Otoyomegatari – 30

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“Meeting the Batan”

Normally the most adorable couple in the universe arm-wrestling would be the headline, but that’s not the case here.

For my money, Otoyomegatari is the best manga running (though with hundreds of them out there, that’s obviously narrowed down to the ones I read).  In terms of art I think it’s almost a slam-dunk, but Mori-sensei has also done incredibly writing here, creating some of the most appealing characters in years and some of the best slice-of-life romance to boot.

Now, though, she’s upping the ante – there’s plot happening, and it’s serious stuff.  This is a risky change for the series and one I wasn’t 100% convinced would ever happen, but now that it is I think it’s proving quite gripping.  The attachments formed with the characters (obviously Karluk and Amira most especially) are so strong now that with the prospect of bad times ahead, it’s impossible not to be very worried for them.

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As usual, the trouble stems from two sources – Amira’s Halgal Clan and the Russians.  As was foreshadowed in the last chapter, the Halgal Clan is in dire straits – the bride they married off to the Numaji clan has died and with no other girl to send, their grazing privileges have been taken away (that was why they tried to steal Amira back).  For a nomadic tribe in this time and place, no grazing land is a catastrophe – and Amira’s father has decided the only way to get grazing land is to take it by force.

That’s all bad enough, but this is where the politics of the time come into play.  The old man has decided to ally with distant relatives the Batan, who’ve joined forced with the Russians – and dangle Russian weaponry in front on him as an enticement to join up.  The old man is desperate for revenge against Karluk’s family as well as the land he plans to take from them.  But Azel sees the truth of the matter – the Batan are vile and corrupt and there are huge hidden costs to their too-good-to-be-true offer.    As Azel says, the Russians have introduced these weapons so that the local tribes will kill each other off with them – and his brothers agree with him.  But what does that mean when the will of the family patriarch is absolute law?

I’m not exactly sure where this is headed, but the warm and appealing scene at the end of the chapter featuring Karluk and Amira only heightens the sense of dread.  No doubt with the armaments the Batan offered the Halgal could wipe Karluk’s village off the map, but I suspect Azel is going to prevent that from happening one way or the other (more out of a sense of protecting his own clan’s future than concern over the act itself, it must be said).  Whether that means a warning to Karluk’s family or an outright rebellion against his father I don’t know, but there’s definitely going to be blood shed here – I expect things to get pretty ugly.  I’m worried for Karluk and Amira, but not Otoyomegatari – Mori has handled everything else so flawlessly that I’m fully confident she’ll tell this tale brilliantly as well, however it goes.

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    *melts* … I had actually imagined for them to go armwrestling and the hair petting. And Mori-sensei delivers. And how *melts more*
    This chapter felts especially short, but it still accomplished some meaty setup for the larger plot.
    I agree that whatever Azel has in store he's doing it to save his big family rather than out of convern for Karluk's village. But Amir is still is sister and I like to think that her safety and happiness are if anything a welcome collateral in his plans…

  2. He didn't strike me as all that concerned for her when they raided the village. That seemed pretty willy-nilly.

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    YMMV but if you happen to reread chapter #6-7 – I've just leafed through my Italian hardcopies – there are a few clues: he's the only one teling Amira the real reason why they're trying to take her back when she asks – also: *he* is the one she asks out of the whole group of blood relatives -, he doesn't remotely try to stop her and Karluck from escaping by horse after Smith's flock diversion in spite of being the closest to them, and he's the one letting her know where they left her horse so she can take it back after their failed 'bridenapping' . There are at least a couple more actually: one of the relatives sorta reproaches him right after Amir and Karluck manage to ride away in a 'you've done it again. The matter is decided, we have talked about this many times already' sorta way , and in another scene by campfire his two young cousins are questioning his behaviour and if he agrees with the family ways… one of them actually asks the other to 'stop tormenting Azer' with such questions.
    Again in the current chapter we are presented with the contrast between his thankless role and outer conduct as the family representative and designed future patrirch and his actual opinion on his family marriage/business/alliance policies.
    I don't think Mori would have sprinkled such elements just for kicks, and I wouldn't mind witnessing some more openly conflicting loyalties on Azel's part down the road.

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    P.S.: sorry for the typo and the inconsisnt names spelling, I got them mixed with the Italian edition ones.

  5. I confess I haven't read those chapters in a while, so your account is no doubt more accurate than my dodgy memory…

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