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A Bride's Story (Otoyomegatari) is a seinen manga and yet another period romance from Kaoru Mori. This time the setting is Great Game-era Central Asia, at the time of The Crimean War in the mid-19th century.

Set on The Silk Road that connected Asia with Europe before modern times, it is the Slice of Life story of Amir, a nomadic tribeswoman skilled in archery and horsemanship, who is sent to marry Karluk, a boy from another village who is eight years younger than her. Despite their age difference, the newlyweds like each other very much and follow a patient path leading towards grown-up love. But all is not well: the Russians are expanding south, political unrest is brewing, and Amir's family now want to take her back. The narrative follows not just Karluk and Amir as they navigate these challenges, but also various characters around them who are engaged in trying to better their lives or end up finding their special someone.

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As with all of Mori's works, the art and attention to detail is extensive, although Mori can put more effort into this particular work with less pressure, since it is a bimonthly publication.

Published in English by Yen Press in larger-than-usual hardcover volumes to show off Mori's artwork.


This manga provides examples of:

  • A-Cup Angst: Anis, a delicate beauty with a smooth chest, starts to feel insecure after the women at the bathhouse compare her to the much more buxom Sherine and imply her husband would like her better if she were filled out. When she talks about it with her husband, he tells her in no uncertain terms that he likes her the way she is.
  • Absurdly Youthful Mother:
    • Due to the customs of the region and period, this is played straight by Karluk’s sister, Seleke, who has four children, the eldest being eight (that said, the middle two, Torcan and Chargu, seem to be twins). When Karluk and Amir visit his uncle’s place: one of the women has at least two children (a toddler and a baby) at age eighteen.
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    • Most mothers in the story seem to have their first child in their late teens.
  • The Ace:
    • Barring her age, Amir is pretty much the perfect bride. Good at sewing, cooking, hunting, kind, patient, etc. To top it off, she’s a beauty. There’s a funny moment when Pariya thinks of Amir and gets angry because she’s struggling to learn to embroider while Amir is good at everything. Later on, when Pariya tries to think of an impossibly perfect human being, guess which face springs into her mind?
    • Hot-Blooded tendencies aside, her elder brother, Azel, is basically the perfect man by the region’s standards. He excels at hunting, archery, swordsmanship, leadership, falconry, equestrianism, and most traditionally male tasks. He’s also smart, handsome, and very loyal to his family. In short, he’s very clearly Amir’s brother.
    • Anis and Sherine also think that Anis' husband is this, particularly after he marries a widowed Sherine as well. He's rich, handsome, healthy, intelligent, cultured, and breathtakingly generous and compassionate- Anis constantly thinks how lucky she is to have married him and Sherine elaborates on what an admirable man he is as well.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: A minor one, lampshaded in the afterword of volume two: getting a lot of bricks dumped over your head will kill you, even if the bricks are only made from mud and sun-dried (rather than fired in a kiln).
  • Accidental Hero:
    • As part of his cover to avoid being accosted on his travels, Mr. Smith pretends to be a doctor and helps a man with his dislocated shoulder. Come morning, and everyone is convinced he’s a miraculous doctor and have formed a huge crowd outside his door.
    • In chapter thirty-three, aptly entitled "Azel’s Offensive," Azel’s striking down the Batan in retaliation results in his also saving some townsmen’s lives, which he couldn't tell at the time due to the smoke.
  • Accidental Marriage: Laila and Leyli try their damnedest to invoke this by running into chosen people, wearing their headscarves loose (because touching a woman’s bare head would be scandalous unless you’re her husband... or marry her right away). One of their older relatives actually pulled this off, but for more sensible reasons.
  • Accidental Misnaming: The messenger sent by Smith’s friend, Mr. Hawking, Niklovski, never gets Mr. Smith’s name correct. Granted English is, at best, distantly related to any language he knows and the "th" in question is an unusual sound among human languages, this isn’t exactly unexpected; only Niklovski is the only character to do so. The guy first uses the German equivalent and later uses the most common sound substitutes, which is what typically happens in reality. He ultimately settles on "Smiff."
  • Action Girl:
    • Amir has hunting and survival skills that can be turned to combat, and she’s physically courageous as well as fiercely protective of her new family. It’s actually stated that this was part of a normal education for girls where she’s from. Chapter thirty-three drives the point firmly home when she takes out her own father, the enemy commander, single-handed.
    • Karluk’s grandmother, Balkirsh, is an expert archer, and while she mostly stopped using her bow after she got married, she’s still got the touch, as well as nerves of steel. She also uses her talent for riding goats to rescue a small child from a steep cliff in a side chapter. She isn’t exactly young either.
  • Age-Gap Romance:
    • Amir and Karluk have an eight year age gap; not to mention that Karluk was only twelve when they got married. While their relationship begins as an Arranged Marriage, they end up genuinely falling in love.
    • It turns out that Talas’ fifth husband, the youngest son of his family, was still a child when she married him, similar to Amir and Karluk's situation. However, he died soon after, and him dying when his whole future was still ahead of him was what hurt Talas the most.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Azel is this to Amir; later it turns out that this was partially imposed by their father’s attitudes and even then he shows a fair amount of Big Brother Instinct. He later comes to have a similar attitude toward Karluk.
  • Always Identical Twins: Averted with Karluk’s elder nephews, who are clearly fraternal, but played straight with Laila and Leyli, who are prone to speaking in unison, Finishing Each Other's Sentences, and other forms of Twin Banter.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Both Anis and Sherine love their husbands, but it becomes pretty obvious that their feelings for each other are more than just friendship. After Sherine's husband dies, Anis begs her own husband to marry Sherine as well, which leads to Anis and Sherine getting even more intimate, and their story arc ends with all three being happily in love with each other. Given the sociohistorical context — private and public segregation of sexes, as well as commonality of marriage — it's very difficult to tell what these two women’s preferences are.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: After a brief moment of insecurity on Karluk’s part, Amir gives him one in chapter sixty-six.
