A Bride’s Story 1

June 30, 2011

Kaoru Mori – Yen Press – 2011 – 3+ volumes

Alas, I passed on Emma when it was being published by CMX. I’ve heard much of Kaoru Mori from fans of Emma, and all that praise can sometimes be difficult to live up to. But I was shocked by Bride’s Story.

It is beautiful. If nothing else, I was completely blown away by the art. It’s a period story, set in the nineteenth century, about a family living in a small village in Central Asia (I picture the Himalayas, but there is probably a reason it’s left ambiguous). There are a lot of detailed landscapes, and Mori takes full advantage of the setting by having the characters travel, hunt dramatically, go on leisurely rides, et cetera. That alone would be worth comment, but it’s the clothing that really impresses me. The women in particular all wear layered clothing made of many different pieces, and all of it has intricate patterns. Mori draws these costumes in every panel. I cannot get over just how stunning this is. That alone is worth the price of admission for me.

But let me back up a bit. The characters wouldn’t be wearing those clothes if this wasn’t a story set in central Asia. It’s an unusual setting, and focusing on one of the very rural tribes and the way they live makes for very interesting subject matter. It’s not every day you run across a story like this, and I can’t think of a single other Japanese, American, or European comic that looks at this culture. Mori mentions she was interested in the topic of the silk road when she was younger, and that’s how she came to do so much research. Thank goodness for that.

So you’ve got a highly unusual setting and subject matter, drawn with amazing skill. What about the story itself? It is among the “slice of life” genre. So far, we are treated to small stories in the day-to-day life of Amir, the bride, and Karluk, her husband. The pair lives with Karluk’s family, which includes his grandparents, his parents, his older sister and her husband, and her sister’s four children. It’s a lively household, especially with the four children running around, and all the characters are touched on to some extent. The youngest child takes his time studying a woodcarver, and we learn about the decoration on the houses and how they are made (another opportunity for Mori’s art to shine). Karluk and Amir go out to visit Karluk’s uncle, a member of a nomadic tribe that is believed to be nearby. Amir gets the opportunity to show off her bowhunting skill, and the children beg her to teach them the same. We learn the joys of pomegranates, rabbit stew, sleeping in a yurt, and redecorating a room with elaborate wall hangings.

The subject matter was interesting enough that I tore through this book. I literally could not get enough. It was incredibly interesting stuff. Towards the end of the book, there is a peek at some drama that looks about to unfold, but as far as I’m concerned, it could continue to be about the day-to-day life of Karluk and his family for the next dozen volumes and I’d probably be spellbound.

The age difference between Karluk and Amir (he’s 12, she’s 20) seems to be causing problems for some people, but I feel it’s simply a part of the culture in this story. It’s not creepy or dwelled upon heavily, it is merely a fact of life, and Mori treats the topic with respect. Karluk and Amir are clearly affectionate towards one another, but they clearly aren’t involved in a romantic relationship. And that their marriage is merely part of their culture is explained several times. In fact, Amir is apparently too old to be a new bride, and a lot of people look down on her for it. As for Karluk’s young age, apparently the youngest son inherits the family traditions, and that’s why he was married early.

The only thing that bothered me is that we are not privy to what Amir is thinking. We aren’t offered insight into the character’s thoughts, so everything we know is based off how they interact with others. Amir is very active and outgoing, and doesn’t let the fact people are baffled by her strange customs (she’s from a different tribe) bother her. And yet… she often looks puzzled or expectant. She seems to dote on Karluk like an older sister, too. These are both things that I would love to know her thoughts on, and since she is so far removed from what I know, I find it difficult to get into her head.

But getting to know her will come with time. I will savor every volume of this, and I’m dying to read more. Beautiful art, beautiful story, and highly unusual subject matter and setting. Could I ask for any more?

This was a review copy provided by Yen Press.

5 Responses to “A Bride’s Story 1”

  1. LG Says:

    I had the same wish about Amir, that Mori had shown the readers her thoughts about everything. This was after I had reread the volume a few times – so far, it’s looking like this series will be similar to Emma for me, in that I will find myself poring over individual panels and rereading pages, looking for little hints in people’s expressions and actions that say what they’re thinking. In some others authors’ works, this would be annoying, but in Kaoru Mori’s it ends up being another part of the appeal for me, because it does feel like her characters are fully-realized, even if she doesn’t spell everything out about them right away (or ever – if I owned any of the Emma volumes, I would probably wear out all the pages featuring Hans, not that it would necessarily help any).

  2. Sivek Says:

    Some videos of Mori doing an illustration for the series. Pretty impressive stuff.

    http://natalie.mu/comic/pp/otoyomegatari

  3. Connie Says:

    Sivek: Ooh, those are really awesome. I’m always fascinated by those videos that show comic artists drawing their characters, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one where the artist bothered to include so much detail. Thanks for the link!

  4. Connie Says:

    I do want to re-read this volume to see if I can glean more meaning from the illustrations, but I also want to wait until volume two has come out to have the pleasure of a possible fresh context to view everything in. I haven’t read Emma, but Mori does seem like the type of artist that relies on her drawings to convey a lot of emotion. As she should, since she clearly puts a lot of effort into the facial expressions and gestures. Perhaps reading more story won’t offer a whole lot of additional insight into what’s going on in the early volume. But it’ll still be a pleasure to re-read it, even if only to refresh myself before the second volume arrives. I just like it so much!

  5. Pirkaf Says:

    I’m pretty sure you’d love Emma..


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