I did a short blog post on Otoyomegatari (A Bride’s Story) a while back, giving a little background on why I love this series so much. While I’m going to blog the current chapters – with all the attendant spoilers that implies, so beware – I heartily encourage you all to follow Yen Press’ superb licensed hardback releases. This is a story that deserves to be savored with a hardcover book in your hands.
As things stand, mangaka Kaoru Mori is really starting to mix in lots of plot – ironic, as a relative lack of plot was the most common complaint against the series early on. The story is branching out – the last few chapters have largely followed the saga of British anthropologist Henry Smith, who leaves Karluk’s village to travel to Ankara, meeting with danger and romance on the way. While 18 is a break from that line, the story will return to it in the next chapter – though for how long and whether or not exclusively, we don’t know yet.
18 is a very busy chapter, starting with a focus on Amira’s family. Disgraced at having been thwarted by Karluk’s clan when attempting to take Amira back for a more lucrative marriage arrangement, they’re having trouble – their ties to the clan they promised Amira to were cut and they’re short on pasture and livestock. Desperate for help, Amira’s brothers are dispatched to Ankara to try and win the favor of a clan with ancient blood ties. The clan agrees – but too easily, raising suspicions in the mind of Amira’s brother Azer. This is all playing out against an increasingly complicated political backdrop, as the Russian’s increase their influence in Turkey. There are suspicions that the clan Amira’s family is courting has ties to the Russians, but the elder of the clan is too desperate to care.
There are a couple of developments back in Karluk’s village as well. As the men worry about the increase of Russian influence and the possibility of an invasion, Karluk is more concerned with getting news of Amira’s family. His devotion to her is rather touching – despite the violent confrontation he had with them, he knows his wife is worried for their welfare. She, meanwhile, is being groomed in the use of various hair and body oils that have the effect of stirring Karluk’s interest. As always, Mori is deft and tasteful in the way she approaches that subject, though she makes it clear that the objective has been achieved. To what end is another matter – I suspect Amira is still quite content to bide her time and let Karluk grow into the role of husband, though as she’s already old for a bride given the time and place her patience won’t be indefinite.
Young love is definitely in the air, as the clan is also trying to find a mate for Karluk’s tomboy cousin Pariya. This comes in the form of an emissary from a neighboring clan, who brings his son along to check out the goods. Unlike Amira and Karluk, this pairing is quite age appropriate – both look to be about 13 – but Pariya is hardly an ideal bride candidate at this point. After a hilariously disastrous encounter with the boy in the potter’s hut, Pariya ends up crying in Amira’s arms and the father and son leave in a huff – but not before the boy’s interest has been well and truly piquéd.
It’s amazing how seemingly overnight this very small story has gotten rather huge. That’s something I’m of two minds about. Fundamentally, I like the story of Amira and Karluk – their relationship is unique in anime or manga and I’ve really enjoyed watching it unfold. As oddly matched as they are superficially, Amira and Karluk are both kind, resourceful and noble souls, and I love watching their love grow as romance creeps in on little cat’s feet. All of the geopolitics and extended clan stories are interesting, but not as interesting as that core story – a story I fear may be out of the spotlight for a while.
It almost goes without saying that Mori’s art continues to be astonishing. One thing she’s well-known for is drawing beautiful nudes of women in a non-pornographic way, and this chapter is a feast in that respect. You know what I mean if you’ve read her – as beautiful and sensual as Amira is in the bath, this is art. It’s not cheap or titillating in any way. Mori also has a field day with landscapes and some highly symbolic – and gorgeous – panels of wolves on the hunt and at rest.