Having watched as much anime and read as much manga as I have, you sometimes become a bit of a snob (there, I said it!) I prefer to think of it as the natural side effect of having consumed so much of a particular artform. I got through my shonen phase, sports phase, and well…I’m still in my mecha phase and will probably always be, though I long for the days of yore where the robots combined with electricity dancing between them and the name of said mecha was always in the show…but you didn’t come here for me to wax poetic about nostalgia.
I’m not sure whether it’s a case of being hard to impress, or art just being terribly subjective – probably a little of both. You can keep your One Piece (never did it for me) One Punch Men and Attack on Titan – and yes, you can get your pitchforks out if you so desire. 🙂 However, once in a while, a manga will appear that genuinely piques my interest…and sustains it.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I present…A Bride’s Story.
I’ll admit that I am not a fan of the author’s better-known work – Emma, A Victorian Romance – which pushes only one of my buttons (romance) while the other I am utterly cold to.
The Edwardian period holds little interest to me, with its rigid morals and classist structures. Fortunately, A Bride’s Story is set at the turn of the 20th century, among nomadic tribes
whose territory borders Russia. A period of time and area I knew next to nothing about before beginning to read – which is sort of the appeal.
One of the best things about manga, in my opinion, is how it can open up new subject material in fun and interesting ways. I knew nothing about American football before reading
Eyeshield 21 – but somehow it managed to transform all the incomprehensible babblings I heard during matches into clear and detailed explanations. I won’t say I became a fan, but I
certainly knew a lot more about how the sport really worked. The same goes for Cells at Work for biology, and baking for Yakitate Japan. No substitute for formal knowledge, of course, but
a lot more fun!
In that vein, the author does not stint in the historical accuracy department. Her research is thorough, and it shows up in how she depicts the customs and traditions of the nomadic tribes of that time and place. No details are spared – from the cooking of lamb pilaf to embroidery, needlework and falconry, the rich illustrations bring the world of the 1900s to life vividly.
The characters are also engaging and very human. I found the relationship between Karluk and his older wife intriguing – you don’t often see age gaps in relationships handled so deftly
in any kind of media. Pariya’s sharp tongue being a detriment to her bridal prospects is both humorous and also very realistic – Islamic societies tend not to see such traits in women
kindly. Then there is Talas’s tragic backstory and her search for happiness, which had me rooting for her all the well.
Last but not least, no mention of Otoyomemonogatari is complete without the twins, Laila and Leili. I darn you to read the manga without at least sparing a chuckle for their various
antics. As a reader wrote in the comments, putting it better than I could “if the sun ever goes out, we’ll just use the twins instead”
Apparently, tsunderes are eternal and through the ages. (I’m not kidding, I’ve seen British tsunderes in Modesty Blaise, so Turkish and Islamic tsundere do not surprise me in the least)
The art is nothing if not sumptuous. Don’t believe me? A simple Google search will satisfy your curiosity.
Manga like this reminds me of why I got into manga in the first place – engaging storylines, a chance to learn new things in a fun way, and wonderful art. I won’t read a series that I don’t like the art of, but any manga that can make me pause through flipping the pages to really take in the intricacy of the artwork is a good one in my book.
The series is not done yet, and I’m interested in seeing how all the plot arcs will finally be resolved, especially as some of them are intertwined with each other. To tide me over,
I went back to check out some of the author’s other works – while I’m still not sufficiently interested in Emma to read it, I did pick up some Shirley Madison. Her maiden work, it
has an earnest charm that makes it stand out among other slice-of-life series.
So there you have it. While I’m pretty certain that A Bride’s Story will not go down in history as an underappreciated classic, it’s nevertheless a fun read and in my opinion well
worth your time. The subject matter may not appeal to you no, but the next time you find yourself bored of the shonen treadmill of spiky hair and huge explosions, or have seen one too
many dystopian futures filled with despairing androids, a well-researched and drawn historical manga might just fit the bill.