Even if historical fiction isn't your preferred genre, A Bride's Story is drawn and told super well, and Volume 9 continues its excellence.
Title: A Bride’s Story (Otoyomegatari)
Publisher: Enterbrain (JP), Yen Press (US)
Creator: Kaoru Mori
Serialized in: Harta
Translation: William Flanagan
Original Release Date: September 26, 2017
Review copy provided by Yen Press
It’s been a year since the last volume of A Bride’s Story, and with a handful of titular brides, it can be easy to forget just what the heck is happening in the story.
I may not remember what all the characters are up to, but dang it, I still feel so excited whenever I get a new volume in my hand. Not too many manga have the tactile experience and visual appeal of this series thanks to its beautiful oversized, hardcover (with dust jacket!) format.
Anyway, A Bride’s Story Volume 9 is mainly centered around the talented breadmaker Pariya and her potential engagement with Umar, the son of one of her father’s friends. Marriage discussions have been placed on hold since the destruction of her family’s home. Although the quiet-yet-blunt girl is happy to have a potential husband, Pariya’s not very good at expressing her happiness. She’s also curious as to what kind of person would be interested in having a wife like her, but both her own personality as well as her culture’s traditions prevent her from interacting with Umar. While he misunderstands her silence and nervous expressions as signs she dislikes him, the two grow closer when Umar escorts her on an errand.
Quite frankly, these two are just about the most adorable couple I’ve seen in a long time. Readers can see her inner thoughts as she tries to approach Umar, but she ends up second-guessing herself right out of opportunities to talk to him. But she ends up confessing in the most Pariya-way she can, a moment Kaoru Mori draws in full detailed beauty.
Meanwhile, Umar isn’t much of a talker either, but he tries to shorten the gap between them in his own way, like the aforementioned road trip the pair takes. Marrying for love was definitely not a priority back in those days (and still isn’t in some cultures), but I like how Umar and Pariya form a very down-to-earth, natural relationship. No bouts of jealousy, no age gaps, just two young people who like each other and are preparing for the future at their own pace. Of course, “at their own pace” involves stretching — or outright breaking — tradition, but that is what makes them so fun to read about.
The volume isn’t quite all about the two of them though. Rather unusually, A Bride’s Story Volume 9 opens with a series of 4-koma featuring a variety of characters. The side chapter is short, but when I sit down to read a manga, I don’t really want to start off with a comic about a goat pile. In the midst of the volume, there’s a sudden board game reference as the manga checks in on a bunch of characters. This is right after Pariya and Umar stumble across an unconscious woman, and I didn’t really care for how abrupt it was. I think it would have fit much better after Umar and Pariya had returned from their adventure, when the story shifts back to their everyday lives. These are hardly ruin A Bride’s Story, but just rearranging these two sections would have made this near-perfect volume perfect.
Meanwhile, Mori’s art is still as drop-dead gorgeous as ever. With drawings like this, I am glad Yen Press gave this series a deluxe release. Pariya’s bread designs are elaborate works of art, each with their own hidden meaning. She also interweaves beautiful two-page spreads and even whole sections with no dialogue, letting her pictures show the story. I already mentioned Pariya’s humorous imagined scenes, but Umar’s subtle growing feelings expressed by small smiles and light blushes are another delight. The effort Mori puts into every panel is nothing short of amazing.
In short, A Bride’s Story Volume 9 was well worth the wait. It’s stunningly beautiful, incredibly detailed, and thoroughly enjoyable — in other words, a must read. Even if historical fiction isn’t your preferred genre, take a trip to Central Asia with Pariya and all her fellow brides-to-be.