Currently Reading: Otoyomegatari
I’ve been reading manga consistently over the past while, and there’s this one series that caught my eye. It’s by Mori Kaoru, one of my favourite mangaka, and I feel like some things need to be said about it. Mainly the fact that it’s epically awesome.
Now that I think about it, the last “Currently Reading” post I did was for another period manga, Lady Victorian. Well, I can assure you that this is much, much better.
I really do love talking about manga I end up enjoying! ^.^
Here’s a look at Otoyomegatari.
Summary (from Yen Press): Acclaimed creator Kaoru Mori (Emma, Shirley) brings the nineteenth-century Silk Road to lavish life, chronicling the story of Amir Halgal, a young woman from a nomadic tribe betrothed to a twelve-year-old boy eight years her junior. Coping with cultural differences, blossoming feelings for her new husband, and expectations from both her adoptive and birth families, Amir strives to find her role as she settles into a new life and a new home in a society quick to define that role for her.
Thoughts so far:
The only reason I used the Yen Press summary is because I thought that it was the most concise and to-the-point, and I couldn’t think of a better way to describe the series. One note though – the translation I initially read of this romanizes Amir’s name as “Amira” but Yen Press is right – it actually IS “Amir”, since the katakana for her name is written as アミル. I’ve always thought that Amir is a male name, but I don’t know if this is a mistake on my part, or on the part of Mori-sensei – but I am more inclined to trust Mori-sensei on this one, since she’s generally right about most points in the manga she’s written.
There’s one point I need to make before we truly begin here.
The thing that people need to understand about this manga before reading it is that this is NOT meant to be a condemnation of the depicted culture – it’s not meant to say that the practices of the culture it depicts are strictly wrong.
The point of this manga isn’t to say “oh, look at this women forced to be in arranged marriages and how miserable they are”, but rather, to look at how society was like at the time objectively, while trying to look at the cultural practices from their perspective. Yes, it does get into arranged marriages and domestic abuse, but that isn’t the central point of this manga – it’s a character-driven manga like any other, despite its unconventional setting.
Look, if you want a manga that does condemn the treatment of women in patriarchal cultures, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know of a manga with a message like that, bur if you do, do tell me in the comments since I would be highly interested.
Now onto the main part of the review!
The characterization of the main characters is really strong. While some of the supporting characters do have shades of some of the supporting characters of Emma, they do feel distinct, and blend seamlessly into the setting. Plus, any manga that has any kind of base for characterization anything like Emma already has some form of win.
I like the fact that Amir is very different from Emma. While both of their mindsets are set in traditional values of their respective countries, I don’t think either of them take injustice lying down. When Amir’s family tried to take her away from her husband, she didn’t listen, even though it would have been the socially accepted thing to do. She knew it would be bad for her general happiness and well-being, so she refused to do so. Now that’s something I can get behind!
Other than that, there aren’t many similarities between Emma and Amir, since Amir is a badass. Come on. She can ride a horse and shoot a bow and arrow at the same time (equestrian sports rock!). Both the characters of the manga and I are incredibly impressed. Plus, she can sew, cook and take care of animals too! If there’s one fictional character I want with me during a zombie apocalypse, it would definitely be Amir.
And then there’s Karluk, the twelve-year-old husband. What I like about Karluk is that he’s rather mature for his age- he’s able to make his own decisions rationally, and doesn’t rely too strongly on this parents. I think part of this is because he’s married, and has to show this level of responsibility to assert more authority over his family affairs, but I just find it a really refreshing aspect of this manga. Because of this, it doesn’t feel like Amir and Karluk are resoundingly unequal in their relationship. Because both of them have different strengths and knowledge, they’re able cooperate and prosper together. Therefore, it doesn’t feel like their eight-year age gap is a huge issue, at least emotionally.
I did think the story was compelling, but I definitely thought that the arcs that didn’t focus on Amir and Karluk were not as fun. While I did think that Tarasu’s story was quite good, I think that the core of the manga’s appeal is with Amir and Karluk, and how they’re growing together.
In regards to the art, it’s exquisite. Amazing. Marvelous. Amazingly detailed.
You thought that Emma was amazing? Well, try taking fabric patterns like this and drawing them ten thousand times over. The art just looks so AMAZING in its detail and scope. I can’t imagine how much time it must take for every chapter, not to mention the sheer amount of research that went into drawing the setting and clothes accurately.
Imagine the art of Emma. Now multiply that epicness by a factor of like, A MILLION.
Bravo, Mori-sensei. Bravo.
Overall, if you’re into period manga, and the only period manga you’ve really been exposed to is Japanese/England-based period manga, READ THIS RIGHT NOW. It’s so worth it! I don’t care if you have a bias for Victorian aesthetics, you need to find this as soon as possible!