?! Anne has no intention of marrying him, but Haru may be the only person capable of protecting her from Mephisto.
You know what. I’m going to let some of the characters describe this series.
Anne: “Okay, a girl cursed by a powerful demon to be his bride is rescued by a young child who works as an exorcist, and even though he’s just a kid, he acts all perverted and — wait, he’s not going to read this, is he?! ?”
Haru: “A GENIUS exorcist knight rescues the lovely but often-foolish Demon Bride. The GENIUS exorcist knight takes her for his own even though she sometimes needs to be reminded of her role as a wife. ?”
Little Demons: “???”
Anne is in a similar situation to the heroine of Rasetsu: she’s been marked by a powerful evil being and will be dragged into the darkness on her birthday. That day has arrived for Anne, but while she’s accepted her destiny, an kid with a long spear-axe saves her: Haru, the next head of a family of exorcists. Haru requests (arguably demands) Anne marry him instead. Anne refuses for two reasons. The first is, of course, his age. But in addition, being marked by Mephisto means she attracts a lot of demons to her who cause trouble — and sinister things have happened to those around her. She’s not about to put a 12-year-old in harm’s way, but she really doesn’t have anywhere else to go. So she ends up staying, and, of course, the two grow closer as Haru tries to find some way to break Anne’s curse.
Of course, while this is a period piece (assuming late 1800s or early 1900s based on Anne’s style of dresses), the age gap is pretty significant. Yes, a relationship like this wouldn’t have been frowned upon so much back then compared to modern times, and Haru is technically old enough to work a job and has trained in mystic arts. Still, Haru isn’t even a teenager yet, and he’s already making some advances on Anne. Whether you want to call him sexually precocious or sexually aggressive will depend on your tolerance level, but Haru has no problem deep kissing Anne, sneaking into her bed, making suggestive comments, leaving marks on her neck, and even climbing on top of her at one point. These actions are clearly shown in the story and make up a good portion of their romantic interactions, so if you’re into mischievous boys, you’ll love Haru. Anne is usually stunned and threatens to bring out her weapon of choice, a whip, to punish him. While the characters don’t remark upon it, and the manga stays in the “appropriate for teens” category instead of going for a more mature audience, readers will no doubt recognize the undertones as Haru takes the lead in their relationship to prove he’s not a child.
Author Ishihara purposely aged Haru down from her original idea of 14 years old to 12 in order to play up the age gap aspect. In a way, this is one of those times where it’s hard to decide whether his behavior is better or worse considering his age. On one hand, Haru is less mature than the typical aggressive male lead, and it is one of the ways he’s trying to prove he can be a good life partner for Anne. On the other, a 17-year-old is falling for a literal child who, in modern times, would still be able to order off the kid’s menu in a restaurant. And, as we find out in the opening chapter, he fell for her when she comforted him in a chance meeting when he was about six years old. We also learn his mother is a commoner and has passed away. So there’s the argument to be made that Haru is clinging to Anne due to losing his mother.
But Haru’s behavior be partly due to The Bride & the Exorcist Knight‘s history. It originally was a one-shot that turned into a serialization. Halfway through, the series jumped magazines. This could also explain Haru’s behavior: his ecchi side wouldn’t matter as much in a short story, but once that was a part of his character, Ishihara ran with it once the manga was picked up for serialization. It’s hard to pull back once things are set in motion — and I kind of doubt she wanted to.
Either way, the age gap is impossible to ignore. Even if a few years doesn’t normally bother you, the age gap is more in-your-face considering Haru’s words and actions.
As I brought up earlier, The Bride & the Exorcist Knight‘s publication history means that it has several parts. It is made up of its opening chapter that can stand alone, the chapters up to the end of the second volume, and the last two volumes, each which has its own arc.
In the first two volumes, Anne adjusts to life with Haru, dealing with Mephisto’s monthly spiriting away attempts and the various demons trying to attack her. Meanwhile, Haru must take other exorcism jobs in order to keep his position as the next head of his family. We meet some of the other Vellman family exorcists as he searches away to truly take down Mephisto. Some chapters are more focused on doing exorcisms while others are fluffy, romantic fares.
While the romance (and associated behaviors) can be hard to swallow, the two leads are easy to like: they’ve had their difficulties with their lot in life, but after nearly giving up, they’re now working hard to live. Haru’s boasts are less pompous and almost cute because of his age; a teenager calling himself a genius can be irritating. Anne also finds her confidence, so despite her condition, she doesn’t act like a helpless damsel who can only cry.
As the manga prepares to jump magazines, the second volume acts as a sort of faux conclusion. It’s akin to a good shoujo anime conclusion of a still-running manga: it doesn’t solve much, but it’s cute and gives you a good idea of their future. So if you’re not the type who has to have all the volumes of a series but hate dropping a series before it even starts, just reading the first two is an option. You get to know the characters and the conflict but didn’t invest too much time and energy in the manga if you don’t like it. And if you do, you can always finish The Bride & the Exorcist Knight later.