  • Anti-Villain: Azel, Baimat, and Joruk (Amir’s elder brother and cousins) strongly disapprove of her father’s order to take her back and marry her to an abusive and wealthy man, but very reluctantly follow orders anyway, since they’re the orders of their clan’s Chief and no one should ever disobey their father. All three of them try to dissuade the elder members of their clan, especially the Chief, to no avail. When their Chief leads a raid on Karluk’s town, the three set up a counter-plan in advance, sending Joruk to alert Amir under the guise of trying to convince her one last time, actively minimizing casualties, and striking back at the Batan. After Amir and Azel’s father dies and Azel becomes the chief, they lead the clan in a more intelligent and sensible direction, giving the entire clan a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Apron Matron: Resident Cool Old Lady, Balkirsh bears this role, and she’s also the wife of the Eihon family patriarch, Mahatbek.
  • Arranged Marriage: The story takes place in nineteenth century Central Asia, so most couples have at least an element of this; the extent is partially determined by the couple’s fathers. Amir and Karluk are a more typical example, as are the two by the Aral Sea, while others show a bit more input from the prospective match. Some story arcs actually revolve around how even those marrying for love need to get their respective families to arrange the marriage. That said, usually, both parties try to love their spouses (else they’ll be miserable for the next few decades), so falling for one’s betrothed or spouse is at least hoped for. That said, this is not the case for every couple, but very nearly.
  • Author Appeal: Obscure setting? Check. Gorgeously intricate clothing? Check. Obsessive attention to historical detail? Check. Intelligent, beautiful, and unusual female lead? Check. This is very much a Mori Kaoru manga. Mori herself has stated that she’s had a fascination with the period subject (pre-Russian Silk Road) since high school.
    Mori: The Silk Road region of Central Asia is all about hot-spring baths! And it isn’t just because I wanted to draw people in the nude!
  • Author Avatar: As with her previous stories, she portrays herself in the afterwords as a messy haired caricature with bad manners (often yelling the whole time). She’s also usually eating something.
  • Badass Bookworm: Mr. Smith, although it isn’t obvious, is very definitely one. Not only does he use impromptu methods to ward off dangers, he’s also brave enough to be openly traveling as an Englishman during the Great Game. Not only that, the threat of war on the horizon, rather than making him retreat, actually renews his determination to continue his ethnographic research, knowing full well that he might die in the process.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • This happens with Mr. Smith and Talas in chapter seventeen: after the mother-in-law has continually tried to hook the two up, they return to inform her of their engagement only to find out that she’s married the xenophobic uncle and he opposes the arrangement, which, in the setting, means that it’s broken.
    • At the close of Laila and Leyli’s bridal training, the twins think that their mother is about to throw yet another task at them and end up being terrified before their mother suddenly hugs them instead.
    • After the Halgal-Batan invasion, Amir’s father is dragging himself away swearing revenge but is stopped short by Balkirsh’s timely arrow shot from goat-back.
    • Mr. Smith experiences a slight one in chapter sixty-seven, when Ali begins giving camels haircuts, Mr. Smith assumes that just like with the carvings and embroidery, the designs have meanings. When asked, Ali responds that they just look cool.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Amir: don’t try to hurt Karluk, even if you are her father. Seriously, don’t.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Although Azel doesn’t usually say much, not only is he a One-Man Army, he’s also really bloodthirsty when genuinely angry.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Yusuf shows this for his brother-in-law, Karluk, on occasion. Azel does this a lot, although it isn’t always obvious, and he extends this to his young brother-in-law.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Despite this being a slice-of-life story, this actually happens at several points:
    • Mr. Smith uses an impromptu flock of sheep to stop the heavily-armed Halgals from forcing Amir away in chapter seven. He also saves Talas from a venomous snake by throwing rocks at it, in chapter fourteen.
    • When the Halgals’ night ambush has been defeated, one man manages to get to her house unnoticed and tries to abduct Amir. Just before he succeeds, Karluk puts a stop to this by first kicking the guy, then stabbing the guy’s shin before the man successfully retaliates, resulting in the assailant falling from the ledge.
    • During the Halgal-Batan invasion, there’s a lot of this. In chapter thirty-three, Amir returns Karluk’s favour of saving her by saving him via shooting down her father’s horse, jumping down from atop a tall building, knocking his sword from his hands, and pinning him to the ground with it. Later, when the Batan betray them, Azel ends up saving various people — including Yusuf, Amir, and Karluk — in the nick of time, from both assailants and explosions. After that, when Azel, Amir, and Karluk are surrounded by Batan gunmen, Baimat and Joruk shoot down a few, sweep them away to comparative safety, and hand Azel his bow and quiver. Amir pays this back almost immediately, by using her belt as an improvised sling to knock out a gunman aiming for Azel. Following the conflict, Azel also pushes Amir out of the way when a mob of angry townsmen charge at him to beat him up. Once the authorities arrive and the town head casts Azel as a regular enemy to question, a bunch of old ladies who saw the whole thing interrupt and correct him.
  • Big Eater: Anis’s new friend, Sherine, takes this to incredible heights with no detriment to her waistline. She clears a loaded plate, including a whole chicken, in the time it takes for Anis to look away and back. She also likes to eat entire watermelons by herself, as a snack.
  • Biseinen: Many characters tote the line on this one. Azel and Joruk, Amir’s elder brother and cousin respectively, fit this category, as does Mr. Smith’s guide, Ali, to a lesser extent. Yusuf and Mr. Smith (when you can actually see his face) are regular Biseinen, while Amir’s cousin, Baimat, is arguably a Hunk.
  • Bishōnen: Karluk and, to a lesser extent, Pariya’s fiancé, Umar.
  • Black Widow: Subverted. Talas is a serial widow for five brothers, but she did love some of them and had no part in their deaths. Also she or her family gained no extra dowries for the "bonus" marriages.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Mr. Smith really needs those glasses: for example, when visiting the men’s bathhouse in chapter thirty-eight, he talks to Ali... only he’s facing a pillar. This also is part of why his are so thick.
