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Set in Central Asia in a rural town near the Caspian Sea during the 19th century, the story revolves around a young woman, Amir, who arrives from a distant village across the mountains to marry Karluk, a boy eight years her junior. The story unfolds among details of everyday family and community life. However, the peaceful atmosphere is disturbed when Amir's family demands to take her back to their village.
Note: Won the 7th annual Manga Taishou Award in 2014 and the intergénérations prize at the Angoulême International Comics Festival in 2012.
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Fantastic story, but remember kiddies, it's seinen
I was looking at Otomegatari's ratings and was astounded to see about two dozen votes of 4 and under. I couldn't understand it, as I thought even the most reserved raters would give it a 6 for it's amazing art, and solid historical perspective on 19th century Central Asia alone.
Then I read the comments and it all made sense.
Kids, this story is Seinen; that means it's aimed at men of university age or older, not tweens and teens. You're not going to find raging powerups, big swords, unusual villains and (as many) panty shots as shounen. Conversely girls, you won't find the heaps of maudlin drama as you would in shoujo. Instead you'll find an in-depth historical drama, very much rooted in the real world.
So if you're under the age of majority, give Otomegatari a miss; unless you're precocious, you really won't enjoy it right now. Once your testes descend, your face starts growing hair, and you start paying your taxes, pick it up again; I guarantee you'll find it amazing.
Please Check the Setting Next Time
Before I make any comments, I must correct the anachronism of some prior comments: 1. Even if you skipped over the beginning of the first chapter, it should be clear from the pocket watch and all things western in the manga that it does not take place in the twelfth or sixteenth centuries but the nineteenth. Based on various details found in the manga, I'm guessing Otoyomegatari takes place mid-century (circa 1860, earlier would make the characters of Mr. Smith and the female Brit impossible). 2.The story does not take place in Mongolia (East Asia) but in Central Asia in the general region of the Aral and Caspian Seas: from the maps in chapter seventeen and the prior progress of the story, the story begins just East of the Aral Sea but not far enough East for Qing Dynasty China to be a significant factor. 3. As with many other manga, please read it for what it is, not what it isn't. This story is very definitely a historical slice of life. Note the lack of the action genre, and though it's labeled "drama," it's more like there are touches of drama here and there. Overall, Otoyomegatari is a more serious type of story (or heavier reading, one might say), thus the Seinen demographic (maybe I was a precocious little girl, but I doubt that's it). The plot is essentially an interconnected episodic, moving from bride to bride, following Amir and then also people connected to her. Using courtship and marriage as a device, Mori has created a story whose primary aim is ethnographic, and she thus tries to give an objective view of the cultures involved (even Mr. Smith is a linguist and ethnographer, as well as an excellent method of explaining many aspects of the cultures without forced incursion of a narrator). This is also why she avoids the negative aspects of cultures she's glancing over (sure, she could talk about the negative aspects of the cultures (e.g. polygamy, abuse, and arranged marriages) but, for the purpose of the story, when mentioned, it is in passing). I should also mention that the complexity of Amir's story and the second bride's tale definitely reveal issues found in that region, and that in the fourth brides' (Anis and Shirin) the saccharine feeling is commented on by the nurse as fairytale-like and improbable. A story cannot address every single thing imaginable: a story has composition just as much as a picture (i.e. there's a need to pick and choose). Inclusion of rape, bride kidnapping, and the like is emotionally grabbing and dramatic, which leaves the reader too emotionally involved for Mori's aims as it would over shadow the ethnographic details. As ever, Mori's artwork is extraordinary and her story telling masterful. The extended use of visuals works perfectly. If you want a harder or more historical view, rather than an ethnographic one, I would look at Wolfsmund, Shut Hell, or Chang Ge Xing. However, for the aims and scope of the story, Mori is leaving very few gaps. The detail of her research is also fabulous: down to tiny particulars. Although I really would appreciate translations of blurbs of her research for this story (if, indeed, there are any, as there were with her earlier work, Emma), that seems to be the only thing lacking.
... Last updated on November 28th, 2016, 12:29pm
Superb attention to details and authencity
Being a Turk myself, this whole manga felt something that came out of an Anatolian nomadic tribe documentary. The motifs on the carpets, the jewelry, the clothes, you can find those exact ones still widely used throughout the region in rural areas. The attention to details is through and through in both drawings and how many Turkic people still live in Middle Asia steppes. It's a warm story about everyday life, may be compared to Vinland Saga's current farm arc if someone needs an example.
My sincere respects to Kaoru Mori for spending this much effort to prepare a correct portrayal of those people of that time. It's beautiful and it's true. It's also an ultra rare opportunity to be introduced to this rich, mostly unknown culture.
As for the age difference, I think people are bothered only because the male is still a minor by today's norms. People married and still do in certain regions of the world as early as 14-15, we still have folk songs from old times about such couples and how it was considered purely normal. If someone could take care of their living and fulfill roles in a family, they were eligible for marriage. It's pretty much a cultural and historical difference between the old times and today, I think people should be able to accept that much when reading about a foreign land 150 years ago.
