I could not contain myself; I went and bought all five first books of The Bride's Story (Otoyomegatari) by Kaoru Mori. I also haven't learned anything by this experience because I'm already having them collector's jitters about book 6 that should come out in English this month. If I lived anywhere nearer to Nexus I'd be there already harassing the staff* about the sixth book for various reasons, some of which I'll discuss below and some that are just, well, ok, I'm that kid who thinks Bobmas comes faster if you pester your parents about it more. But anyway.
However, I'm not feeling sorry at all for blowing all that money on these books, not for a second! Each one of them is a work of art, truly beautiful from cover to back and complete with author's notes that make everything just... perfect. I guess if softcover version is available that'd be cheaper but there's just something so comfortably heavy about the hardcovers! I'm especially fond of how the back cover folds out to reveal a part of the scene that you don't see right away, here Saam and Sami watching Laila and Leyli get (once again) in trouble.
Admittedly I'm a little biased here because Kaoru Mori is my favourite mangaka ever. I've had a serious book crush on both Shirley/Shirley Madison and Emma, and though I was initially a little bit uncertain about The Bride's Story it swept me away within the first few pages.
Why the uncertainty? Well... the story is about a 20-years old Amir Halgal whose husband Karluk Eihon is only 12. If you leave it at that it sounds bad, but in fact it's nowhere near as scary as that - this book series deals a lot with arranged marriage, a norm at the time the story takes place in, which means that the couples may take their time before the marital sports begin. People do marry young (with the exception of Amir, even the story notes that her age is unusually advanced for a bride) to ensure as many children as possible but it doesn't mean that things then proceed automatically the European style where people expect the couple to get right to business from the first wedding night on.
Instead, and especially because of Karluk's young age, they don't rush into things. In fact the story opens at a leisurely page in all other directions as well and not just the relationship of these two. It dips the reader inside the many cultures of the Silk Road, teaching some interesting facts about the differences and similarities between the many cultures of the area.
Some the story explains to the reader, such as the traditions involved around embroidery and how a house is built. Some it does not. The reader will be just as confused as Karluk here as to why Amir suddenly galloped away, seemingly hoping for Karluk to catch her (the explanation may be kyz kuumai).
The books are also amazingly beautiful like mentioned. It was no lie. The amount of time and trouble that goes into drawing one page is simply astounding because Kaoru Mori does not cut corners - even the textures of the clothes are at most times drawn in by hand. The only exception I can think of are Sami and Saam's clothes, but that's about it.
As for the characters of the story... they're all very well rounded, realistic and wonderful. There are many kinds of brides and grooms in these stories, many kinds of fates, marriages that work and marriages that don't, the good and the bad. It's one reason I love this story so much: arranged marriage is not demonized but it's not romanticized either.
We also get very many types of women! Pariya who's said to be too pushy, Tilek who loves falcons...
Talas - let's not get into this story arc too much because MY HEART'S NOT OK.
Amir herself, quite the capable hunter (if a little unconventional as a wife)...
These two wonderful morons.
And of course the most bad-ass of them all, Balkirsh.
In fact I have only one complaint about this manga, and it has to do with the translations... to be exact the translations of the sound effects. In my opinion it's entirely unnecessary to both write them out and translate them into an English version, f.ex. creating a weird suton-thump-suton sound for Amir falling back into her saddle here. I mean I'm sure she only landed once but the sound gives a hilarious, accidental image of her just jumping up and down on a spot...
Buuuuut all in all that's a minor complaint. Let's also make one other thing certain, there are a LOT of good-looking people in these books such as some of Amir's relatives...
Joruk plz be my soul bro (urge to cosplay rising)...
By the way, don't you just hate it when a book ends in a not-quite-cliffhanger but with a promise to tell you more about your favourite characters in the next one? I know that there's some pretty heavy stuff that's gonna happen in book 6 and hnnnggghhhh. Plus at some point I'm hoping we'll get an explanation to why Joruk's clothes are so different from Baimat and Azel's. I have a pet theory based on something that happened in book 1 and if that hunch is correct... well... it might lead to other, possibly dramatic things. But I'm just speculating here and it's entirely possible the story won't go there, so for now let's leave it at that.
...annnnd then there's of course Azel who, BY THE WAY, spends a good while running around almost naked in book 6.
THAT BOOK CANNOT COME OUT SOON ENOUGH.
PREPARE YOURSELVES NEXUS.
* It costs nothing to order a book at Nexus so you know, if they don't have something just have a chat with the staff. When I placed mine it took them about a week to get the books in and I was immediately notified of the arrival.