A Bride’s Story Volume 1 Manga Review

乙嫁語り/Otoyome-Gatari
A Bride’s Story Volume 01

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SPOILER Summary/Synopsis:

A Bride's Story Volume 1Twenty year old Amir is sent by her family to marry Karluk Eihon, a twelve year old boy and youngest male in his family.  As such, she now joins the family, consisting of Karluk’s paternal grandparents, his parents, his oldest sister, husband (who married into the family), and their children, as well as a foreigner named Smith, who’s living with them while doing research. After their marriage, Amir works hard to be a contributing member of the household, making clothing for Karluk (though the cloth had been intended for her to make clothing for herself), helping around the house, and even going rabbit hunting to make a rabbit stew.   Her skills with the bow are so impressive, the family agrees to the request of the children to buy them bows and have Amir teach them.

Rostem, the youngest of Karluk’s nephews, shirks on his chores to watch an older man make elaborately carved window coverings and support beams. Karluk’s oldest sister, Seleke, enters Karluk’s and Amir’s room to find them putting up new wall carpets, which impresses her and other family members. Seleke asks where Rostem is, but they don’t know.  He’s still with the older man, intently learning about the man’s carving business despite Rostem’s young age.  When Rostem returns, it is getting late and his mother catches him, punishing him for going off to play without having done his chores.  As such, he’s to get no dinner and he has to do his chores.  He does his chores but Seleke feels sorry for her son and has Amir bring him food. Amir chats with Rostem about the importance of taking obeying one’s parents and doing the assigned chores but says she won’t be sneaking him food again.

The next day, Rostem is told told to clean up trash in the yard, but he sweeps it into a pile and hides it so he can spend time with the wood carver again. When he returns with a wooden pendant, his siblings end up taking it from him and in the fight that breaks out, Rostem runs out and is nearly trampled by his father on a horse. After learning the story, Rostem and family visit the wood carver, who agrees to carve pendants for the children. Seleke discovers Rostem’s hidden trash pile and again punishes him to no dinner. As before, she starts feeling sorry for him but when she tries to get Amir to help, Amir refuses, saying she told Rostem she’d only sneak him food one time.

Karluk’s father has a sheath for his nomadic brother, so Karluk offers to take the sheath to his uncle’s family so that he can introduce Amir to them as well. Amir and Karluk begin search the area where his uncle’s clan might be.  During their trip, Amir finds a pomegranate tree and they collect a lot of fruit. Continuing the journey, Amir spots a fox that is hunting a couple of rabbits. She begins hunting the fox and shows not only her impressive bow skills, but her impressive hunting and stalking skills. As it is getting late, Karluk thinks they should return home but Amir hears a bleating lamb. Rescuing it, they soon find Karluk’s uncle’s encampment.

Umak, Karluk’s uncle, has a celebration for Karluk’s recent nuptials though they are shocked by how “old” Amir is, since she won’t be able to give birth to as many children. After the celebration, where Karluk now drinks alcohol since he’s considered a man, Amir and Karluk are given one of the yurt tents to sleep in. Karluk, knowing how the older members of Umak’s clan quietly thought Amir was much to old to be a new wife, assures her that this is not a problem.  In thanks, she kisses him and then undresses, forcing him to do so as well, so they can snuggle under the covers for warmth.

Amir’s oldest brother, Azel, is sent along with two cousins by the Halgal clan to retrieve Amir since another girl they’d sent to marry into another family had died, denying the Halgal clan of an attempt to acquire new lands. Azel arrives at the Eihon home while Amir and Karluk are still out, and demands Amir’s return. Things are about to get ugly when the matron, Balkirsh, enters with her bow and fires a shot past Azel’s head. Azel’s claim of a right to force Amir to return, since she’s born no children, is refuted by Balkrish, who says that Amir is with child.  Azel and cousins leave and Balkirsh tells her family that even if Amir isn’t yet pregnant, she will be one day and that’s good enough for her as a former member of Amir’s clan.

