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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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There have been comments that the series is somehow unworthy of the times and places it depicts. All should recall that opinions are like anuses in that everyone's has one and they do indeed spew forth smelly material.
Its a manga that represents the ideal of a culture in gorgeous art rarely equaled in its medium. The stories are crafted to that end.
Cultures evolve. Social Justice Warriors ignore this. However, they cannot ignore it should there be coffee served in a teacup. I wonder why that is so?
Not all lives were ugly, brutish, and short. Not all slaves hated their masters. Not all members of harems felt exploited. That is the reality despite what SJW and editorializing historians might have one and all believe.
Applying modern and culturally biased views in revisionist judgement is a crime against history and human knowledge. Using them as a standard for this manga is absurd and deserves derision and scorn.
... Last updated on April 13th, 2017, 12:18am
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
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
Incredible Display of Art and Class
As a manga loving Anthropology student, this manga hits all the right notes for me. Sure it's a highly romanticized look at village life, but it tells its story with dignity, humor, affection and such breathtakingly meticulous art that it's almost like reading a really moving ethnography. Highly recommended.
... Last updated on April 25th, 2016, 5:11am
not my cup of tea
The art is amazing and very detailed. You can tell that the mangaka tried hard to portay the rural life of Central Asia. And, also, she must have done her research in order to grasp the atmosphere of that era. However, her themes, like a marriage between a 20 year old woman and a 12 year old child (with big puppy eyes and child-like appearance), plus, her persistence to win his affections, are disturbing to me. There's actually a scene where she hugs him from behind as they sleep and the kid compares his emotions at that time to how the lost lamb (he found in a previous scene) felt as it reunited and cuddled with its mother. My heart tore into a hundred pieces at that moment. And by the way, I've read this manga up to a point to form an opinion as to what it has to offer other than that. I couldn't continue reading it with an open mind as other readers here and thus I left it.
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.
I know what (AquarianDemocrat) mean BUT...
At first, when I read the comment by AquarianDemocrat I was a little bit upset, because if you don't like the manga you should state what exactly you hate but not advice readers to throw the whole manga away. I agree with you that the manga a little bit (maybe a lot) gives this flowery feeling that those people were blessed with happiness and have little in life to worry about. It didn't show any kind of conflict between the family or neighbours (aside of what happened with Amira's family) and you can't see any evilness or someone with bad intentions.. being poor and having rough life is the most thing one would be concerned of in those parts, and they still enjoy it. I agree with all that, BUT at least you could enjoy what the manga has to offer. It gives you a good idea of countries you know little about, and you would at least know what kind of life they are living which is completely different from the readers lifestyle. And if the manga don't offer anything other than the art I would enjoy it like no other. The art is glorious and detailed so much that you can at least compliment the mangaka for it. What really ticked me off with it, and made me write this review, was the story of Ankara. I would accept the happy-go-lucky woman who is seeking a friend for life (though that ritual was strange for me, even though I'm from the middle east I never heard of it) I can also accept offering her friend as a second wife to her husband, strange as it is, its still possible as I've heard of similar incidents in our life. But to have a happy ever after to that story is a little bit going over board.. I was waiting for little conflicts, or at least to see some changes in her life after her husband married her friend, but no no no, every one is happy and everything is perfectly great. In conclusion, this is not a manga about how true life is, it's a manga to show you traditions and lifestyle of rural countries. Enjoy the art and that is enough.
i have no idea WTH AquarianDemocrat is talking about
this manga is not disturbing in anyway at all. and this is coming from someone from the middle east. i have know idea what (s)he is talking about.
of course there was slavery, forced marriages, wars and all the other sad stuff in the middle east (like any other part of the world) but if people believe that they all had happy endings like in this manga then it's their own fault and stupidity. no war has ever had a happy ending for anyone, no slave wanted to serve his/her master, and no woman wanted to marry anyone against her own will. if anyone thinks other than that then it's their own problem. but this manga is a seinen/shoujo, what do you expect?! people to die, rape, and fight? gosh grow up teens are going to be reading this.
and wth is disturbing about happy endings?!
it was a very nice manga, and quite educational actually. as a persian i had no idea about the sisterhood thing but then i read it in this manga and have been bugging my friends to do it with me since (they probably wont, the cold blooded monsters).
the details, god the details. they were beautiful. never had i seen a manga with such gorgeous art *-* seeing all the stuff i see almost everyday in shops drawn so beautifully in a 'japanese manga' made me appreciate it so much XD
fun fact : anis means someone who is very close and dear to you , shirin means sweet. the mangaka actually studied middle east names for this manga and i could not express how happy i was when i read it ^^
anyway, a very nice read. 10/10 (obviously)
Really, I don't understand AT ALL what the previous review is talking about. THIS IS ABOUT HISTORY OF COURSE THERE WILL BE SAD PARTS. It's cute and there's a cheerfulness to the relationships between families but tragedy is a part of history as much as comedy is. How is that disturbing? I find the kind of history classes they must have taken disturbing if this is what they pull from the manga.
