Reviewby Nick Creamer,
A Bride's Story
Having left Tala and thoughts of marriage behind, Smith continues his journey east, skirting the edge of the Aral Sea. But an accidental tumble into the water brings Smith face-to-face-to-face with the twin sisters Laila and Leily, identical in face, feature, and unruly temperament. Dragged back to their town, Smith finds himself once again stuck in the rhythms of one more family's daily life, as Laila and Leily try their best to find suitably smart, attractive, rich, accommodating husbands for themselves.
A Bride's Story has always been a manga heavy on vignettes and digressions, but Smith's exit from Amir and Karluk's family back at the end of volume two has expanded its scope without really heightening the drama. In fact, with him on the road, the story has become a bit of a genre-shifting travelogue, using him as a mild-mannered viewpoint character to explore more of the countryside and cultures Kaoru Mori clearly finds so fascinating. Volume three reached for romantic melodrama, in a series of marriages and counter-marriages that perhaps exceeded the story's grasp, but volume four is much, much lighter - in fact, it's the most consistently silly and humor-focused set of chapters yet.
After an opening chapter that briefly checks in on Amir's family, Amir herself, and the eternally adorable Pariya, volume four cuts right back to Smith, quickly introducing him to the twin sisters Laila and Leily and marooning him in their village as a traveling doctor. Laila and Leily are the stars here - smart-mouthed and quick on their feet and perhaps a bit faster to act than to think, they form a sometimes bumbling but almost always entertaining team of scoundrels. The manga moves energetically at the pace of their adventures, as the two spend most of this volume avoiding their parents' scolding and attempting to find good husbands for themselves in spite of basically everyone around them telling them not to.
These husband-finding plans are a motley bunch, and include ideas like “chuck a fish at a rich man crossing a bridge, save him from drowning, and then take his son's hand in marriage.” Or, similarly, “headbutt a likely prospect as he turns a corner, thus forcing him to marry you for the crime of touching a maiden's hair.” This volume is light on drama and heavy on physical comedy, and though that means it lacks much of the sense of wonder and intimacy that characterizes many of A Bride's Story's best moments, it's nonetheless a very comfortable read, with Laila and Leily pretty much instantly endearing themselves to the audience. They are textbook “lovable scamps,” and their scams and consistently furrowed, up-to-no-good expressions make this a breezy but entertaining volume. The ultimate resolution to their relationship woes comes off as a little pat and possibly unsatisfying, but the story's drama was never as important as its gags.
Mori's art remains beautiful in this volume, though there are fewer visual standouts like the rug and woodworking-focused chapters from earlier volumes. The tight domestic focus and comedy affectation mean a lot of the best details here come in the twins' very funny expressions, or the visual beats of jokes like the rich man getting decked with a fish. Though Mori's young men can sometimes look interchangeable, the older characters have a wide range of facial designs, and Mori's eyes remain as expressive and beautiful as ever. The twins are brought to life through their distinctive body language, and when Mori gets a chance to really let loose (like one shot of Smith looking up at the twins from underwater, with patterns of light playing along their robes), Bride's Story can once again demonstrate its singular beauty.
Overall, though some readers may be tiring of Smith's journeys and be eager to get back to Amir and Karluk, A Bride's Story remains entertaining and visually compelling throughout this fourth volume. There's less drama and character work, but that's replaced by some well-executed comedy, making this come off as essentially a fun intermission between the more contemplative usual material. And with the twins' weddings approaching, I'm sure volume five will give Mori ample opportunity to get in some truly impressive visual setpieces.
Overall : B+
Story : B
Art : A-
+ The twins offer plenty of laughs in this volume, and the underlying art style remains strong throughout.
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