Not like me to review stuff, but THIS! This is a work of genius, it really is. Put aside all your attitudes towards Japanese manga. ALL of them, and check this out. Regard it as a graphic novel – for that’s what it is. No ‘anime eyes’, no panty-shots, no mecha or magical girls or talking pets. This is a story set squarely in the 19th century, with a huge cast of (almost) entirely credible characters and with extraordinary attention to the details of everyday life, customs and social codes.
But more than that – Her extraordinary attention to the clothes!! Artist Kaoru Mori has certainly done the research, and it shows. Eschewing the usual hasty tricks of most comic artists, she draws frame after frame with obsessional attention. Seriously, if they were coloured, you would call every frame a painting.
But what has delighted me the most – and it has been a slow-burning fuse – are her characters. They live. They feel. They get intense: Weepy. Manic. Embarrassed. Bossy. But just as often they are caring, deep, sociable, focused, artistic, shy … very very HUMAN.
And that is where Mori-san snagged me. Snagged me good. It’s addictive, I warn you. There is one elder character (no spoilers, I promise) who will keep surprising you, until you will literally be cheering. You will sit back from the page and go, “Oh my God; you didn’t? You DID! You bloody beaut!!”
Well I did, but I’ve become a huge squealing fanboy. (Read other reviews. We all agree!)
More that that, she doesn’t pull many punches. Life in this world is tough. Animals need to be killed and cooked. Work is constant. The Patriarchy rules, and sometimes it wins the storylines against all of our cosy Hollywood expectations. Sometimes you’ll sit back for the storylines and go, “Fook. … Fookin’ hell.”
BUT PERSEVERE! Further on, you will get to Pariya, who is “of a certain age”. And here begins a deep and perceptive study of a person with some extreme personality …’issues’ shall we say. Someone so disabled by it that in our culture today she would have been sent to every specialist around, and collected a dozen diagnoses (not all particularly useful). But here in her village she is simply given room to be herself, and grow, and engage. Not perfectly, (hell – she repeals everyone!) … But WOW: how it’s handled …
Just get there, okay?! It’ll be well worth the journey via quite a few other brides’ stories; some wildly hilarious. Seriously, I seldom laugh out loud reading a ‘comic’. I seldom get tears. But “A Bride’s Story” has given me both, and I’m glad of it. Mori-san is a genius: Artist; Historian; Story-teller; Comedian. Her books are works of ART!