Friday, October 25, 2013

Manga Review: A Bride's Story Vol. 5

Kaoru Mori is best known for her work, Emma, an exquisite romance/slice-of-life set in Victorian England. Her latest work to be released in the United States, A Bride's Story, is also a historical/slice-of-life but is vastly different than Emma. Set in Central Asia in a rural town near the Caspian Sea during the early 19th century, A Bride's Tale revolves around a young woman, Amir, who arrives from a distant village across the mountains to marry Karluk, a boy 8 years her junior. Volume 5 has recently been released, and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of other volumes, )


Acclaimed creator Kaoru Mori's tale of life on the nineteenth-century Silk Road takes on an air of celebration as, at long last, Laila and Leily's wedding day arrives! But the marriage ceremony may be even more taxing for the girls than their search for a pair of grooms. Sitting still and silent as their guests celebrate and eat is a trial that will push the girls' patience to its limit, not to mention that of Sami and Sarm! As the twins finally make their vows and commit themselves to their husbands, the gravity of the moment finally sets in. Though they have dreamed of marriage for years, only now do they realize that everything in their lives is about to change


Although this manga is entitled A Bride's Story, the only actual wedding scenes thus far are brief glimpses of Amir's and Talas' weddings. Now Mori-sensei makes up for it with the community extravaganza that is the twins' wedding.

And it is a massive family effort. While we have scenes of the girls getting decked out in their bridal finery, Mori-sensei devotes even more panels to the preparations for the nuptial celebration. Clothes, food, decorations, ornaments, musical instruments - all are showcased in Mori-sensei's usual meticulous detail. Probably the most unexpected segment is the butchering of the sheep. Mori-sensei takes great pains to show how the animals are slaughtered and quartered for cooking. Western readers will likely sympathize with poor Mr. Smith when he sees the blood and guts preceding the feast.

The village's wedding customs are, of course, steeped in tradition, and many of these are entirely foreign to Western readers. However, as mentioned in my , Laila and Leily, have very modern sensibilities. Despite their desire to be admired as perfect brides, they have little patience for the restraint required of them, and readers will be able to relate when they complain.

And boy, do they complain. Mori-sensei uses the girls' restlessness and lack of self-control as the main thrust of the comedy for the wedding chapters. The twins not only drive their mother crazy, they try the patience of their grooms. In contrast to the girls' gluttony and whining, the boys show remarkable maturity as they do their best to please their brides. Even so, they have their limits. The revenge they exact upon the girls is not only laugh out loud funny but a reminder of how young the two couples are.

With the twins happily married, the story eases back to Amir's village, and when I say "eases back," that's exactly what I mean. Chapter 26 "The Daylong Song," isn't so much a narrative as it is a string of images depicting Amir's daily routine. No panels or dialogue bubbles, just beautifully drawn illustrations of her in the house, about town, and on the plains. That is followed by a side-story about the family matriarch. (I didn't know people could ride goats!) It isn't until the final chapter that the narrative resumes in earnest with a standalone story about an injured hawk.

Extras include Mori-sensei's manga style afterword and selections from her sketch collection Scribbles (also available from Yen Press).


The first half of Volume 5 concludes the bridal sitcom of twins Laila and Leily with their wedding. Mori-sensei does her usual meticulous presentation of Aral Sea traditions, but the antics of our sassy brides give these chapters a lively feel. The story then shifts back to Amir's village. The plot doesn't progress much in these chapters, but the illustrations are still a feast for the eyes.

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