Otoyomegatari – 33

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“Azel”s Offensive”

If the question was, “Could Mori Kaoru draw a battle manga?” I think the answer is a conclusive “yes”.

It would hard to overstate just how much of a departure the last few chapters of Otoyomegatari have been from earlier chapters in the series, and indeed from anything Mori-sensei has written – this is an order of magnitude more harrowing than the disastrous rail Amira’s family staged in order to try and steal her back from Karluk’s family.  The rising tension of the recent chapters builds to a crescendo in #33, which is thrilling, chilling and unsettling in a way only such a chapter in such a series could be.  We’re so used to seeing these characters in a different (and much less perilous) context that seeing Karluk and Amira facing death at the hands of first her family and then the treacherous Batan is alarming to say the least.

First things first: Mori does a fabulous job in this complete change-of-pace, delivering the goods in a big way.  There was never any question the art would be technically perfect (Mori is the finest artist in manga today, in my opinion) but Mori displays a keen eye for the details of battle, with chaos and confusion reigning everywhere and panic in the faces of the combatants.  The writing is every bit its equal – the chapter is breathlessly exciting and terrifying in turn.  If Mori ever chose to take a crack at this sort of series full-time, I’ve no doubt she could pull it off.

Mind you, I’d rather she didn’t turn Otoyomegatari into that series – there’s pretty much no one else who could have told the story Mori did in the first 30 chapters as well as she did, and certainly no one who could have illustrated it more beautifully.  But my appreciation both for the artist and these characters has grown with this turn in the story.  The new star is Azel, who’s stormed into the fray these last few chapters and taken command of the story in a big way.  It’s been clear since his family hatched this disastrous plan that Azel was fully aware of how misguided it was, but he was obviously torn between his common sense and his loyalty to his clan in a time and place where clan loyalty was sacrosanct.

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It wasn’t until the Batan had turned on the Halgal that Azel finally dispensed with protocol and took matters into his own hands.  He ordered his father and the elders to flee, under the protection of his brothers, and went back to try and do as much damage to the Batan (who were finishing the job of routing Karluk’s village) as he could.  This was a courageous act to begin with, as there was really no practical value to it, though whether his intention was to help his sister’s family without his father knowing or simply to extract a little revenge it’s too early to say.  In any event he proves himself practically Legloas-like as a fighter, dispatching the Batan chief with an arrow through the throat (richly deserved) and picking off one Batan after another while riding full-speed.

What happens at the close of the chapter is highly dramatic and a bit confusing, to say the least.  Azel spots Karluk defending himself against a swordsman on horseback, and go down after his spear is shattered.  It seems likely that Azel was about to come to his aid when Amira intervenes herself, shooting the man’s horse and springing to the ground, but not before Karluk is wounded in the shoulder.  As is so often the case in battle it’s hard to tell what’s happening in the chaos, but it seems Amira is wounded herself in subduing the man, and it’s Karluk this time who springs to her aid, shielding her with his body.

Wow…  At this point I’m not even sure whther the mass of men surrounding the trio at the end are Karluk’s villagers or the Batan – I think it’s the former – but Azel’s addressing of Karluk by the term “Honored Brother” suggests he’s openly respecting their union at last.  It’s hard not to be moved by Amira and Karluk’s unwavering courage and dedication to each other – this unlikely couple is one of the strongest in manga or anime, age be damned.  It was very, very hard seeing them forced to fight for their lives, and I very much want to believe that Azel is overtly going to fight on their behalf from here onward – both because I want to believe it of him, and because they’re going to need all the help they can get.

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2 comments

  1. m

    Chapter 34 is up! And it also ends on a cliffhanger.

    As for the man who attacked Karluk and was in turn subdued by Amira, he's actually Amira and Azel's father, the one-eyed grump who wouldn't listen to reason. I suspect Azel went out to find him (and perhaps his sister).

    I've never properly thanked you Endo for introducing me to not only Otoyomegatari, but Mori as well. I appreciate these reviews of lesser-known mangas.

  2. e

    *comment disappeared, rewriting*

    Told you so Enzocchi ;D.
    a) Mori does not just devote a full chapter of male fanservice and wolves siblings/AmirAzer metaphors on top of 'sedition' hints here and there to his character without something good in store for him. Go Azer bro! XD
    b) there was a hint of action and intrigue plot since Emma (the abduction subplot), now she's stretching her muscles big time. While I agree with your appreciatn and personal preference of the previous intimate scale chapters ( also because shipping Amir and Karluk like whoa ) I can't not be pleased for her as a narrator as she's not only trying but also delivering fine on something so different from those. Go Mori go! And I must also admit it pleases me to see a female mangaka balancing small and big scale this well so far at present after Tamura Yumi's Basara and 7 Seeds.
    c) Woohoo Azer pulled a XIX century one man army Rambo revenge&destruction. Feral!Amir woohoo. Karluk's fighting spirit woohooo. You little big ball of decency courage love and testosterone <3333. Excuse me while I fan myself.

    Now about the final panels I think those are the villagers. Clothes and headpieces look like Karluk's people.
    Also I don't think Amira is wounded, she's 'just' hesitating to harm or even kill the man and froze while holding her blade at his throat. Especially if said man is actually her and Azer's father (gotta check my hardcopies) or at least one of her birth tribe's elders.
    Karluk on the other hand can't see well all that from his position and might have thought she got hurt, furthermore given the track record of her relatives I believe he's rushing to both check on her but also (mainly?) to shield her from Azer as the latter approaches them. <— the onlookers seem to be warning/menacing Azer to me and that's another clue they're from Karluk's village.
    While we are at it Azer is probably approaching them to save the old man. Because as much as he despises the elder's decisions and actions he has to. But hey at least he's voicing aloud what he feels and must. 'Honoured brother' indeed.
    That said if he and the old man are surrounded by rightfully enraged villagers it might be hard for Amir and Karluk to save his ass ^__^".

    I hope I can get my hands on #34 ASAP T_T.

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