  • Boom, Headshot!: A comedic variant where one of the twins' harebrained schemes involved taking out a passer-by with a headshot... using a fish. They threw it hard enough to knock him out cold.
  • Born in the Saddle: Almost any group native to Central Asia is this, although this is truer with the more nomadic groups. They fight, hunt, travel, eat, and even flirt on horseback. A few characters end up eating and sleeping while ridding, too.
  • Bow and Sword, in Accord: The Halgal men are this. Yet again, Azel excels at this; on top of nearly Improbable Aiming Skills, his swordsmanship is no joke.
  • Bows Versus Rifles: This occurs whenever more traditional groups face off against less traditional ones or groups in bed with Czarist Russia. In chapter fifty-three, in reaction to having seen Azel’s prowess with a bow, Karluk notes that if you know how to use them, a bow and arrow can out-preform a rifle (overruling Yusuf’s objection that they’re harder and more time-consuming). This is Truth in Television, as the rifles of the period took a long time to load, were not repeating, and were less than accurate, giving competent archers a considerable advantage; until the wide-spread adoption of repeating firearms, Central Asian mounted archery was nearly indomitable.
  • Buxom Is Better: Sahmi has developed a reputation for preferring women with large boobs, which embarrasses him every time one of the twins brings it up.
    • Sherine has the biggest breasts in the series by a mile, something the flat-chested Anis finds remarkable.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: This is Mori Kaoru, after all. No matter how insignificant the character or brief their appearance, they all have different faces, hairstyles, clothing, and so on.
  • Cheerful Child: Again, most of Karluk's nieces and nephews.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Remember how Amir panics whenever someone gets sick and how it apparently took her father seven years to find a groom to despite her many qualifications and being the daughter of clan chief? There’s a reason for that… Apparently an epidemic killed many members of her clan, combined with her father not realizing that the best is the enemy of the good, and you get the present results. This continues to effect her. Azel, Baimat, and Joruk are unmarried for the same reason.
  • Christmas Cake:
    • Invoked and discussed. Some characters mention Amir being old for a bride (she's married at twenty, but her family started looking for a husband for her from the time she was thirteen), especially considering the eight-year age gap between her and Karluk.
    • Pariya is terrified at becoming one. So she becomes very nervous around her husband-to-be, trying to show him what she believes is the perfect wife. Luckily, he prefers her more gruff and relaxed personality.
  • Close-Knit Community: The town where Karluk comes from.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The people of Karluk’s town will use anything available to defend themselves, as well as any technique. Aside from blades and firearms, they use makeshift barricades, lead opponents into terrain-type traps within the town itself, use nets to entangle horses, shoot bullets into the sky as a distraction, use farming tools as bludgeons, and throw all manner of things at their opponents, including sun-dried mud bricks and sewage.
  • Completely Missing the Point:
    • In the first chapter, Amir receives some cloth from her mother-in-law, Sanira, which she uses to make a rabbit fur-trimmed vest for Karluk. Sanira says that she'd thought it'd be nice material for Amir to make something for herself. Amir thinks this means that Sanira thinks her current clothes are too dirty to wear, so she immediately strips down and runs off to do laundry.
    • In chapter three, after Amir hunts down a fox, Karluk admits he worries she may one day run into a wolf. Her response?
      Amir: Oh, for wolves you need more people, to get all of them at a shot! You can't hunt them alone!
      Karluk: .....
    • It occurs less frequently after that, but Amir still does this, as do other characters on occasion.
  • Cool Big Sis: Amir to Pariya and Karluk's niece and nephews.
  • Cool Old Lady: Karluk's grandmother, Balkirsh, who drives off hostile visitors with a bow and rides a goat up a cliff to rescue a child. After the latter side-story, she's explicitly dubbed the coolest and strongest woman in the manga!note 
  • Cool Uncle: Chapter eighty-four reveals that Henry Smith is this, at least in his nephew’s eyes.
  • Coordinated Clothes:
    • Azel and Baimat wear clothes and hats with similar design and patterns (also seen on Amir's clothes). Of the Halgal cousins, only Joruk wears a turban and an unpatterned vest. We get an explanation in the author's corner of volume nine. Azel and Baimat (and of course Amir) hail from the father's side of the family, thus their clothes bear similar crests. Joruk on the other hand is a cousin from the mother's side.
    • Laila and Leyli always wear matching clothes, even their wedding gowns are identical with all of that embroidery.
  • Costume Porn: Especially the embroidery. Dear God, the embroidery. This series may as well be called Costume Porn: The Manga.
  • Courtly Love: Amir and Karluk, out of the very simple necessity of Karluk being twelve. Also Mr. Smith and Talas, since he is an English gentleman and she a widow from a completely different culture.
  • Cultural Posturing:
    • Possibly crossed with Mugging the Monster. At least some of the nomads seem to see the Russian newcomers not as people from a huge nation with hundreds of thousands of soldiers but as little more than savages from the borderlands or another tribe that can be repelled by at best a couple hundred fighters with a few cannons. Yeah, about that...
    • Somewhat averted by the head of Karluk’s town, who thinks that the armaments left by the Batan will increase their chances, but is wise enough to realize that Russia is not another tribe, although he has no idea just how large it is.
  • Cutlass Between the Teeth: In chapter thirty-two this is done twice with their single-edged swords while on horseback: first by a nameless Halgal man and then still more impressively by Amir and Azel’s father. Azel does this on foot two chapters later, while in the thick of a very chaotic battle. They all do this with the blade facing away from them, making this actually possible.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Talas' stepfather-in-law won't allow Mr. Smith to even see her.
  • Death by Despair: Talas' father-in-law, after all five of his sons died without producing offspring.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Saamahn and Farsami do this a lot in response to the twins or their father’s antics. The twins cause this in a lot of people, actually.
