A Bride’s Story, Vol. 7

By Kaoru Mori. Released in Japan as “Otoyomegatari” by Enterbrain, serialization ongoing in the magazine fellows!. Released in North America by Yen Press.

I have reached the point in this series where I genuinely do enjoy the adventures of Amir, Karluk, and their family, and I’m pleased to see we’ll be headed back there for Vol. 8. But I will admit that my top 3 volumes of this series have all been the ones that venture away from the ‘main’ characters and focus on English researcher Mr. Smith… or rather, focus on where he ends up in his travels, as he also barely figures in this volume. Instead, we get a different kind of wedding, as two already married wives with young children find each other and we are introduced to a marriage ceremony between two women who vow to be Avowed Sisters, a concept that reminds me of Anne Shirley’s bosom friends.


Our heroine this volume is Anis, a young merchant’s wife who is married to a caring husband and has a young child, but still feels there’s something lacking in her life – she *is* happy, but knows she could be happier. After talking with her maidservant, she decides to start going to the public baths, and there meets up with the shy Sherine, who is also married, and bonds with her immediate.y And by ‘bonds’, I mean ‘falls in love with’, as we see immediately that Anis is physically and emotionally attracted to the reserved Sherine. They bond really fast – something remarked on by everyone – and eventually agree to become Avowed Sisters, with a ceremony led by one of the female elders. Of course, this being a dramatic story rather than a history, the moment the ceremony is over, Sherine’s husband drops dead.

I’ve talked before about how most of Kaoru Mori’s titles deal with repressed emotions, and that’s true here as well, even though by comparison Anis is open and obvious. Sherine’s husband was poor, and with him now gone it’s clear that she may be reduced to begging. This leads to Anis asking her husband to take Sherine as a second wife – something acceptable in these times and places – and his stunned reaction. Her husband’s been presented as a good guy throughout, who has trouble reading his wife but clearly loves her. He never took another wife as he was worried Anis wouldn’t like it, and Anis agrees that is absolutely true – except for Sherine. And so the volume ends with the two Avowed Sisters living together as co-wives, planning a trip, and feeding the birds by an ornamental pond.

The mood throughout is beautiful – after the last volume’s battles and deaths, Mori wanted to have a more peaceful story, though she jokes this just led to a lot of nudity. Indeed, the bath scenes take up a large part of the book, and there’s a fold-out color illustration with even more. For all that fashion is her first drawing love, Mori adores drawing the naked female form. But overall this is about Anis and Sherine, and another example of nontraditional brides in what is thought to be a very traditional period in time. It’s well worth your time.

A Bride’s Story, Vol. 4

By Kaoru Mori. Released in Japan as “Otoyomegatari” by Enterbrain, serialization ongoing in the magazine fellows!. Released in North America by Yen Press.

I reviewed the two previous volumes of this series as Bookshelf Briefs, but continued to have the same issues I had with Volume 1. The quality was excellent, but I had trouble connecting with many of the characters due to Kaoru Mori’s standard operating procedure of placid people with vaguely repressed emotion. This was not helped by the release of her Something And Anything collection, which showed she could write loudmouths and comedy as well as the rest of them. And so, seeing this new volume was coming out and had a slightly more upbeat cover on it, I wondered if it would get me more involved emotionally.


Oh yes. Hyperactive tribe of loudmouths for the win! Actually, we do start off in Amir’s area, with ominous foreshadowing about her family’s clan, as well as a cute little story where the tribe’s resident tsundere, Pariya, finally meets a guy who may not be terrified of her. But the bulk of the story continues to follow Dr. Smith as he heads towards the West slowly (and thankfully does not run into the well-written but depressing angst that Vol. 3 gave us). Here he meets the twins of the title, who are rambunctious hellcats who can’t sit still and who are so much of a pair that a suitor for them would almost have to involve a pair of brothers so they aren’t separated. The bulk of this volume is dedicated to their trying to catch themselves a man, and their family’s eventual success at this task.

