[Manga Mondays] Otoyomegatari
Title: Otoyomegatari (A Bride’s Story)
Author: Kaoru Mori (Story & Art)
Genres: Drama, Romance, Historical
Published: 2008 – Present (Ongoing)
Volumes: 7 (so far)
Japanese Publisher: Enterbrain – both Harta magazine (original run) & tankobon format
English Publisher: Yen Press
Available to Purchase in English?: Yes (Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Indigo)
I’m back this week to introduce an incredible title by the name of Otoyomegatari, known most commonly as A Bride’s Story in English. This manga is in my list of top three favourite titles, and I hope to convince anyone reading this why it’s worthy of such praise.
A Bride’s Story takes place in the late 19th century, in a Turkic Central Asia near the Caspian Sea. The series focuses on several nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes, but initially focuses on the arranged marriage of Amir and Karluk. Their union is unique in that Amir is twenty, but Karluk is eight years younger than she is; typically the bride is several years younger than her husband. They care for each other, but struggle to find ways to relate to each other because of the age gap between them. In addition, Amir comes from a tribe more nomadic than Karluk’s and is very outspoken and adventurous, whereas the women of Karluk’s family are usually more reserved. Amir also has skills like riding a horse and shooting a bow, things Karluk’s family find fascinating because their way of living doesn’t require their women to learn those skills.
The story begins as a quiet one, focusing on the family life of Karluk’s family’s tribe and their day-to-day activities, and because this is a series focused on women and women’s activities, much of the first volume or two is about things like making bread, creating clothes and textiles, and cooking meals. Then one day their peaceful existence is disturbed when some of Amir’s male relatives come to take her back to their tribe, and they will use force if they have to.
What’s a little unusual about this series is that after volume two, the story starts to branch off with other characters and their adventures. However while I’m only up to volume three myself, I’ve read that the series keeps circling back to Amir and Karluk to provides updates about their married life. I’m not normally a fan of series which do this (Kareshi to Kanojo no Jijou, or His & Her Circumstances in English, is the only other series offhand I can think of which uses this storytelling tactic), but I’ve enjoyed A Bride’s Story enough that I don’t feel like this will bother me once I get further into the series.
Wikipedia also has this series listed as being targeted towards a seinen (adolescent boy) demographic, and while there is a little nudity (though not gratuitous) and perhaps that is the reason for its use, the seinen label honestly surprised me a little. Reading this series didn’t give me a seinen vibe; if anything it struck me as a series that perhaps everyone could enjoy. So regardless of how it’s supposedly marketed, I feel that this series has a strong appeal to readers of all demographics regardless of their gender.
What elevates A Bride’s Story to perfection for me is the sheer amount of DETAIL which goes into each and every panel. I won’t spam your screen with images, but you can see how the author works here, and view some other examples from the manga here and here. A Bride’s Story even beats out my other favourite gorgeous series, Saiunkoku Monogatari, and that is very hard to do in my book.
Going back to the arranged marriage between Amir and Karluk, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t originally a bit of an ick factor in reading about a twenty year old woman marrying a twelve year old boy. I personally found that framing it in a historical context helped me be more accepting of the concept, because during this time period there were (and probably still are) cultures which practice ultimogeniture inheritance, which means that the youngest child is the one who gets everything, not the eldest. I suppose the author could have made Karluk a little older. but then perhaps the age gap might not have the same relevance that it does.
If you want to check an awesome article which takes a closer look at this series, and Amir as a character in particular, I recommend reading this (minor spoiler alert for later events in the series). I differ from the author’s opinion of Amir’s character (that she is too silent and never really displays much of an opinion on her circumstances), but otherwise agree with what she says, and the article’s author mentions a lot of the story’s cultural details which I haven’t covered here.
My Score: 10/10
Do I Recommend This Title?: YES! If only to read about a part of the world which gets little media attention in Western society. However I’d also encourage people to read it for the gorgeous artwork and the compelling story. It might seem boring, initially being about topics like arranged marriage, breadmaking and sewing, but I promise you it’s so much more.