After Amir and Karluk help Umak’s clan with their sheep, they return home. Karluk immediately senses something happened while they were away but no one says anything about it and he does not press the issue. Karluk gets sick and runs a temperature, causing Amir to worry greatly and care for her husband.  Because Amir has become so distressed, it takes Balkirsh to calm Amir and assure her that even though illness can sometimes take a person’s life, this will not be the case this time and a doctor confirms it. When Karluk gets better, a simple sneeze has the worried Amir come running. When he goes to thank the doctor for treating him, he gives into Amir’s request to wear extra clothing, so much so that he can’t even mount his horse.

Thoughts/Review:

Its not too often that a manga title gets such massive buzz upon its release in the U.S.  That said, a number of people asked me if I would be blogging A Bride’s Tale and cited reasons why they thought I’d like it. Further to that, Twitter had some buzz about it shortly after its publication date in the U.S.   This combination of buzz did pique my curiosity enough to check into it.  Since I needed one more book to meet an online order requirement for free shipping, I decided to take a risk.

I’m not sure exactly why, but Yen Press decided to print this manga as a hardbound volume rather than a traditional paperback. I’ve got no problem with that at all and indeed, the larger page size allows for a better view of the artwork (which I’ll discuss in a bit).  My understanding is that the Japanese did not release a hardbound volume of this manga (and I find no evidence of such) so this is a value-add on the American side.

Since I started out talking Yen Press, I’ll continue.  Despite being a title from Yen Press, who have publicly stated their support for Japanese honorifics in their publications, and being translated by William Flanagan, who has long included the major honorifics in his works, all Japanese honorifics have been stripped from the adaptation. Now, before anyone starts whacking me, let me say that I understand “why.”  The logic goes that a title not set in Japan (in this case, Central Asia) should not have Japanese honorifics included in the English adaptation.  That makes sense to me but it is not my preference. After all, even for a title like Gunsmith Cats, which is set in the United States, I’m still interested in seeing the Japanese perspective, right down to the honorific usage.

Ultimately, my preference would have been for Mori-sensei to have used honorifics and terms from the Central Asian region to give the manga an even greater authentic feel. After all, Mori-sensei did a great deal of work in researching costumes, customs, hunting, names, etc. and so going that one extra step would have been perfect. However, I’m informed that there were no such phraseology used. Bummer though not surprising I guess.

Onto the story.

Although I can’t say that this manga is the most interesting manga I’ve ever read, it certainly is intriguing. For starters, there’s the concept of a 12-year old boy marrying a 20-year old woman. In our modern society, such a relationship is criminal and any act of sexual congress would be considered rape.  However, for the time period of the manga, such a relationship is not criminal. In fact, as far as the characters in the manga are concerned, Amir basically an “old maid” who managed to get lucky enough to be given to another clan to marry, even if her husband is only 12. As some characters stated, a bride should be young, meaning a 20-year old male marrying a 12-year old girl would be considered fine since she’d have lots of years to have children.

As to Amir and Karluk’s relationship, Mori-sensei deftly handles the sexual aspects by acknowledging Karluk’s age and his not quite yet being ready for sex.  My assumption is that even though it would be pretty much expected for a husband to “take” his bride on the night of their wedding, Amir and Karluk still have not consummated their relationship.  It is not expressly stated in the manga, but there are little tells scattered throughout to give this impression. The story appears to be paving the way for the day when Karluk is ready and I expect there would be a scene similar to the one in Maison Ikkoku, where the hero and heroine of that manga finally consummated their relationship in the final volume.  I’m not saying that Mori-sensei will wait until the final volume for this to happen, but I’m guessing she’ll take her time.

Further to that, I like how Amir and Karluk are done. Despite his young age, Karluk knows he is a man with responsibilities now, even though he doesn’t have to go earn a living since he’s living in the family compound. His family appears to be fairly well off so he may not have to worry too much about doing more than helping around the house since he will apparently inherit it.  As for how Karluk treats Amir, despite their age difference and short amount of time to know her, he cares for her.