    • Joruk sometimes does this, even when it is probably not the best idea, survival-wise.
    • Mr. Hawking has quite the mouth, and he isn’t shy about it either.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Obviously nineteenth century Central Asia did not have modern First World values.
    • Children have to pay complete obedience to their fathers, people come-of-age a lot earlier, and most marriages are to some extent if not completely arranged. One example is Amir and Karluk’s marriage — Karluk is only twelve years old, but in that time period, he would be considered of age. By modern standards, their union would be equivalent to a twenty-one year old college graduate marrying a woman in her thirties. Although the author explained in her endnotes to volume one that the actual average marrying couple in the region realistically would have been fifteen to sixteen years of age, and admits that she decided to have such a wide age gap between the two main leads for dramatic purposes.
    • While Amir married Karluk, who truly loves her and lives in one of the nicest communities in the area, women from other families and tribes aren't as fortunate. In particular, it's revealed that Amir's female relatives were abused to death by their spouse's family, and Talas' father-in-law attempts to have her marry off quickly, all the while ignoring her feelings; though Karluk and the others were sympathetic, they agreed that Talas has no choice but to obey him.
    • Depending on the region, the customs are somewhat different, leading to differing standards of decency, expected male-female behaviour, and so on.
    • Central Asian customs versus English customs, even at the time of the manga: lampshaded in the interactions of Mr. Smith and Ali.
  • Delicious Distraction: Amir and pomegranates.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: During chapter two, Seleke repeatedly deprives Rostem of dinner for skipping out on his chores. Upon her request, Amir sneaks him some food and helps with the chores, saying she’d only do it that one time. When Rostem slacks off again, she sticks by that "just once," and Seleke panics at the thought of Rostem going hungry.
  • Determinator:
    • Azel will do whatever he sets his mind to, even with terrible odds.
    • When it comes to "not letting anything stand between your True Love and you," Talas exhibits this in chapter seventy-one.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: Invoked by the twins’ father, who wants to get them both off his hands at the same time, and therefore marries them to a pair of brothers. The twins were actually aiming for that the entire time, just not with the brothers they ended up with.
  • Double Vision: In chapter nineteen, Mr. Smith thinks that he’s seeing double, and is surprised that he still sees the same thing after looking again: he’s actually looking at a pair of identical twins, who lampshade it.
  • Dowry Dilemma:
    • This crops up occasionally, such as when a family has trouble marrying off their twin daughters who are throughly known as troublemakers and the dowry needs to be accordingly large.
    • This is also part of the reason why Azel, Baimat, and Joruk are still unmarried, since they live in a harsh climate, making the bridal-price (spear-counterpart to the dowry) higher than normal. Ali’s reason for needing money is for a similar reason.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Laila and Leili's mother transforms into this when she's giving the twins a crash course in bridehood, beating them with chickens, making them do push-ups with their younger siblings sitting on their backs, making them run while carrying weights as she rides along behind them on a cart lashing at them with a whip and, of course, constantly shouting at them.
    Mother: Cooking, cleaning, child rearing, and all the other responsibilities of the homemaker... not only that, but guts as well! I'm going to beat it all into you!
    The girls stare at her blankly.
    Mother: I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!
    Twins: YES, MA'AM!
  • Elopement: Talas intends to do this with Mr. Smith, the twist is her arranged husband goes with her to see her through it. Ultimately, she succeeds.
  • End of an Age: It’s not very obvious, but there are hints here and there of the modern world — represented by the Russians and even Mr. Smith — encroaching ever more into the local way of life. Other examples include the growing presence of bolt-action rifles, settlers, and Russian-influenced fashions. Justified, due to the story taking place circa 1860, not long before the Russians conquered the area. This is even lampshaded by Mr. Smith himself in chapter sixty-nine in a particular moment of badassery.
  • Eye Patch Of Power: Amir’s grim and formidable father, the Halgal clan chief, wears a highly decorative cloth band over his missing eye.
  • Exact Words: Balkirsh can honestly swear she hasn't seen Umar and Pariya that morning. It's not as if they asked her if she had heard them chatting on the rooftop, right above her head.
  • First Kiss:
    • Amir and Karluk share this in chapter three.
    • The Forceful Kiss in chapter fifty-seven doubles as this.
  • Flower Motifs: The first and next time we see Anis and Sherine in the main story, there are several times the pages including them are overtaken by flowers and greenery.
  • Food Porn: Any situation where food is drawn ends up being this. In particular:
    • Chapter 4 gives us verbal Food Porn, when Joruk gets carried away, describing what kind of meal he wants to be greeted with:
      "I want some mutton. Slices fresh off the grill, piled high on a plate. The really juicy kind! Some fried rice might work, too... pour soup all over it and shovel it in! Oh, that stuff's good!"
    • Chapter sixteen, where Mori applies her prodigious talents to all manner of food in the market, and the characters literally spend the entire chapter looking for the best food and then finally eating it in an impromptu feast. You probably should not read it while hungry.
  • Forceful Kiss: Umar does this to Pariya in chapter fifty-seven to reassure her that, even if he has to wait a long time, they’ll still get married. It sends her into Post-Kiss Catatonia, even into the next chapter.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Not with the story itself, but the setting. In less than twelve yearsnote  the Russians will have moved in, set up puppet-states (Khiva, Bukhara, etc.) or annexed the area, and started a long period of Russification and economic development. The nomads will be made to contribute taxes or be forcibly relocated somewhere much less pleasant if they rebel.

    This is already foreshadowed from chapter thirty onward, when Amir's tribe ally themselves with the Russian-aligned Badan tribe in order to raze Karluk's town, seize their land and get Amir back. Due to their links with the Russians, the Badan have ample Russian weaponry, which they promise to place at the Halgals' disposal. In the ensuing battle, the Badan betray the Halgals, seeking to seize the town and get rid of their "allies" at the same time. No doubt the Badan are doing the Russians' dirty work for them. Even though Karluk's hometown prevails, it, and the whole region, will eventually bend the knee to the Czar, and Stalin after him.

