Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review: Otoyomegatari, vol. 3

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)
(Pictured: Talos)

Otoyomegatari (AKA: The Bride's Stories, or "A Bride's Story" for the U.S. release), vol. 3, (published 6/15/11) by Kaoru Mori. A shojo historical romance running in Fellows! magazine. Grade: A.

The story picks up with Smith arriving in the town and trying to find someone that knows where the person he's trying to meet is. Initially the townspeople just focus on trying to sell him various goods, but then it turns out that one of them has stolen his horse and belongings. A young herdswoman, Talos, is also in town for shopping and her beloved horse, Chubal, has also been taken. The two of them go to the town's leader, who recovers everything for them. Talos asks Smith to stay at her farm while he waits for his contact to arrive at the town. Talos lives on one plot of land with her mother-in-law. While Talos takes care of chores, the old woman tells Smith that Talos had been married into the family, to the oldest of five sons. The father had gifted her new husband with a beautiful white horse. The eldest son fell ill and died soon after, so she was married to the second oldest son, who was crushed when some luggage shifted off a horse. And so it went with the three remaining sons. The family's father was so disheartened that he abandoned them, leaving Talos with just the horse.

While Talos and Smith get along well enough, Smith wants to move on to continue his studies. However, an old nomad shows up at the farm to demand Talos in marriage, and her mother panics, saying that Talos is going to marry Smith. A few hours later, Smith is trying to pack up his stuff to sneak out unnoticed when Talos finds him. She's not going to let anyone else make her decisions for her, and she agrees to help Smith leave the next morning at dawn, before the old woman wakes up. That dawn, the two of them discover that the old woman has hidden Smith's horse, so, sending Smith off with a kiss, Talos allows him to take Chubal. Filled with mixed emotions, Smith makes his way to town, where he's spied by the angry nomad that wants Talos for himself. The nomad is yelling at some Russian officials, then recognizes Smith. He tells the officials that Smith has stolen the white horse, resulting in the Englishman being arrested and all of his belongings confiscated. The Russian guards go through his notes and suspect that he's a spy, but don't quite know what to do with him. Days go by and finally the person he's supposed to meet arrives at the jail. A few minutes later Amira, Karluk and Pariya show up, having heard that someone matching Smith's description had been detained, to help spring him. The contact introduces himself as Ali, and attempts to talk Smith into wearing something a little less attention-getting than British clothing, suggesting that Smith travel under the guise of a Russian doctor. The head guard comes up to apologize for the misunderstanding and offers to make amends. Ali asks for two camels, food, water, rifles and the leader's fur Cossack hat. Surprisingly, the leader hands everything over without a complaint.

(Talos sweeps in to save Smith.)

As the two travelers are preparing to set out on the camels, Talos comes racing up, desperately looking for Smith. Turns out that the old nomad had come to the farm again and let it slip that the Englishman wasn't ever coming back to the farm. This panicked Talos and she bolted at that point. She's then introduced to Amira and Karluk, and pretty soon the outsiders are trying to figure out how to get Smith to marry Talos. Smith's the only one that doesn't see why he'd be a desirable match. Eventually though, Smith gives Talos a gold pocket watch with the promise that when he's done with his current task he'll come back and they'll talk it over more. Through all of this, Pariya's getting so worked up that she faints. Talos and Smith go back to the farm once more to talk to her mother, leaving the others in town. Ali overhears a rumor that there's been some fighting with the Russians somewhere, so his group starts trying to track down the details. But, they haven't had anything to eat yet and the task turns to drumming up some lunch. At the end, the entire town joins in on the feast and one man tries to arrange a meeting between his son and Pariya (the girl turns beet red and avoids Ali's gaze.)

(Smith being detained by the Russians.)

At the farm, the old woman runs up to the new couple with happy news - the nomad has given up on his demands to marry Talos and has instead agreed to adopt her as his daughter. Immediately after, the nomad locks her up in the hut and forces to Smith to leave. Smith just kind of stands around trying to figure out what just happened. A few hours go by and the old woman comes out in tears saying that she heard everything from her daughter. But, what's done is done and it'd be best if the Englishman just forgot all about them. She returns the watch to him. In the village, Karluk and company are surprised, but if Talos's new father forbid them from meeting, there's nothing they can do. Smith doesn't understand this reasoning and Karluk and Ali try to explain that the father's will is all-binding. Faced with such a stonewall of logic, Smith gives up and returns to getting ready to go to Ankara with Ali. Karluk, Amira and Pariya go back to their village. There is a hint that Pariya is a bit too eager for Smith to move past Talos. Along the trail, Smith gets motion sick on the back of the camel, so Ali sets up camp early. As the boy does all the work, Smith asks him if he knows "Hopkins" and why he's the one escorting Smith to Ankara. Ali thinks about it for a moment, then answers that he's doing it for the money so that he can afford a wife. He's the second eldest son, and the family only had enough resources to marry off the oldest one. If he's going to get married, he has to make sure he can afford it by himself. They then move to the next step, which is to decide how to get to Ankara. One route is to go to the Caspian Sea and take boats over the Black Sea, but that brings them close to the Russians. The second route is to detour through Persia and in through Turkey, but that's the long way around. Smith asks what the remaining choice is, and Ali says he doesn't recommend it - going along narrow trails through the mountains. They wouldn't encounter the Russians there, and he does know a number of people along the way, but there's no guarantee that Smith would make it ok. He asks what they should do, and the Englishman answers that it'd be better to play it safe and head towards Persia. Ali agrees and immediately falls asleep. Smith pulls out his watch and throws it into the darkness. He doesn't hear it hit the ground, so he assumes that it landed in the sand, and that maybe someone may happen along and find it some day.

Summary: Solo British researcher Henry Smith meets a nice woman, falls in love, and watches his chances with her disappear in a flash due to the vagaries of someone else's culture and traditions. Great art, and the storyline is starting to build up from a simple series of outdoor activities. Highly recommended.

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