Amir not only cares for Karluk, but dotes on him greatly. Its clear that she didn’t expect to be wed to a 12-year old boy, but she is and she is going to be a great wife to him. Being a great wife started with getting the in-laws to accept her as one of them, which she did easily.  Then, she stays at Karluk’s side as much as possible. For her, this is her place since they do not yet have children. At the same time, I get the sense that she is working on Karluk to help him be more comfortable with her and prepping him for the time when they will consummate their marriage. Most of the time, it is subtle little things she does but it was a little more overt when she undresses and undresses him so they can snuggle for warmth in the yurt. Sex may not have happened but having Amir’s naked body next to Karluk’s gets him used to the notion and more.

Amir’s family are apparently going to be the villains on this manga. I had the strong impression that even though Amir’s brother and cousins left, things were now set in motion for them to take more drastic measures.  Maybe Mori-sensei is planning for Karluk to play the role of a knight in shinning armor riding on a white horse to save Amir from her family’s schemes.

The only time I ever comment on artwork of a manga title is if it is really bad, really good, or has something that warrants comment on.  In this case, Mori-sensei’s artwork is very beautiful and highly detailed.  The elaborate clothing of the characters here, of which there are many, is just astounding to look upon. Mori-sensei’s animals not only look like animals, but she has captured properly riding a horse, shooting a bow from horseback, hunting animals, skinning animals, and so forth.  Indeed, Amir’s shooting rabbits and the fox made me wonder if animal rights and vegan people would scream in horror at what was being depicted. I’m guessing this manga wouldn’t be in the Rainbow Warrior‘s library.  ^_^;;;

Still, as I said before, Yen Press using a larger book size allows for one to better appreciate Mori-sensei’s most excellent and beautiful artwork.

Since the manga appears to be a quarterly (or so) publication in Japan, volume 3 is only just now coming out in Japan even though the series started in 2008.  That means that when we get caught up, we’ll have quite a long wait between volumes.  ^_^;;;

So, while the adaptation may not have been the way I wanted, in the end, I found that the pluses of this manga outweighed the negatives with the interesting story, interesting characters, and beautiful artwork.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be purchasing volume 2 when it comes out in late October from Yen Press.  ^_~

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8 Responses to “A Bride’s Story Volume 1 Manga Review”

  1. Hogart says:

    Otoyomegatari came around at a good time – I was hankering just for another of “Victorian Romance Emma” type of manga.

    I love Mori’s ability to turn slice of life into a fairly accurate historical documentary. It’s almost as oddly intriguing as watching come up with one of her exquisite drawings: http://natalie.mu/comic/pp/otoyomegatari

  2. arimareiji says:

    Just my two cents, but the “We can’t use honorifics that were in the original work, apparently because we don’t think they should have been used in the first place” comes across as being patronizing as hell. (>_<)# You could make a better case for whitewashing Huck Finn of all references to race than you could make for this.

  3. Angry Turk says:

    It’s disappointing that many of the names in the English version are adapted with no apparent care for what kinds of names people in the region actually use. It’s the height of stupidity to call the heroine Amir, a VERY male name, she should have been called the female version Amira. No, the fact that the Japanese version has it as Amiru doesn’t mean Amir is more accurate than Amira, because the ending vowel is weak enough for the Japanese to write it Amiru and not Amira, which in Japanese has a much clearer final vowel. Eihon should be Ayhan, Azel should be Azer, Rostem should be Rostam and so on. I really wish the translator had done a bit of research instead of just tweaking the approximated Japanese versions. A number of Turkic languages use the Latin alphabet so it’s not like it’s difficult to look these things up. Americans should have more respect for Turkic people.

  4. Angry Turk says:

    @arimareiji — I’m sorry but what the hell was that supposed to mean? Turkic people don’t use Japanese honorifics so it’d be idiotic to keep them in this story when it’s translated. AstroNerdBoy is right that it would have been best to try and use the local customs instead, but at least keep the Japanese-specific stuff out from the translation. It’s you who is patronizing the Turkic people by suggesting that the Japanese language is superior and everything should follow its rules.