This is one of the few times where I think the manga suited switching magazines. The longer pagecount in each chapter allows Ishihara to develop longer arcs rather than more episodic adventures. There is a bit of an adjustment as the series introduces readers to its characters and introduces new ones. The actual story however? Ehhhh… Volume 4 had some revelations that weren’t built up very well, if at all. If the ending to Volume 2 was like a good shoujo anime ending to an ongoing series, Volume 4 is a bit like an anime series that followed its source material and then suddenly decides to go off and create its own ending or canon. It’s hard to describe without revealing what happens, but my reaction was something like, “… Okay… I guess that’s why the situation turned out like this??? I guess?? But why… how… Is that really the best reason for this fanservice? Yeah, don’t like it.” Ideally, a manga should seamlessly shift between its parts; here, it’s very noticeable that The Bride & the Exorcist Knight changes its pace and focuses.
I wouldn’t call this series either a drama or a comedy, as it doesn’t hinge on either; even the action is pretty limited. It’s the romance that gets the most attention. A lot of the humor comes from Anne’s reactions to Haru’s advances, especially after she calls him a kid. Other lighthearted moments include a lazy cousin, the bragging of how much exorcist tools are, and the extras involving Raymond the butler. The drama is easy to identify because of Anne being the Demon Bride. Haru tackles a few cases that takes him to seedy places, and while he is risking his life, graphic violence is minimal in the story. Fighting scenes mostly involve Haru swinging his pole axe with a single swing.
I have to admit the demons are cool though. The little demons are cutesy mascots, but I wish we could have seen more of the demon who loves to clean. He could be Elias of The Ancient Magus’ Bride‘s younger brother, and to see him so passionately wiping windows is hilariously cute.
I agree with Ishihara’s editor that her style suits a European setting better, so I’m glad this story didn’t take place in modern Japan like she had originally imagined it. Her style is similar to the artist of Vampire Knight, as she also wrote an teen girl-younger boy story. Mephisto in particularly looks like he’s stepped out of one of Hino’s manga, so if you like her artstyle, you’ll also like Ishihara’s.
Haru’s confident and not-so-confident sides are both adorable, and his exorcist outfit is a good blend of period fashion, style, and practicality. I’m less thrilled with Anne’s design, mostly because of the covers. In the first cover image, for example, Anne looks younger and more tsundere-ish than in the actual manga. The included color images in each volume were better in my opinion. Ishihara does a great job filling up each panel. It may be as simple as a close-up of Haru and/or Anne, but the pages don’t feel short or empty. This is part of the reason why the expanded pagecount in the last two volumes works in the manga’s favor. The flow of each chapter becomes even more smooth. However, there are some things that seem at odds with her notes. Like, the author says Anne has tamed six little demons, but she’s almost always seen with one or two. If I hadn’t read that, I don’t think I’d had ever thought six of them hang around her normally. Still, it’s a minor complaint, as the art is solid overall.
The title of the series is technically as Hanayome to Exorcist (well, ekusoshisuto) since 祓魔の騎士 is read as エクソシスト. But even Hakusensha doesn’t include the exorcist part, so that’s why the title in romaji is sometimes listed as Hanayome to Futsuma no Kishi. The Japanese version of the English title is The Bride and Exorcist. From the short samples I read in Japanese, Haru’s job is being an エクソシスト, exorcist, but the Vellman family gets the special title are 祓魔の騎士, knight(s) of exorcisms, aka Exorcist Knights, because of their skill. There does seem to be a lot of this kanji vs furigana-ness in the manga.
One of the the things I was curious about was the pronunciation of Anne’s name. It may seem obvious at first, but it could be more like “en” or “ahn”, and her middle name (Lotte) could be “lot” or “lot-te”. Well, her full name in Japanese name is アンネロッテカペル. So her name is pronounced something like Anné Lot-te Ca-pehl. Some reworking of the script is done, like in the scene where Haru wakes up just before he discovers Anne and the demons are cleaning. In the Japanese, the dark text box has him detecting the demons’ presence, and the second has him jumping out to check on Anne. In the English version, it’s reverse. In another, the Japanese version has Haru saying something like, “Are you prepared [for me to steal you away], Anne?” while in English, it’s a statement: “So prepare yourself, Anne.”
The Bride & the Exorcist Knight is going to have a limited audience because of its shota romantic hero and his pursuits of the heroine. For those are interested in it, this is the type of manga that’s better read in parts since it does have that monthly/bimonthly serialization feel to it. It’s particularly noticeable as the series prepares to switch magazines and then wrap up completely. And between the two, Volume 2 was leaps better than Volume 4 even though Ishihara’s style and storytelling suited the larger chapters of the latter two volumes better.
VIZ Media has licensed Ishihara’s The Heiress and the Chauffeur and Prince Freya.