Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Feast for the Eyes

So I've been kind of on an InuYasha hiatus since a friend of mine with whom I watch movies on aweekly basis expressed interest in watching it with me. We're currently watching Spice and Wolf, which I need to dedicate a post (or several) to because it really is wonderful and very unique.
One manga I came across lately, based on a friend's recommendation, is the stunning A Bride's Story- or Otoyomegatari, by Kaoru Mori, a mangaka known for her passion for stories developing in different times and places. Her research and artistic accuracy in portraying Victorian dress and culture in the manga Emma was highly praised. That same meticulousness and attention to detail is evident in this newer manga, which takes place along the "nineteenth-century Silk Road" (near the Caspian Sea).
It's the story of a woman called Amira Halgal. She is 20 years old, part of a semi-nomadic tribe, an expert hunter, equestrian, leather worker, and wild game cook. She is just beautiful. But despite all of this, Amira is considered, in that culture, an old maid, and quite unmarriable. The perception is that too much time has gone by and her chances of being able to provide a husband with many children are highly diminished. She does, however, get married off, and is sent with her dowry, including her horse, over the hills, to travel for four or five days to her groom and his family.

Here's the interesting part. Her husband is Karluk Eihon, the heir apparent to his clan. He is a gentle, quiet,  insightful, and brave person. He is also 12 years old. (This immediately reminded me of Ghengis Khan and his first wife Borte. Borte was betrothed to Khan at a very young age...and she was older than he.)

Now, before going any further- Otoyomegatari does focus on these two characters getting to know each other. At first there is formality and respect of tradition, and slowly that starts to evolve into mutual admiration and appreciation. Friendship also flourishes as these two begin to understand each other more and more. The age difference is always a source of tension- Amira genuinely loves Karluk and she's willing to wait until he matures more and Karluk also loves and respects Amira greatly- but he's so young and really not capable of stepping fully into the role of husband. That isn't the main problem, because the two of them have a good foundation when it comes to their relationship - the main problem is, because Amira and Karluk haven't consummated their marriage yet and there aren't any heirs, her family can reclaim her to marry her off to someone else...and that's precisely what happens, once her clan realizes it may lose a significant portion of land to another tribe if it doesn't secure some familial ties. Another problem is that the groom in question, known as Numaji, has already married two women from the family...women who end up dying prematurely, it is revealed later on, because they are so severely abused and beaten...

Nevertheless, Amira is glad to be married and wishes to prove herself worthy of her groom and his family. His family, by the way, is quite wonderful and makes her feel welcome from the moment she arrives. The manga really has that slice-of-life feel, and the illustrations are simply stunning. The attention to the detail in the clothing worn, the architecture, the landscape, the woodwork, the's all so very rich and lovingly drawn. 

I am getting Volume 1 as it is available on Amazon for less than $12 in hard copy.  Volume 2 is expected to come out sometime in October 2011.

I am curious to see how this story will play it out. You can't help but root for Amira, Karluk, his family and their friends. I'm also looking forward to the gorgeous depiction of that captivating world...

 Amira and Karluk see each other for the first time.

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