As I noted, this entire tribe seems a lot more lively than Amir’s. It’s not just the twins – their parents may be more mature, but they’re just as over-the-top. Indeed, the mother’s reaction to her children being unable to sit still for even two seconds is comedy gold. And for all that it looks as if the twins are trying totally stupid things to get themselves noticed and married off, when their mother and aunt talk about how they both got married, the stories are based off of coincidence and luck. This does not help to provide a good influence. And of course the couples contrast nicely, as each girl is matched up with a quieter, more cynical young man (childhood friends, of course) and the two couples learn how to take their own path and be slightly different. It’s only slight, too – I liked how it’s shown the two twins really are nearly alike, even in personality, and only differ in subtle ways that have to be picked up on.

Not all is sweetness and light, thought. I already noted the ominous first chapter with Amir’s tribe, but there’s a constant reminder here at how many folks die young – particularly women in childbirth. Pariya’s suitor notes her attitude, and his father says that the girls with ‘too much energy’ are the best. Likewise, the twins’ mother gives them one last request – stay healthy, above everything else. This is very much a series from another time, and it gives a poignancy to all these matchmakings.

Vol. 5 only came out in Japan recently, I think, so it may be a while before it hits here. In the meantime, we have a wedding to attend. Let’s hope this one is filled with more unambiguous joy than the others we’ve had so far. Though I have a feeling that, even as this series focuses on ‘different’ brides every arc, that we’ll soon be wandering back to Amir’s village.

A Bride’s Story Volume 1

By Kaoru Mori. Released in Japan as “Otoyomegatari” by Enterbrain, serialization ongoing in the magazine fellows!. Released in North America by Yen Press.

There’s no getting around how handsome a volume of manga this is. Even leaving aside the presentation, where Yen has really gone above and beyond with hardcover and everything, it’s simply gorgeous to look at. Kaoru Mori became a popular “blogger” author over here with her previous series Emma, and this new series sees her chancing her focus while keeping the same things that made people come back to her Victorian England over and over again.

The manga itself takes place somewhere in Central Asia in the early 19th Century, and is a nice role reversal of the usual dealings at that time, where a young man in his early 20s would take a wife who was barely into her teens. Here we find that the groom, Karluk is only twelve years old himself, and that the bride is twenty years old! Scandal! It’s never explicitly stated why Amir is still unmarried at such an advanced age – so far I’m guessing it might have something to do with her hunting/gathering/all around awesome skills – but it’s definitely an unspoken worry, with many villagers stunned that she hasn’t had children.

The volume, for the most part, follows the story of her interactions with her new family and village, with a few side trips dealing with the children of Karluk’s sister, who are gleefully childlike and provide a nice contrast with the too-mature-for-their-years lead couple. Amir proves to be almost too good to be true, showing the village the art of hunting rabbits and how to track a nomadic tribe that can conceal its movements. There is a final chapter, luckily, that shows her less-than-perfect side, as we see her completely freaking out when her husband is bedridden with a bad cold. It seems clear that death has touched her in the past from her emotions here, and I hope we can find out more about that soon.

For those looking at the fact that the boy groom in the series is twelve years old and raising an eyebrow, I note that a) this is the early 19th century, and b) nothing seems to have been consummated so far. There is one shot of a naked Amir convincing her husband to sleep unclothed next to her to share body heat on a cold night, but his reaction seems to be seeing Amir as a mother figure more than anything else.

If there’s anything wrong with the series, it’s that things seem just a little too polished. It’s an excellent manga, with good characters who interact well, gorgeous art, and clear signs of an overarching plot that begins to get started about 3/4 through the volume. At the same time, I can’t help but feel that I’m looking at a painting in a museum rather than reading a modern manga. There is a coolness to Amir that doesn’t really allow you to get closer to her, even when she’s being nice and friendly. It makes me feel as if I can’t really love the manga as much as I want to.

Despite that, this is still a great pickup for Yen, and I hope that Volume 2, out in October, gives me a little more to work with.