Sunday, September 16, 2012
Genre: historical fiction-- manga
Published: 2011 by Yen Press
20-year old Amir has just crossed a Central Asian mountain chain for her wedding to her new husband, 12-year old Karluk. A member of a tribe which is nomadic during the summers, Amir encounters some culture shock after moving in with her new family: her intricate clothes don't fit in, and neither does her penchant for hunting rabbits across the desert with her bow and arrows. Nevertheless, Amir is welcomed by her new relatives and starts to befriend her husband, even though he is eight years her junior. But when Amir's tribe decide they want her back in order to give her to another groom, her new family ends up having to stand their ground and fight in order to keep the vivacious and resourceful new bride.
A Bride's Story is the latest manga (Japanese comic) series by Kaoru Mori, the creator of Emma, which as I understand it is a series about a maid in Victorian England. So, it is the beautifully-drawn and very well-realized work of a manga-ka who is known for really "fleshing out" her historical settings. I think there have been four volumes released so far. The graphic novel itself is fairly short--I think I read it in a little more than an hour, but overall found it enjoyable despite its lack of profound "depth". It's not a manga which will require a lot of thinking as you read it, or even a lot of reading-- there are pages and pages of panels with only action and little dialogue.
I loved, loved, loved the art! You can tell from just glancing at the cover, but Kaoru Mori never skimps on the panels of this book-- every character and setting are beautifully-realized and very appealing to the eyes. Oriental carpets are everywhere in the tents and the clothing of the various characters-- especially Amir-- really serves to invoke the time period of 19th century Central East Asia. I remain somewhat confusing on where exactly the story took place, since there were yurts (which made me think Mongolia) alongside carpets and architectural styles which looked more Turkish. I guess that is the beauty of the Silk Road! Overall, I got the feeling that Amir was from more east-- maybe towards Mongolia-- and Karluk's family lived roughly in eastern Turkey.
The character of Amir is my favorite: she is a strong-willed young woman, very adapt at things like bow-hunting-- which Karluk's family have mostly forgotten how to do-- and generally making herself a great addition to the little family, enlivening their lives with her cultural insights and what they see as the new bride's "weirdness". The rest of the characters are so far less fleshed-out, with the possible exception of the grandmother-matriarch of the family-- an older woman who, like Amir, was once also a bride from far away. Amir's brother was the only character close to a villain-- he wants to take Amir back and give her away as a bride to another groom to serve his own political ends-- but didn't appear too much. I'll be interested to read the next volume if I can find it at the library ($16 is a lot for manga you can finish in an hour!) Though it wasn't an overwhelming favorite, I do recommend this fantastically-realized historical "slice of life" manga, for the art alone if nothing else.