This story is slice of life, it's multiple stories of people woven with their daily thoughts and moments, and it's these moments, these attention to detail (as can be seen through the artwork) that makes this manga so brilliant. Often in historical manga or books they leave out all the fine details and moment to moment lives of regular people in that period, while Otoyomegatari focuses on the lives of normal, everyday people and taking these little details to make them unique and likable. You see at once the differences and similarities between yourself and them through this.
I think it's easy to have this lense and judgement in our modern day society and often history is filtered through that. The things we find uncomfortable were normal, everyday things for the people who lived before us-and it's easy to get caught up in the age gap and other such things we deem "evil" and unacceptable. However, it's important to remember that these things happened, frequently, and if we put ourselves in their shoes, really, and let go of all biases you start to see the amazing stories and people this manga is about. I would say this is very educational, especially from an anthropological as well as historical standpoint. You have to let go of any biases you have to understand that these are CULTURAL and TIME PERIOD differences, normal in any Anthropology or History class. At this point you can probably tell I'm mostly speaking to the comment below me, but I feel it's important to clarify the difference between being offended based on personal biases and disliking something simply because it is not good quality. THIS is an amazing manga, it's quite a lovely experience.
My apologies to the people of twelfth century Mongolia
(Against the avalanche of positive reviews, I strongly urge you to read this one before picking up this series. Because I regret ever picking it up, and urge anyone in search of anything this manga purports to provide to look elsewhere.)
Otoyomegatari is a manga about life on the Mongolian steppes. As you may have gathered from the tags, or the description, it attempts to be a "cute" upbeat story. There is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with the premise (well, maybe a little bit -- we'll get to that.) The way the manga is executed however, which may seem innocuous at first, becomes extremely disturbing in later volumes. To explain how and why, we'll need a little more context.
Otoyomegetari has a shifting point of view. It does not just cover one couple, either, or one family, or even one village, but attempts to be a sweeping portrait of different lifestyles across Asia and eastern Europe during this period. The first couple it portrays is a newly arranged marriage in a small village on the Mongolian steppes (arranged marriage may not be a particularly cheerful subject, but they like each other well enough and the respective families that negotiated the marriage are both more or less good people in their own ways, so all in all a pretty cheerful set up.)
(Stick with me, I swear this is going somewhere.)
As was mentioned, you might imagine this is not a particularly gritty portrayal of what small time village life on the Mongolian steppes actually looked like -- and you would be *mostly* right. Disease is virtually not existent, the deaths can be counted on one hand (and only happen to villains anyways.) Everyone is sparkly clean, daily village work is portrayed as a fun collective task.
The problem is that this manga does not contain itself to being a happy go lucky story set in some parallel universe sixteenth century Mongolia where everyone is civilized and there are no problems. Very real problems are introduced, such as war, poverty, slavery, the lack of rights for women (in some chapters they're bought and sold like cattle), polygamy, and other issues.
The problem is there is *no* tonal shift whatsoever. I mean that in the worst possible way you can imagine. All these serious issues show up at various points, but never is there the slightest hint that maybe any of these horrible, horrible events could possibly be wrong. The series, impossibly, keeps its upbeat attitude, and ends up portraying all of these ugly aspects of the medieval world as "fun" and "quirky" aspects of its happy-go-lucky self.
I can not stress enough how disturbing I found this in later volumes. Slavery? Oh so fun. Don't you know all slaves just wanted to help and serve their masters, just like all those adorkable manga maids? War? Haha those silly Russians never learn. Famine and disease? Dohoho, look at how cute these people terrified from dying of incurable diseases are. Polygamy and literal harems? Obviously a consensual joy for all involved.
This is like the evil alternate universe version of Leave It To Beaver. I'm half expecting a chapter about how much of a silly fun fun fest the bubonic plague was.
The mangaka's completely uncritical, un-ironic, and upbeat portrayal of the ugliest aspects of medieval civilization (or lack thereof) is extremely disturbing. Some of the things that happen in this manga are horrifying, and should make you step back and gasp but instead are portrayed happily as part of the most f***ed up sitcom on earth. I wish I could go apologize to all the people who lived through these horrors, 'cause this is just complete disrespect.
If you want a happy, upbeat romance let me give you a few suggestions off the top of my head; Akagami no Shirayukihime (look, its even another medieval-style fantasy), Boku wa Hajikko ga Suki, Shiawase Kissa 3-choume. There's tons more out there. Just do yourself a favor and turn around and go read something else. Anything else. 'Cause this is crap.
(P.S. The fact that anyone called this manga "educational" is a huge joke.)