Otoyomegatari – 34

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“Shield at Your Back”

So all that stuff I said a couple of days ago?  That.

Seriously, this is the problem with monthly manga (actually it’s even worse with Otoyomegatari, as Harta is only published 10 times a year) – the waits between chapters are brutal.  And that’s under the best of circumstances – when you’re talking about cliffhangers like this, the agony is even worse.

Of course, due to other obvious factors, I ended up reading the last two chapters basically back-to-back, which leads to a whole different set of issues as a blogger.  And they’re really one contiguous chapter – there’s no time lapse at all, with the first panel of this chapter literally picking up where the last left off.  As there’s not much point in repeating everything I wrote two days ago, let’s just stipulate it for the record – Mori is an amazing artist, and she’s tackling this uncharacteristically action-packed and brutal style with her usual brilliance.

As for the events on the ground, as the chaos at the end of Chapter 33 lifts a little we see than the man Amira has pinned to the ground is indeed her father.  She’s not wounded after all, but Karluk certainly is (and that’s scary, given the realities of what wounds often led to in the days before antibiotics) – though he has enough adrenaline flowing through him that he doesn’t seem to notice.  Having taken on the role of dutiful son and carried out what he knew to be both stupid and despicable orders – which is what sons did in this time and place – Azel appears finally to have reached a breaking point.  In the moment, at least, his priorities are to save his sister and her husband.

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That said, it doesn’t change the fact that Azel is horrified when the Batan gun down his father – who is after all still his father – though from my perspective the man brought it entirely upon himself.  Be that as it may, it’s clear that Azel and Amira still care deeply for each other and there are no cowards in this group – she doesn’t want to leave him to die, and Karluk doesn’t want to leave her period.  And there’s still plenty of chaos to go around, with the leaderless Batan still indiscriminately fighting at both the villagers and their former allies.

It seems, in the end, that the villagers are likely going to win the day.  But that’s trouble for Azel, who even in his own words is “the enemy“.  Karluk and Amira are convinced but after everything that’s happened and in the madness of battle, that may not be enough to persuade the others not to vent their anger on Azel.   There’s a lot of heroism on display here – Karluk standing up to armed adults twice his size, Amira fighting to protect both her husband and her brother by flinging rocks and using her bow as a club, and Azel fighting like twenty men to save as many people who matter to him as he can.  But it’s hard to call him a hero in that he’s let things get to such a desperate point before finally breaking free of what’s expected and doing what was right.  What would Azel have done if the Batan had never betrayed the Halgal?  Allowances must always be made for cultural context but in the end, everyone is judged on their own actions.

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