  5. ivanov_2020 says:

    @angry turk: in the manga published in my country, character’s names that u mention are written correctly. and yes, naming a girl amir is the dumbest mistake (i loled at anb’s review.. @anb: i think it’s a good idea to edit your review)

    but rostem is still rostem here (i was under the impression that rostem is the right way to write it.) although over here you didn’t pronounce the letter a and e the same way the english does… and i don’t have any idea how the turk pronounce them.

  6. Angry Turk says:

    @ivanov_2020 — I’m glad Russians understand and respect the difference. Rostem maybe isn’t a really big issue because apparently a few people use that form too. I myself have always seen it written as Rustam or Rostam so I picked the version with ‘o’ to be closer to the Japanese. Amir as a woman’s name however is completely ridiculous because the word means ‘prince’. I think the mangaka has put a lot of effort to make this manga feel more authentic and stupid mistakes like this show disrespect to her most of all.

  7. AstroNerdBoy says:

    I was hankering just for another of “Victorian Romance Emma” type of manga.

    I never read Emma as it just never gripped me from what I’d seen. I probably wouldn’t have even looked at A Bride’s Story except the buzz was large enough to cause me to pause and take a bigger look. Plus, as I said in the review, Mr. Flanagan’s involvement and this being a Yen Press work helped.

    It’s almost as oddly intriguing as watching come up with one of her exquisite drawings

    I saw that. Amazing stuff.

    Just my two cents, but the “We can’t use honorifics that were in the original work, apparently because we don’t think they should have been used in the first place” comes across as being patronizing as hell. (>_<)#

    I tried not to be patronizing in this, but maybe someone from Yen Press will drop by and say one way or the other (stranger things have happened). I stated that I understand the “why” but just because I like Yen Press or William Flanagan doesn’t mean that I’m going to change my opinion. I thought I was being nice but maybe I’m wrong. ^_^;;;


    You could make a better case for whitewashing
    Huck Finn of all references to race than you could make for this.

    Actually, I would reject any argument for whitewashing racial references in Huckleberry Finn, including the removal of the term “nigger” because that is how things were when this novel was written and we don’t change things because terms used then are now considered offensive. I had thought about writing a piece on my other blog on this very subject but I never got around to it.

  8. AstroNerdBoy says:

    It’s the height of stupidity to call the heroine Amir, a VERY male name, she should have been called the female version Amira.

    I wouldn’t have known this had you not mentioned it. ^_^;

    No, the fact that the Japanese version has it as Amiru doesn’t mean Amir is more accurate than Amira, because the ending vowel is weak enough for the Japanese to write it Amiru and not Amira, which in Japanese has a much clearer final vowel.

    I don’t know this for sure, but it is possible that Mori-sensei did want the name “Amir” for whatever reason.

    All that aside, are you sure that all the names should be Turkish in origin? I know that Karluk’s name is Turkish in origin because Mori-sensei stated as much. However, my understanding is that Mori-sensei also used Mongolian influences in the manga and so could it be that some of the names are from Mongolia or other language in the region?

    Turkic people don’t use Japanese honorifics so it’d be idiotic to keep them in this story when it’s translated

    That’s true and that’s the reason I understand why they weren’t included. However, I like seeing the Japanese perspective on other cultures which is why I would have liked them included. That’s just a personal preference.

    AstroNerdBoy is right that it would have been best to try and use the local customs instead, but at least keep the Japanese-specific stuff out from the translation.

    Unfortunately, Mori-sensei has no middle-Asian honorifics or terms in her manga. It is all Japanese with a Japanese perspective. Only the names are non-Japanese with the “gaijin” in the story being English (Mr. Smith is how he’s called in the Japanese).

    Were I doing a story, I would have included Turkish and/or Mongolian honorifics and special terms but that’s just me and my preferences.

    (i loled at anb’s review.. @anb: i think it’s a good idea to edit your review)

    Which aspect needs editing?

    Anyway, thanks for the interesting comments. I learned a lot and that’s a good thing. ^_^

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