I’m always super behind on new manga, so I’m super enjoying getting back into Twitter right now specifically to follow publishers and see all the new releases pop up on my feed. I think A Bride’s Story popped up at some point, and just seeing the cover art was enough to convince me that this might be something worth checking out. Luckily I had a big convention coming up then, Anime Boston, an excuse to spend an absurd amount of money on new manga. I managed to find the first volume in all the crazy crowds around the manga vendors, and I have to say I’ve been hooked ever since. I can’t wait to check out what the other volumes are like and see where the story goes. I feel like this manga is something I haven’t encountered before. Not only is the art wickedly detailed, but the detail stays consistent throughout the volume. The story focuses on an interesting part of history, the Silk Road and Central Asia. I would highly recommend this series to any history buffs and lovers of highly detailed art.
A Bride’s Story follows Amir Halgal, the daughter of a nomadic tribe in Central Asia during the nineteenth century who is betrothed to a twelve-year-old boy eight years her junior. Amir, who is 20 years old, is considered old for marriageable age. Now she must adjust to a new life among her husband’s family including cultural differences, expectations from her birth family and in-laws, and her growing feelings for her husband. The manga was created by Kaori Mori, the mangaka behind Emma and Shirley, giving us another great slice-of-life story.
The first thing that drew me into this manga, was the art, and I have just two words to describe my feelings right now: holy shit! Mori’s art is so highly detailed it’s breathtaking. You can really tell just how much she’s obsessed with the culture she’s presenting us with. Highly detailed rugs, clothes, woodworking, and backgrounds all contribute to this manga blowing me away every time I turn the page. The first page of the manga features a highly rendered shot of Amir, a half page of her pulling back her veil to see her new husband. In just that half-page panel, there is more detail than I’ve ever seen in a slice-of-life manga before. It really makes me wonder just how long it took Mori to draw all of this. From the fabric with intricate designs to Amir’s multiple layers of jewelry, I couldn’t even imagine sitting down and drawing that every time you have to draw her character.
And I think that’s one of the key differences between this manga and many others, just the sheer amount of consistent and intricate designs. I feel like there are a lot of artists would would hate to have to redraw the kind of detailed character designs Mori created in each panel. But it’s not just the characters, it’s the backgrounds and the general culture of the manga’s world that provides a real sense that the story, characters, and world are just full. Take chapter two for instance, one of my favorite chapters in this volume. The vast majority of the chapter is devoted to a side character who is a woodworker. The two-page spread opening to the chapter is him an a young boy standing in front of a lot of intricately carved panels. The chapter then goes into the techniques he uses and what he creates, including how the homes in this village are made. Presenting this story with all its artistic detail creates a world full of culture, giving the story itself a solid backdrop from which it can unfold.
The story itself is fairly simple: a woman gets married to someone she does not know and has to adjust to a new life in that family away from her own culture, coming to love her husband over the course of the story. It’s the kind of plot that thrives or fails on the quality of its characters, and I really do love the characters of Amir and her husband Karluk. Amir is a very strong character who isn’t afraid to jump onto the back of a horse and go chasing after rabbits for dinner. She’s loyal to her husband even though she’s never met him before, but you can feel her insecurity around her new female relatives even though she tries to put up a confident face. She seems like the kind of woman who would be easy to get along with. In contrast to Karluk, she’s capable of taking care of herself on long journeys on horseback as well as looking after her husband. Karluk is fairly likable as well, in a cute way. There are times where his limited twelve years show, especially when it comes to intimate moments with Amir, but he’s also shown as a capable member of the family, steadily growing into manhood overtime.
You really get a feel for the cultural background while watching these characters interact with everyone. At that time and area of the world, you needed to mature fairly quickly, to help your family with basic needs and to marry to form alliances with other families. Mori notes in her end-notes that the average age for marriage at that time was around fourteen or fifteen years old. These two characters could technically be considered outliers in their culture, Karluk a little too young and Amir a little too old. However, it was a necessity for trade and family relations at the time to create ties with other tribes through a stable bond like marriage. So while their age difference is a fairly large eight years, I’ve never felt weird about reading this romance story. It would absolutely be weird if it was a modern story, but the background of nineteenth century Central Asia allows this to be a believable scenario.
So don’t let the premise of an eight-year age gap turn you away from checking out this series. The history, art, and characters are all worth exploring and I can’t wait to get the second volume. You can expect more reviews of this series in the future, and make sure to let me know what you think in the comments below. If you’ve read it already, what were your impressions? Or, if you haven’t, have I convinced you to pick this up and read along with me?
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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