I was hesitant to pick up the third volume in Kaoru Mori’s new manga series, A Bride’s Story, since I had read that the majority of the stories would feature Henry Smith, the young Englishman traveling through Central Asia for research. I thought he was funny as the comic-relief weirdo, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with him as the leading man. But of course, this volume was just as good as the first two. And even though Mr. Smith was more serious, he still provided you with many opportunities to laugh at him.
The bulk of the chapters focus on Mr. Smith after he has parted ways with the Eihon family and is currently looking for his guide who will take him to Ankara. After a mix-up, he meets Taras, a lovely black-widow, who invites him to stay with her and her mother-in-law. But what happens when her mother-in-law asks him to marry her? And what will happen when he gets arrested and thrown into prison on suspicion of being a spy? He’s just Mr. Smith, a man conducting research for no reason – even though no one does that.
I was glad that Amir and Karluk showed up, along with Pariya who has fast become one of my favorite characters. Not only are they so nice to see, but through them we got a chapter on what kinds of delicious food you can buy in the market. Pariya even got her own bonus chapter which was a series of short scenes that tried to explain her personality. I thought she was kind of weird and way too intense in the first two volumes, but she’s really grown on me. Plus, it looks like taking a trip with the young Eihon couple was an eventful decision – she meets someone! Those two are already too cute. So their cuteness made up for the fact that there was no Azel (Amir’s older brother – my favorite character) other than a throwaway line that the Halgal tribe might have been involved in a skirmish with the Russians. Don’t kill Azel!
We also met a new character, Ali, Mr. Smith’s guide. I’m not sure about him yet – I can’t help suspecting that he’s motivated by more than money. This series is probably Mori’s most ambitious work yet in terms of scope – it looks like she’s going to delve into political intrigue and maybe even war. When I heard that the series was going to be about the Silk Road, I thought it would just be about a lot of stuff to buy and sell, but I guess I would have been into that too.
And Mori’s Afterword Manga/omake continues to be too funny. I think it’s as much of a draw as her actual stories. I love that Kodansha recently reprinted Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon (still the best ever!) and Codename: Sailor V (what an unexpected treat!), but the volumes don’t include any notes from the manga-ka. Lame. What is even lamer is that there’s no fourth volume of A Bride’s Story set for release any time soon. I guess this will give me a taste of the pace of life in early 19th century Central Asia.