    The end comment of the magazine version of chapter sixty-two further hints at the troubling times ahead for the region:
    "Students of history may be aware of certain events that Karluk would indeed do well to prepare for. It seems it may be less a matter of if, but when, Dear Reader..."
  • The Gadfly: Joruk can’t help himself, it would seem. He’s just teasing people, really, or trying to see other expressions.
  • Gilded Cage: Anis evidently feels this way about her luxurious home, since her husband is often absent, her baby is being raised by another woman, and she's not allowed to leave or even interact with people other than family. This feeling is gone when Anis has her husband take Sherin as a second wife; she genuinely enjoys her home and her lush garden with Sherine to share it with, they spend time together as a family, and she gains a new appreciation for her husband and how he cares about her happiness.
  • Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak: Karluk’s niece, Tileke, only has feminine interests (she’s especially good at embroidery) and no interest in archery, but she’s obsessed with hawks (lampshaded by her mother in chapter one).
  • Going Native: Amir, a nomadicnote  tribeswoman starts the story by settling down with Karluk's sedentarynote  family in a mercantile community. Later, Karluk returns the favour by going out to live with her family and learning their ways.
  • Good Old Ways: Characters from more nomadic peoples, including the Halgals, tend to be this, although rather than being better than contemporary customs, it’s just different but still charms many of the other characters.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: It's a Kaoru Mori manga; this is par for the course.
  • Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have!: Sanira already has a few grandchildren, but is still very beautiful. Heck, her husband even notes how good she looks for her age.
  • Happily Ever After: The conclusion to the twins' marriage arc. Anis and Sherine get a whole chapter dedicated to their happy ending.
  • He Is All Grown Up: Chapter twenty-eight has Amir slowly coming to this realization, with an intercut of other women discussing how Karluk's all grown up to accentuate the moment of realization in the last page. Note however that his emotional maturity is a ways ahead of his physical maturity.
  • Horse Archer: With a setting in Central Asia, this is a given.
    • Azel excels at this, but Joruk, Baimat, and Amir are no slouches by any means. Balkirsh is also a goat archer.
    • Later on, Karluk develops into this after some training with the Hagals.
  • Hot Springs Episode: Much of Anis' story concerns her frequent trips to the womens' bathhouse to meet with Sherine, with lots of nudity, relaxation, and female bonding included.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl:
    • Inverted with Amir and Karluk. She’s fully-grown, but he’s only twelve and has quite a lot of growing left to do.
    • Played straight with Laila and Leyli’s parents. While their mother is regular sized, their father is a towering, powerfully built man easily twice her size. His size and strength explicitly played part in a Rescue Romance that won his wife’s affection.
  • I Gave My Word:
    • Amir smuggling a meal to a boy being punished is one thing, but doing so after she told him that she can’t do it again is quite another (to the mother’s distress).
    • Mr. Hawking has a bit of trouble, seeing as he promised Mr. Smith’s mother that he’d make sure her son returned home safely.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
    • Played with regarding Anis, her husband, and her widowed friend, Sherine. Anis arranges for her husband and Sherine to marry. In this case it’s not clear which one is the "I." Anis (for willing to share her husband), the husband (he barely knows Sherine and only marries Anis’ friend to make Anis happy), or both?
    • Talas’s sixth husband, who took her on an offscreen trip across much of Central Asia (even though a later chapter does show the travel, their sudden appearance was a surprise for the reader) following the trail of her real True Love, Mr. Smith, so they could be together, then actually discussed the trope, almost by name, saying he was doing it partly in memory of his own first wife, and because the world is cruel and any man should want to give a woman her happiness. One of the rare cases where a straight use of this trope comes off as awesome instead of tearjerking.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Azel does this to the chief of the Batan in chapter thirty-three, by giving the laughing scumbag an amply-deserved arrow to the spine and neck.
  • The Ingenue: Amir is innocent and occasionally oblivious, so she can come off this way to despite being otherwise mature. This includes a few Cloudcuckoolander moments (one word: hedgehogs), to despite otherwise not fitting the trope.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Amir, who has no qualms about occasionally going about the house in her underwear or lounging naked in the bath for ages.
  • Intimate Healing: While not exactly "healing," during a cold night in a yurt, Amir surprises Karluk by taking off her clothes and telling him to do the same so they can keep warm together under the blankets. Though being in such intimate contact with Amir makes it hard for him to relax at first, her embrace feels so safe and warm to him that he’s soon able to drift off to sleep.
  • The Jailbait Wait: Voluntarily, rather than legally. By his culture's standards, twelve-year-old Karluk is old enough for marriage and everything that entails. His grandmother is able to bluff to Amir's relatives that Amir is already pregnant with Karluk's child, and while admitting it isn't true, she says it's going to happen sooner or later anyway. Even so, Karluk and Amir both recognize it's better to wait until he's older. So far they're only kissing, holding hands, and sleeping as a couple. Chapter twnety-three still has Amir wishing that he'd grow up faster, as it's strongly implied that she wants to get a lot more intimate with him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mr. Smith's guide, Ali, who is very blunt to the point of rudeness, but is a nonetheless hard-working young man who wants to earn enough money so he can get married.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • The conflict caused by Amir’s father has him have clan members, including her own brother, try to kidnap his daughter from her Perfectly Arranged Marriage in order to marry her off to a man who has abused his previous wives, her sisters and cousins, to death.
    • The end of Talas’ first arc, has the bride and groom split up last minute, due to her mother-in-law (who did approve) remarrying.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Any time a female character shows martial prowess due to the time period.
  • Language Barrier:
    • This periodically comes up during Mr. Smith's journey, seeing as he doesn't speak every variant of the languages he knows. In one case, the problem is specifically the accent, so Ali acts as an interpreter.
