2015’s A Bride’s Story, Volume 8 (retitled from the original Otoyomegatari) is the eighth tankōbon for Kaoru Mori’s historical manga series. The English translation lagged Japanese publication by almost a year.
Pausing only long enough to assure the reader that Anis, Sherine, and their doting husband are perfectly happy, the manga redirects its attention back to central Asia, where young Pariya is not only not perfectly happy, she is not happy at all.
Most immediate of the prickly young woman’s problems: Pariya’s family home and all it contained were among the casualties of the recent Halgal attack1 on the town (see volume 6). The townsfolk will do what they can to help, but there are many houses that need rebuilding. Perhaps alarming to Pariya, her embroidery went up in flames with the rest of her dowry.
Like most young women of this place and time, Pariya is determined to marry. She has found a likely young man in bright, ambitious Umar. Too bad that she isn’t all that skilled at the art of courtship (as practiced along the Silk Road at this time). Not only is Pariya much franker than is deemed seemly for proper young women, but she also isn’t good at household skills and isn’t all that interested in learning to do them. But …
The loss of her embroidery is not a complete disaster. True, it represented years of labour, but it was shoddy work. Forced to redo everything, easily frustrated Pariya reluctantly resolves to do it properly this time. Once she learns how to focus on the task, she proves skilled.
With embroidery dealt with, Pariya can turn to another problem: her lack of feminine social graces. Here too a solution presents itself. Kamola embodies every virtue Pariya could imagine a woman possessing. Pariya can learn from Kamola!
True, the two women are not friends. That is easily solved by Pariya’s shadowing of an increasingly alarmed Kamola. Perhaps Pariya should have explained her intentions before relentlessly pursuing her subject.
The focus on complex needlework (depicted in fine detail by the author/artist, as is her custom) makes one wonder how young women with terrible eyesight cope in this culture. Not well, I expect2.
“Pariya inadvertently [fill in the blank]” is a running theme in her life. Her default expression looks like anger. It’s more commonly panic; she’s all too well aware that she is unconventional and socially unappealing. She is convinced that fate is against her.
Her failure to communicate well with others is matched by her failure to read others accurately. Pariya is convinced that Umar will reject her as soon as he comprehends her true nature. In fact, it’s her unconventional nature that attracts him. Too bad that circumstances are keeping the couple apart. Poor communication: the sturdy foundation on which highly successful romance writing careers are built.
Readers may be assured that Mori is far more interested in happy endings than unhappy ones. The tragic and abusive marriages in this series are for the most part off-stage. This is therefore a lavishly illustrated amusing diversion about people winding themselves up unnecessarily. It’s also a story in which a savvy goat-riding old woman plays a central and very helpful role.
1: A footnote re the ill-fated Halgal: the survivors have been granted new grazing lands which are directly in the path of the inevitable Russian attack. Younger readers may not know this, but there was a time when the Russians were relentless imperialists.
2: Editor’s note: if she’s nearsighted, that’s a plus for needlework. Not so good for cooking or herding sheep.