Author: Kaoru Mori
Genre: YA, manga/comics, historical fiction, romance
Publication Date: April 2009 (Japan), May 2011 (US/Canada)
Synopsis: Amira is twenty years old when she marries her husband, a boy named Karluk from a neighboring village. Adjusting to life in a new household can be trying for any young bride, but Amira’s husband is eight years her junior! Amira was a strong, sophisticated hunter and horsewoman in her village, but though their villages were next to each other, their customs are very different. As Amira introduces Karluk to the foods and pastimes that were popular among her comrades back home, the warmth she feels for her young husband grows.
☆: 5/5 – a great translation of a great series!
Review: I’ve been keeping up with this series since it started serialization in Japan back in 2008. For those of you into the manga/anime genres, you’ll know the author’s previous work (“Emma”), which takes place in Victorian England. This new historical slice-of-life story takes place several centuries earlier in central Asia, in what’s hinted near Mongolia. Her talent for storytelling of worlds past has only grown since then. Yen Press brings it to us with perfection (not to mention excellent packaging) for all to see.
I think what I love about Mori’s style the most is that she does things slowly. It’s frustrating when you want to read the next chapter of the story (it’s a monthly serialization in Japan), and so collected volumes come out once or twice a year, if at that. When it’s not on hiatus, that is. Anyway, you can feel the slowness of how things were back then in her stories, how life progressed from minute to minute, day to day instead of how it is now with constant connection and digitalization (not that that’s a bad thing, but I think you understand what I mean). You can practically taste the food cooked by the characters, the cloth woven by its women, the smoke from the pipes of the men. You can’t do that with a lot of author/illustrator combinations right now in the manga market, precisely because they would rather rush (or their publishers would).
Yen Press really did Mori a solid here and put the first printing of this volume into a lovely, glossy hardback edition for North America. Seriously. I liked them before, and now I love them for doing this. Very high-quality ink and pages used, nothing scrimped or cheapened for Mori’s work. And to be honest, as this work definitely tops “Emma” in its broadness within a tiny piece of history/land, it really deserves everything Yen Press did to market this first volume. It makes the original Japanese paperback version look crappy.
Amira’s story is told in a seemingly traditional fashion, with her being the arranged bride of a young man from another tribe. However, knowing that arranged marriages (even in Japan) really aren’t as popular as they used to be, she used it to show how a couple meets and starts to fall for each other – even if the age difference is as big as it is here. You have the traditional suspicious family members on the groom’s side, but Amira’s honesty and vivacity (along with respect for her elders) quickly charms them into complacency. So complacent that when her father and brothers come back for her, her new family defends her as if she’d been born as one of their own.
Mori obviously did research on the area and the time that she used in this story – you can tell with each pen scratch, ink stroke, and expression with the characters. Not to mention the scenery, which feels like looking at an old black-and-white panoramic picture, an old film. Her work is that beautiful, and refreshing just because of all of these qualities that the manga market in Japan has started to lose within the last ten years or so. She sticks to her guns, knowing that the tortoise will win the race over the rabbit and would rather quality in her story over releasing five or more volumes a year. And I admire her for that.
If you’re looking for a relatable, warm historical slice-of-life without too much suffocating romance, choose “A Bride’s Story”. The next volume should be due out in North America in October or November, though no word on whether or not it too will get the hardback treatment. Let’s hope it does.