    • In Ankara, it turns out that Ali does not know any English, so he and Mr. Hawking do not understand each other... they subvert it when they get into an argument, somehow picking up what the other means anyway.
    • Talas experiences this when she and Mr. Smith arrive in Persia, as it turns out that her Persian is rudimentary, at best. This makes it more difficult for Anis and Sherin to communicate with her, though all three of them do manage.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Played with; when Pariya and Umar help a woman who'd collapsed on the side of the road, the residents of the village they stay with assume they're siblings because they seem so at ease with each other, which makes things difficult when the woman's husband comes looking for them to thank them- he ends up going through every pair of boy-girl siblings in the village before his young son recognises Umar. Their parents are scandalised (an unmarried boy and girl, even two who are in discussion to be married, should not be so familiar with each other), but this is also pretty much the deciding factor in settling their engagement.
  • Likes Older Women: Despite this being a culture in which a girl of twenty like Amir is considered old for a bride, Karluk states that her age doesn't bother him one bit, and in fact he wouldn't have her any other way.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Due to Rotating Protagonist and Mr. Smith's journey, there are a lot of characters. Aside from the residents of Karluk's town, there are the Batan, the Hagals, Umar and his father, Ali, Talas and her family, the town on the shores of the Aral Sea, the residence in Persia, Nikolovsky, Mr. Hawking, and many others.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: As is fitting for the setting, it’s said that most women never cut their hair even once in their lifetime. That said, for some clans, long hair is also masculine.
  • Lovable Rogue: Joruk has no issues with doing morally dubious things for his own enjoyment, but not only are these fairly minor, he has no ill intent.
  • Manly Men Can Hunt: A variant. All men in the story are expected to be capable of slaughtering and butchering animals, especially sheep (Ali’s opinion of Mr. Smith goes down a few pegs when he finds out that most Englishmen don’t). Among nomads, all men are expected to be able to hunt, but it is not exactly discouraged for women to have the skill.
  • Meddling Parents: Talas' mother-in-law does everything she can to convince her to remarry, even though she's already accepted her lonely fate. Later the man Talas' mother-in-law marries in order to try and assure Talas finds a bridegroom too. He's even more meddlesome, being absolutely against hearing anything about Talas' own arrangements. Of course this is all justified seeing how going against your parents and especially the male head of your family was unthinkable for women in that time and place.
  • Meet Cute: The twins Laila and Leili planned to do this on would-be suitors with their head coverings loosened. In their culture, touching a woman's uncovered head is seen as very intimate and was only allowed for those intending to marry, though it never goes right. Their inspiration for the plan was an older relative who actually managed to pull it off.
  • Money Fetish: Mr. Smith’s guide, Ali, has a toned down version of this (more on the level of a Starving Artist, really): he's from a poor family and trying to save up enough to marry (which includes a bridal-price), as a result, he’s something of a money grubber and his reaction to money is actually similar to his reaction to food.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Hey, remember Amir's brother, Azel? He's kinda hot, right? Now, let's get him soaking wet and watch him strip. Oh, so you enjoyed that last part? Well, I guess it wouldn't be too much trouble for him to take his shirt off again. And let's give him a few bruises and bandages, why not?
  • Never Mess with Granny: Karluk's grandmother Balkirsh fires an arrow at Azel as a warning shot when he comes to retrieve Amir and successfully bluffs him out of the village. In a side story she rides up a mountain on a goat to rescue a little boy. At the end of the chapter she is deemed the strongest and coolest woman in the whole manga. She even kills Azel's father personally, even though he's Amir's father too.
  • Nice Hat:
    • A lot of the adults have hats and headdresses, many ornate and detailed. Balkirsh's is the largest.
    • There are also the wedding crowns that women wear during their weddings; like the wedding gowns to daily clothes, these are similarly more elaborate.
  • The Nicknamer: Mr. Smith’s guide, Ali, prefers to use nicknames for people, starting from Mr. Smith, whom he calls "Boss."
  • Nipple and Dimed: Averted by both men and women having visible nipples. In fact, female nipples are drawn in more detail.
  • Non-Action Guy: Henry Smith is a nineteenth century British scholar, so it is to be expected. Due to physical limitations from age, this is also true of many older men in in permanent settlements, including Karluk’s grandfather, Mahatbek.
  • Not So Similar: Very subtly developed between Laila and Leili, who initially seem to be Single-Minded Twins. Because they've lived their entire lives together and are never apart, they seem to be completely identical, and when they get engaged to marry the brothers Sarmaan and Farsami the boys say it doesn't even matter which girl each of them marries because they're the same anyway and the girls themselves can't even come up with any way in which they're different. However when the girls go on trial dates with their intended the differences become quite apparent: Laila (who goes with Sarm) is the dominant, bossy one who wants a husband who will do what she says, while Leily (who dates Sami) is the more passive follower who is more of a dreamer and wants a husband that will romance her. Fortunately the boys match them perfectly.
  • Obsessed with Food:
    • Joruk often complains about being hungry and pilfers food whenever he can.
    • The one thing guaranteed to make Ali, Henry Smith’s guide, stop complaining is the prospect of food.
    • The twins spend virtually their entire wedding day stuffing their faces... in secret, because the bride isn’t actually allowed to eat anything during the ceremony.
  • Obviously Evil: The Batan to everyone but the Halgal elders. Somehow Azel and his cousins are the only ones who aren’t surprised when the Batan turn on the Halgal. That said, this was partially because they were appealing the values that all of the Halgal but Azel, Baimat, and Joruk are obsessed with.
  • Odd Friendship: All of Pariya’s friendships are seen as this by others since she is that bad at talking.
  • Old Master: Balkirsh is an old master at many things and becomes this to Pariya, mostly with regard to embroidery. She has streaks of a Stern Teacher as well. In chapter fifty-two, Pariya imagines Balkirsh being a sort of Spirit Advisor, one who leaves her to her own devices in a tough spot.
