Thursday, May 8, 2014

YALSA top ten GNs 2012: A Bride’s Story

A Bride’s Story (Volumes 1-3)
Written and illustrated by Kaoru Mori
Published by Yen Press (volumes 1-2, 2011; volume 3, 2012)

Only the first volume of this series was on the YALSA list, but I happened to see the first three in the library, so I picked them all up. To be honest because I didn't look at what this book was about I mistook it for Ooku: The Inner Chambers, which was on the 2010 YALSA list, and I kind of can't believe that I read about six hundred pages of this stuff.

A Bride's Story is set somewhere in central Asia in the late 19th century. At the time when women were married off to other families for money or political connections or any number of other reasons. As the comic begins Amir has been married off to another family, and she is positively ancient by bride standards (she's twenty), while her husband is only 12. The comic basically just follows the day to day activities of Amir as she becomes used to living with a new family.

It is incredibly boring.

Now, I find this kind of shocking as (spoilers ahead) Amir's old family comes and attacks the village she's living in, and in a later volume someone gets thrown into jail. Yet despite this it is just the dullest comic I have read in quite some time. Pages will be devoted to a character, who is never named, carving wood. Or there can be page after page of characters doing embroidery. Or, even worse, page after page of characters just _looking_ at embroidery.

But none of that is my real problem with this comic, my major problem is with the character of Amir. I realized somewhere in here that Amir is not actually a human being. Amir is a robot. Now you might be thinking "What? You said this book was set in the late 19th century, how is she a robot?", but I don't mean that she is a robot made out of mechanical parts (because really, nobody that knows me would ever think that I'd find that a problem). No, Amir is a robot in that she does not have human emotions or react to events like a human would. Instead she is absurdly innocent, verges on being an idiot savant in regards to her capabilities (she's an amazing archer!), who is amazed by _everything_. OH MY GOSH YOU CAN BAKE BREAD! Or you can sew, or there's a horse, or any other incredibly mundane thing astounds her utterly as though she has never seen it before. Amir reacts to events as though she has no prior history of doing or experiencing anything. She also becomes overwhelmingly devoted to her husband for no apparent reason whatsoever, which reminds me of robots who are devoted to their creator because, well, why not? It's kind of creepy.

Now this title has a lot of positive reviews online, and Kaoru Mori also had a title (Emma) on the 2008 YALSA list, so clearly she has many people who enjoy her work a lot, but I pretty clearly don't see the appeal of this comic. I will say that A Bride's Story is considerably better than Emma for two reasons. First, while the main character in both series is incredibly docile and passive, Amir is at least capable of doing _something_ (shooting arrows at things), while I don't think the main character in Emma did anything other than be embarrassed and polite, and second the art is really nice. I just wish it was being used on a comic I actually cared about.

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