Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: Otoyomegatari, vol. 1

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Otoyomegatari (AKA: The Bride's Stories, or "A Bride's Story" for the U.S. release), vol. 1, by Kaoru Mori. A shojo historical romance running in Fellows! magazine. Grade: A

I've seen this one on the shelves a lot over the last few months and I really liked the cover art. I've debated over buying a copy to check it out, and finally when I found both volumes 1 and 2 available for half price at Book Off, I finally made the plunge. Kaoru is an established artist, having also written Emma and Shirley, and her talents as both an artist and a storyteller shine through "Bride".

What makes Otoyomegatari stand out is the artwork. The story is set in a rural town near the Caspian sea during the 1800's. The heroine, Amira Hergal, comes from a family of nomads, and has recently married into the Ayhan family, to Karluk. It's a period piece, so everything revolves around the daily life of the main characters. The full cast list is fairly long and it's easier to just point you to the wiki article. Personally, I love this title for the art. The characters are easily identifiable, the lines are crisp and clean, and the backgrounds are packed with detail. You could say that Otoyomegatari is a cosplay, given the attention paid to everyone's outfits.

The first volume sets up the interactions between the spirited and gifted Amira, and the more staid members of the Ayhan family that she moves in with. It's an arranged marriage to bring the two families together, which explains the age differences - Amira is 20 and Karluk is still only 12. And here's where the plot twist comes in. One of the other brides married out of the Hergal family has died and the Hergal patriarchs want Amira back to reassign her to the other husband. Because Karluk is too young to consummate the marriage, Amira still belongs to the Hergals, according to nomadic law. Additionally, Amira is considered too old to be a new bride, since women usually have children at a much younger age in this society, so the elders that she encounters kind of look down on her. On the other hand, Amira is a great archer, horse rider and herdswoman, so she does have skills.

In the first volume, the storylines are fairly mundane. Amira spends time with the Ayhan family and on the range. One of the Ayhan children gets busted for spending too much time watching a woodworker creating ornamentation for beams to be used for a house and not tending to chores. A few of the Hergal men try to bring Amira back home but are rebuffed. And Karluk comes down with a fever. Not particularly exciting compared with something like Black Lagoon, but still a lot of fun to read, if you like high-quality art.

This volume was just released in the U.S. by Yen Press, so I heartily recommend running out and buying it. Good stuff.

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