2019’s A Bride’s Story, Vol. 12 is the twelfth tankōbon in Kaoru Mori’s historical manga, which is titled Otoyomegatari in the original Japanese. The English translation of this volume appeared in 2020.
Rather than a single storyline, this volume has a number of threads. However, a number of characters who previously never met before do encounter each other, thanks to the energetic Mr. Smith.
Across central Asia, various characters find themselves with time on their hands, filling it in ways that display their personalities. Of particular note, twin sisters Laila and Leily, now married to brothers Farsami and Sarmaan, occupy themselves with wild fantasies rather than learning how to manage practical tasks. The brothers’ expressions suggest this has been something of a running theme in the marriages, a development which can only foreshadow happy times to come.
Elsewhere bride-to-be Pariya finds herself without the companionship of her closest friend Kamola, who is bedridden with a minor illness. Being a giant ball of social anxiety, Pariya swiftly works herself into a state, although it all works out in the end.
Of particular note, Mr. Smith’s second visit to Anis and Sherine’s Persian household. Of course, Mr. Smith never sets eyes on either woman, only their doting (and nameless) wealthy husband. Men and women of different families do not mix in Persia of this time, so for Mr. Smith, Anis and Sherine’s existence is something he must take on faith, lest he profoundly offend his propriety-obsessed host.
However, accompanying Smith is his wife-to-be Talas and she, of course, is housed in the women’s section. Not only does Talas come from a culture quite unlike any the two Persian women have experienced — Talas’ homeland allows her to go out in public with her face bare for the world to see — but Talas has with her a cunning device that fascinates the co-wives.
The art in this series is more focused on clothing and scenery than on people, so that when two minor characters not mentioned above appeared, I had no idea who they were from appearance alone. I had to resort to checking notes. That said, the scenery and clothing is beautifully rendered.
I am as astounded as you are that marriage did not immediately transform Laila and Leily from energetic ditzes into responsible adults. One can only speculate what horrible sins their husbands committed in past lives to be consigned to life with sisters whose zany is always set to 11. In their defense, everyone involved in that marriage are children by our standards … but I get the impression that Laila and Leily’s Laila-and-Leilyness won’t go away with time.
FYI: Public baths play an important role in this volume, the baths being the primary way in which Anis and Sherine can socialize with other women outside the household without their husband fretting . As a consequence, there’s a lot of nudity in this volume.
Smith’s host gives Smith permission for Talas to photograph the women’s section of the house on one condition, that his wives not be photographed. Either this request was not conveyed to Talas or it was forgotten in the heat of the moment. There exists a photo of the women, the very thing whose existence was forbidden. Luckily for Smith, his author is good-natured and the story does not explore how Smith’s host reacts to his one rule being violated.
Although this volume is a less focused than is convenient for my purposes, one does get the sense that characters are converging and the story is beginning to head towards, if not theconclusion than a conclusion. Good thing, given how few volumes are left.
1: He nixes inviting women to his house’s women’s quarter because while it is permissible within the rules of propriety, he’s worried that if the other women see how well Sherine lives as a consequence of marrying him, the other women will gossip that the widow only married him for the money, whereas it’s pretty clear she married him so she could live with Anis.