25 Days of Manga, Day 14 of 25 – A Bride’s Story Vol. 12 (Review)

Publisher: Yen Press

Author/Artist: Kaoru Mori

Translator: William Flanagan

Letterer: Abigail Blackman

Genre: Historical Fiction, Slice-of-Life

Rating: T (Teen/13+)

Release Date: 09/22/2020

MSRB: US $17.00 / CAN $22.50

Reviewer’s Note: I purchased this copy of A Bride’s Story Vol. 12 using my own personal funds. No review copy was proved. All manga reviews are spoiler-free and image-free unless noted in the review. Opinions are my own.

I’m pulling from the bottom of one of my towering TBR piles today for my fourteenth read during 25 Days of Manga. Thankfully, it’s a personal favorite and a decadent little treat on a cold day: Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Story Vol. 12.

Volume 12 of A Bride’s Story continues to catalogue the lives of those living on the Silk Road in the mid-nineteenth century. This time, it follows Smith as he retraces his journey in order to photograph the people, places, and things that have come to shape his time abroad.

While he has a lot of ground to cover -literally- Smith is able to take time to reflect and catch his breath as the inevitable travel delays set in. And what does he ponder? Amir and Karluk. Pariya and her dowry. Twin brides Laila and Leily. And finally, the grand mansion that will be his first stop as he make his return journey…

As I said in my summary, this a volume focused on memories. It’s also a volume deeply focused on breaks and empty times: on times where characters are alone, pensive, and sometimes… outright bored. In the first chapter, this is the setting as the volume finds its usual stride and settles into the stories contained within.

In fact, some of the characters even flat-out say the words, “I’m bored.” It’s a theme that’s pervasive in the book as the weather keeps some characters indoors, and as tasks -already completed- force others into long stretches of unfufilling silence. In many ways, it’s quite charming, simply because boredom is always the same, no matter what generation, era, or level of tech we’re at.

Boredom is boredom is… boredom. It’s an intensely human experience that’s been pretty unchanged across all of humanity and civilazation.

Personally, I think some readers might call this volume “filler”. However, I prefer to think of it as a full-volume transition from the previous eleven entries to whatever comes next. It’s just as heartwarming as previous volumes, and actually, works to remind readers of what all has happened since this lush series kicked off. 

There’s actually a fair bit of action that happens to break up the monotony for the characters, as there always is. There’s also a lot of solid development that’s perfect for volume 13, whenever that gets released in both Japan and North America. Truly, Kaoru Mori knows exactly how to build a bit of silent tension and break it expertly.

I have to say that I truly continue to appreciate Yen Press’ decision to publish this series is large-size hardcovers with dustjackets. It makes each volume of A Bride’s Story feel particularly special. They did this with My Broken Mariko, which added to the uniqueness of the story, as well as the volume’s general collectability.

While hardcovers -and large-size editions in general- have an added cost, it honestly feels worth it, especially since the large size really shows of Mori’s incredibly detailed art. I hope that we see some more hardcover editions from manga and light novel publishers in 2021.

As always A Bride’s Story is a treat to read: volume twelve is no different, though it is much more simple volume. Still, “simple” isn’t a bad word: in fact, the slice-of-life vibes are blissfully strong in the volume, creating a delightful atmosphere that lets the characters catch their breath after some of the more rambunctious events of the previous few volumes. 

The art remains incredibly enjoyable and Kaoru Mori’s storytelling is second to none. I’m already eager for the next volume, even though it’ll most likely be a late-2021 or potentially a 2022 release. I’m guessing 2022 as there’s no new tankoban release in Japan. I figure that’ll come in 2021, leaving quite a long wait between vol. 12 and vol. 13. Thankfully, Mori-sensei is incredibly worth the wait, as are the wonderful characters in A Bride’s Story.

TL;DR: A Bride’s Story Vol. 12 is another strong entry in Kaoru Mori’s on-going historical fiction series. The slice-of-life vibes are heavy in the volume as the characters cope with boredom and lulls in their life. This parallels Smith’s own return back to him homeland and his decision to catalogue his travels in pictures. 

While simple and silent at times, vol. 12 still does a lot to transition the plot to a new set of adventures and stories: stories that I hope will be the focus of volume 13.  All in all, this is yet another beautiful, lush, truly enjoyable volume that fans of the series will be eager to devour.

Read If You Like…
* Historical fiction and drama
* Historical romance
* 1800s/mid-19th century fiction
* Female-led stories / Stories with large female casts
* Stories with Queer-adjacent characters (especially in this volume)
* Fiction set in historic Asia (specifically, Central Asia)
* Slice of Life but make it 19th Century

Rating: 🟊🟊🟊🟊 / 4 out of 5 stars

Bingo Card: Read a Seinen Manga

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