As for deeming rabbit hunting cruel.. Well, I guess they didn't have supermarkets back then which had meat chopped and clean so you can dump the cruelty on someone else with a credit card.
... Last updated on February 5th, 2011, 3:21am
Wonderful Depiction of Central Asia
I didn't want to review this before I had finished reading the series, but upon seeing AquarianDemocrat's comment I felt like I had to say something.
A few of AquarianDemcrocat's comments make sense if you're looking at this manga through a strictly Western, and modern, sense of ethics/morals and are not willing to keep an open mind about the culture you're reading about. I'm not defending slavery, war, and etc, but Mori is depicting this time, which is 19th century not 12th or 16th, and place as many then would have seen it.
The main point of Otoyomegatari seems to be portraying the culture of the people of 19th Century Central Asia. It is a portrayal that doesn't judge the culture nor does it complicate it by creating problems.
There are issues raised, but they are handled well, the characters are not smiling happily while they defend their homes, nor are they all giggling when they marry, the characters deal with what happens to them and move on. There's no dwelling on lost loves, lost lives, and etc because first of all, realistically, they couldn't and secondly the point of the manga is culture.
I'll admit that there are many happy endings, but that just contributes to helping a reader understand the culture and not judge it. I believe Mori would rather readers try to understand the culture then judge than judge and not try to understand and therefore went this route. And I have to say, she does it beautifully and wonderfully. It is very educational as a previous comment said.
As someone who comes from culture that has bride prices and polygamy who grew up with modern Western values I spent a long time detesting it all before I tried understanding it. And yes, I still have issues with them, especially polygamy in these times, but now that I have learned about my culture I understand it and do not detest it.
So my advice to readers is to give it try, keep an open mind, and just enjoy the lovely art. Also keep in mind that this manga is 19th century, which is 1800's, so not that long ago in our history.
Beautiful artwork aside...
Because, as everyone has said, it is GORGEOUS. But that all aside, the story itself is fantastic. The relationship between Amira and Karluk is so pure and beautiful in itself. I also like that he isn't just a scared child. He behaves like a man, though his emotions are something he doesn't quite understand yet. Both of them are just so innocent and honest about their affection for each other. It is a strangely beautiful--though altogether unorthodox love story including a healthy showing of familial and community bonds.
Context is all
This manga owes part of my soul. It is so refreshing to see a calm, slice of life manga that doesn't have oversized boobs, harem, or skinny, barbie eyed heroines (did anyone notice that little muffin top stomach of hers?! Thumbs up to mangaka!). Some people complained that the heroine is too meek, or mellow, etc but really, take the setting into context. Certain cultures were geared that way, and some still are. Women were to take care of the household, listen to the husband, etc. As much as I uphold gender equality, not every lady needs to be a raging feminist to be happy. I'm glad this manga portrayed that
Without a doubt, this manga has some of the most consistently beautiful artwork I've seen. Every single frame is equally detailed and stunning. The story is also amazing in that it's not hackneyed and overly romanticized. In fact, it's believable. It is also laced with just the right amount of light-hearted moments that neither feel trite nor over the top. My only wish is that I would have started reading this series later, so that I wouldn't have to wait for every chapter. This is the kind of story that makes you want to keep reading.
that's why I love Seinens. the jokes, even though you usually don't burst out in laughter like in gag mangas, make you harbor a big wide grin, you laugh with your heart and you notice quite happily how well-made the story is told. I love this series, I'm glad I bought the first volume to try it out =)
You learn something from this
It's engaging from the very first page, when you see Amir's face. She had that bemused look, with her large eyes wide open and her red lips extending a mischievous smile. She rode a horse on her own over the mountains. Oh my!
And so you can tell whether you will like this story from the first page. And I urge you to do so, before throwing your judgement on that 'child' marriage, because the story summary did a very poor job of showing what it is actually about.
The story is devoted to depicting an ideal world of the Central Asia in the 19th century. It deliberately ignored almost all reality checks, and chose to highlight their cultural value instead. For example, look at how the husbands treat their wives with respect and responsibility. Or how the two parties, during a marriage negotation, also visit each other and try to establish a bond between the families. Look at how the groom asks the bride what he could improve in order to make her like him better. In such a supportive environment, you can't help feeling that the happiness in these arranged marriages is real, not thanks to some lovestruck chemistry but because both sides have worked hard to gradually build it. And so you will come to appreciate this old-fashioned, almost non-existant culture just a bit more.
... Last updated on October 7th, 2016, 2:51pm
Good Lord it's beautiful.
I dunno what made me bump into this series but I'm glad it did. The artwork as many others have said is simply gorgeous, the details on the womens' intricate clothing and the people's faces. Amira has some of the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen in a manga character. Though they're not real you can somehow see the soul behind them. The whole family that Karluk and Amira are part of are so endearing. The romance between the two main characters is pure and adorable. And as for Mr Smith and the other girl I really do hope they get together in the end. Maybe live as extended family of Karluk's tribe.
A truly wonderful experience to read this manga and I do hope more will come.