Reviewby Nick Creamer,
A Bride's Story
In the wake of the raid on their village, Karluk, Amir, and everyone else must work together to pull their homes back together. While Amir's home was spared the worst of the damage, Pariya's was destroyed in the violence - meaning all of the dowry robes she'd already sewn have to be replaced. With the potential date of her wedding pushed back by years, Pariya begins to feel certain this is truly the end for her marriage prospects. And when her potential husband-to-be Umar shows up to help with the recovery, things will only get even more tense for our nervous young maiden.
After the high theatrics of the sixth volume battle, volume eight at last returns us to the village of Karluk and Amir. With the danger passed, this volume focuses on the long recovery, as the many members of their village band together to repair the damage to their homes and livelihood. Amir's family survived the battle relatively unscathed, but Pariya finds herself without either a home or a dowry. And so she settles in with Amir for a while, in a volume that's equal parts nervous fretting, warm smiles, and peaceful, productive afternoons.
A Bride's Story is generally at its best when it's able to dive into the culture and lived experience of its unique cast, and this volume is no exception. With Amir's village forced to rebuild vital, fundamental infrastructure, we get a hands-on look at processes like the creation of bricks, the dredging of irrigation canals, and the management of horses in the wake of a crisis. Kaoru Mori approaches all these events with great passion and an eye for human detail, making this volume feel as much a journey of discovery as the terrific early volumes.
The fun of exploring a foreign lifestyle isn't the only appeal of this volume. With her dowry in tatters, Pariya spends most of this volume even more nervous than usual, buried under a combination of anxieties regarding her marital fortunes, her “unacceptable” personality, her mediocre sewing skills, and much else. Hewing to a much more close-to-home style of insecure incompetence than most Bride's Story characters, Pariya has always been one of the manga's most charming and relatable characters. And here in the eighth volume, she gets to shine in her own way more than ever before.
While the relationship between Amir and Karluk is certainly engaging in its own way, both of those leads can sometimes feel too perfect to relate to. In contrast, Pariya is all familiar flaws, from her failures as a master of domestic crafts to her oversized anxiety regarding those failures. Her quest to arrive at a “more perfect self” feels as understandable as it is misguided, and the victories and failures she weathers along the way feel like a shared experience. Pariya's troubles ring utterly true even to a modern audience (or least to those of us out there who feel anxiety about absolutely everything), and her stumbling journey towards marriage is an absolute delight.
Pariya isn't the only one who gets strong material here, though. The loose narrative focus of this post-battle volume allows Mori to explore a variety of concepts, visiting characters like volume seven's avowed sisters and dabbling in visual setpieces like a small chapter framed from the perspective of a gazelle. This broad approach to storytelling allows Mori's artistry to stretch, as well. The avowed sisters chapter returns to the ornate shoujo ornamentation of that volume, while sequences like Karluk and Amir spending a day on horseback emphasizes her ability to convey motion with solidity and grace. Even the Pariya segments offer great visual treats, from Pariya's diverse array of nervous faces to the beautiful embroidery she spends so long preparing.
Overall, this volume is a welcome return to form for A Bride's Story. In spite of lacking a strong narrative core beyond “Pariya is nervous all the time,” each chapter presents its own beautiful and charming delights. Kaoru Mori is a master of her craft, and A Bride's Story is a testament to her passion and genius.
Overall : A-
Story : B+
Art : A
+ Pariya's material is some of the most endearing in the entire series, the broad focus allows Mori's art to shine even more than usual
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