  • Old-School Chivalry: Surprisingly for the setting, Talas' sixth husband, who, through all their travels through much of Asia in search of her real True Love, did sleep in the same tent to protect her person and reputation, but with a fabric wall to respect her privacy, never trying to impose upon her no matter if doing so would have been considered his right in their age and country.
  • One-Man Army: Azel on horseback. Seriously, anyone approaching him with hostile intentions while he’s riding would fare better to just slit their own throat. Being on foot weakens him to a more typical range of badassery: taking out five mounted gunmen alone and on foot isn’t exactly a stretch for him.
  • Only Sane Man: Azel, Baimat, and Joruk are this for the entire Halgal clan, as evinced by them being the only ones to consider the idea of taking Amir back to be foolhardy and to notice that the Batan are in bed with Russia. Their elders also do dumb things like worrying about formalities during a crisis, which doesn’t exactly please those three.
  • Opaque Nerd Glasses: Mr. Smith has them most of the time, befitting his role as foreigner expo-magnet and nerdy researcher and scholar, justified by the thickness of his glasses. His eyes are first seen in chapter thirteen, when he’s not wearing them, and only in the following chapter does this begin to be dropped in scenes where he has a more emotional role (with increasing frequency, at that).
  • Opposites Attract: Anis and Sherin in a way that could be platonic or romantic, depending on how you look at it. Sherin is quiet and stoic while Anis is blithe and innocent. They look very different and come from different stations. Each one seems hooked on the other because they'd never met anyone like that before: Anis can't resist how Sherine is aloof, yet teasing like her cat, while Sherine is moved by how Anis comes running to her like a lost child to its mother every time she sees her at the baths.
  • Our Nudity Is Different:
    • When Mr. Smith sees Talas with her headscarf off, she blushes and tries to cover herself and apologizes for the "shocking display".
    • Anis and Sherin are surprised to hear that Talas and all the other women of her people go outside without covering their faces.
  • Parenting the Husband: Subverted. Amir thinks this is her role in regards to Karluk and seems fine with it, but he grows weary of it pretty soon and eventually gets the point across that she doesn't have to babysit him. The way he does it also has a side effect of Amir falling head over heels for him.
  • The Patriarch: Karluk's grandfather Mahatbek, though being elderly he doesn't get around much and prefers to sit peacefully. Karluk's father, Akunbek, serves as one of the village elders.
  • Pet the Dog: The normally brusque and aloof Azel tenderly wiping Amir’s tears in chapter thirty-five.
  • Phenotype Stereotype: As expected of a mangaka whose other series take place in England, this is heavily subverted: Henry Smith and his elder brother are the only Englishmen seen who are blonde (their eye colour is light but otherwise unconfirmed). Both the Englishwoman and Mr. Smith's friend, Mr. Hawking, have toned hair (so red or brown), not to mention the other members of the Smith family. Additionally, since his features are also not uncommon to Slavs, many locals assume that Mr. Smith is Russian for this reason (with a focus on his fair skin); Ali uses a similar assumption to make local’s think his boss is Tartar instead.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The day-to-day clothes are already quite something, but the wedding gowns are on another level.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Pariya isn't an especially big girl, but when the axle of Umar's wagon breaks while they're travelling back to town together and they try to put on a replacement, Umar is amazed at how easily Pariya is able to lift up the entire wagon on her own.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Karluk's niece and nephews, Smith, and Joruk.
  • Polyamory: Anis's husband takes Sherine as second wife on his first wife's insistence. The husband takes her in more as an act of charity for a widow and her aged parents-in-law than out of attraction, though.
  • Public Bathhouse Scene: Much of Anis and Sherine's story takes place in the local women's baths, one of the few places women can gather outside the home. The men's bath is also shown, with Mr. Smith receiving a vigorous massage that involves popping every limb out of its socket.
  • Reality Ensues: In volume three, Mr. Smith and Talas's sudden engagement seems to be going along the usual romantic rails, until chapter seventeen. The entire chapter makes it abundantly clear how unrealistic it actually was due to the cultural differences and family ties. This turns out to be something of a defied trope in chapter seventy-two, thanks to Talas's determination and the unexpected help from her sixth husband.
  • Relationship Upgrade: While Karluk and Amir are already married at the start of the story, it isn't until Karluk's Big Damn Heroes moment in chapter eight that Amir moves away from being more of a Cool Big Sis to Karluk and starts to see him romantically and act like a smitten young woman (and awkwardly so).
  • Rescue Romance:
    • Laila and Leili's mother apparently met and fell for their father after he rescued her from stormy waters by lifting her and her boat and carrying it all the way to land. As mentioned in Relationship Upgrade, this applies for Amir and Karluk as well as she only begins to view him romantically after he rescues her from her father.
    • Laila and Leili also try to invoke it themselves... by knocking someone into the water so they can rescue him. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Anis and Sherine, with heavy emphasis on romantic; playing their first meeting like Love at First Sight is just the tip of the iceberg, and it reaches Threesome Subtext after Sherine marries Anis's husband at Anis's request.
  • Rotating Protagonist: After the second volume, the story switches from Karluk and Amir to Mr. Smith on his journey. Subsequently, it moves between the main cast and any brides the story momentarily focuses on.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Fitting for the period. At one point when a messenger delivers letters to Mr. Smith, many of the villagers fight over who he gets to stay with until Akunbek declares him as his guest.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Anis' husband. Other husbands like Karluk and Saahman and Farsahmi get more development and screentime. Besides brief scenes showing Mr. Smith around, he's only shown interacting with Anis and Sherine, he doesn't even get a name (even in his second appearance) and in the end his sole role is making it possible for Anis and Sherine to be together.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Karluk is much calmer than Amir is. Laila and Leili are as Hot-Blooded as their husbands Saahman and Farsahmi are not.
  • Scenery Porn: Just as you'd expect from Kaoru Mori, all kinds of landscapes from Asian steppes are illustrated in lavish detail.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: The twins and their respective grooms have mutual moments of this in chapter twenty-five when they see each other in their marriage getup.
  • Shirtless Scene: Azel spends most of chapter twenty-nine wandering around shirtless after saving a foal from a river. Completely relevant to the plot, of course...
  • Shoot the Dog: After it becomes clear that the hawk Amir has been nursing back to health will be unable to fly again, Amir and eventually Karluk conclude that this is the best course of action. They figure a life without flight, stuck in a cage fed by hand is no life for a hawk. Karluk offers to do the deed, to spare Amir the pain of having to kill the animal she’s been caring for.
  • Shown Their Work: The story has a heavy ethnographic focus, and it is Mori Kaoru, so taking this Up to Eleven is par for the course. She’s even published a book of just her research for the series.
    • While Mori made the common mistake of depicting the Japanese hold of the bowstring in chapter one, she was told about it, learned the correct, different Central Asian hold, and specifically depicted it in chapter sixty-two.
    • The Muslim rites of animal slaughter are shown accurately at the twins’ wedding in chapter twenty-four.
    • Talas selling her jewellery in chapter seventy-one was actually the reason women of that time and place always carried them on their person to begin with: it was their property to subsist on, even in the case of leaving their husbands.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Apart from their usual Twin Banter, Laila and Leyli are so single-minded that they are shocked when they actually think differently about anything, as seen in chapter twenty-one.
  • Sleeping Dummy: Laila and Leyli eventually get bored of sitting silently under their veils at their wedding, so they swap places with some pillows while their mother isn't looking and go play with their grooms for a while. Their mother is very angry when she investigates why they're so quiet.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Amira or Amir? The official English translation went with Amir (which is based on the kana actually used by Mori) yet her name is spelled Amira in other official translations, like Spanish (which is based in "Amira" being the actual, real-world female name). Fans still debate the issue. That Mori has made "interesting" official spellings of non-Japanese names in other works of hers didn't help, either. This applies to a lot of the names due to the huge disconnect between Japanese and Turkic languages.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Along with cooking, this is one of the major tasks women have to do in the setting. This is especially true of embroidery, which the people of Central Asia take Up to Eleven, sometimes prising it above currency; a woman’s skill with the needle is a major factor in determining her marriageability, and not only are they expected to make their wedding dresses, they also make their trousseau which is a significant part of their dowry.
  • Tomboy:
    • Amir comes from a nomadic tribe and is used to riding horses, hunting, and using a bow and arrows. Especially shooting game while on horseback. This makes her quite a tomboy when compared to the culture of her new tribe, which gave up the nomadic life and settled down a few generations back. Otherwise, she's not that tomboyish, unlike...
    • Pariya, who's not interested in needlework or marriage (she prefers baking and archery instead), and has a rougher personality than most other women shown. She speaks her mind without rounding the corners and is considered too "cheeky" for most groom candidates.
    • The twins Laila and Leyli could count as this as well. They swim, dive, fish, and climb trees on their own. They're physically strong enough to knock a man unconscious with a projectile (a fish...). And they were quite averse to their mother's lessons on domestic chores and crafts.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Laila and Leyli.
  • There Is No Rule Six: The twin's mother has this to say about raising children:
    Rule One: Physical strength! Rule Two: Physical strength! There are no rules three or four, but rule five is physical strength! If the time comes and you can't run at full speed while carrying two or three children, then that's as bad as sacrificing those children to the wolves!
  • Training from Hell: Laila and Leili get put through rigorous training by their mother so that they can be prepared for their wifely (and later motherly duties) in less than a month. This includes teaching them how to cook and clean with efficiency, medicine and health, strength training, sewing and berating them with chickens when they mess up.
  • Trickster Twins: Laila and Leili are the epitome of this, though their tricks are rarely successful.
  • Tsundere: Pariya, since she is naturally awkward and used to being disliked by everyone for her outspokenness, blushes furiously when she meets a suitor, but then starts shouting at him the next minute.
  • Twin Banter: Laila and Leyli again. It actually serves as a real shock to them when they have a differing opinion.
  • Unmoving Plaid:
    • Averted. Not only does Mori draw the patterns on their dresses, she draws it slightly differently between different panels. note 
    • There are straight examples, however. The patterns on Saahman's and Farsahmi's clothes in chapter twenty-one, for example, are the same size in every frame, even if perspective and distance should make them appear smaller. These are mostly done for simpler patterns, however, as the more complex ones are the ones that get more lavish attention.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Several cases, the first being between Amir and Karluk (the latter doesn't feel ready to consummate the marriage yet), and a second with Mr. Smith and Talas. Anis and Sherine's relationship can be seen this way as well.
  • The Unsmile: Pariya to make a good impression with Umar by putting on what she hopes looks like a cheerful smile, but it ends up looking really forced and creepy.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Laila and Leyli end up engaged to their childhood friends Saahman and Farsahmi, respectively. Played with in that both pairs of siblings are at first unenthusiastic about it as they feel like they're just settling for each other at the behest of their parents. After they go on dates to get to know their respective fiancés, however, both sisters come to like what charm the boys hide behind their usual bored expressions, and each becomes convinced that they got the better catch.
  • When He Smiles: The ecstatic smiles on Saahman and Farsahmi’s faces (which normally show either sarcasm or exasperation), at the end of their marriage reception in chapter twenty-six actually stun the normally loud twins, now their wives, into silence.
  • Wife Husbandry: Or more accurately, Husband Husbandry. Karluk is twelve when he marries Amir, and she does guide him a bit into the more romantic aspects of marriage, although most of the time it seems she is willing to wait until he grows up.
  • Wise Beyond His Years: To modern sensibilities, twelve year old Karluk comes off as surprisingly mature for his age. In the setting, though, he's considered an adult and expected to act as such.
  • You All Share My Story: All of the major characters are connected by Mr. Smith in some way (Anis and Sherine via a certain nameless husband), with others being connected by other characters.

Alternative Title(s): Otoyomegatari

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