Every time NoitaminA announces a new series that isn’t Otoyomegatari, I grieve a little – especially when it’s a manga adaptation. I’m prepared for the obvious possibility that this series will never be adapted – there are major difficulties any producer would have to face, plus the near-certainty that it wouldn’t sell on Blu-ray. But I’ll never totally give up hope on it, and I can’t help but think that the current arc is the most “telegenic” of any so far. In happier news, Otoyomegatari was announced as one of the finalists for the Manga Taisho Award today, for the third time. Hopefully this is the year it finally wins.
The conclusion of this story was handled with Mori-sensei’s usual aplomb, plus a surprise for shock value. She’s definitely raised her game here in terms of a traditional conflict/resolution narrative, though for me nothing beats Otoyomegatari’s slice-of-life side. Mori pulled no punches here – the stakes were as high as they come, the price paid by some was the ultimate price, and the action was fierce and even a bit graphically violent. It’s a long way from Karluk and Amir arm-wrestling to here, but I’m glad Mori showed she could pull an arc like this off so splendidly.
While the tide of the battle was pretty well settled by the end of the last chapter, it’s the arrival of the provincial police that proves the official conclusion of the hostilities. And it’s the intervention of the village women that allows Azel’s life to be spared for now (he surely wouldn’t have lasted long in the hands of the provincials), though in defense of the men they weren’t overlooking the entire battle from on-high – they were on the ground, getting shot at, and you can’t really blame them for not being able to tell one invader from another in the chaos.
Azel, for his part, not unexpectedly refuses to sell out his family when he’s interrogated. His culpability in all this is the most difficult question here. By the customs of the time and place he did exactly what he was required to do, and by ultimately acting to protect Amir and Karluk even more – yet he was a participant in an invasion in which many innocents in Karluk’s village were killed. It’ll be interesting to see where Azel lands up when the dust settles – it could be jail, the chopping block, back with the remnants of his own tribe or even with Amir’s adopted one.
There was plenty of drama elsewhere, too. Karluk was so amped up from the adrenaline of the moment that he didn’t even notice he’d been wounded until Amir put her arm around him and found her hand covered in blood. So much, in fact, that Karluk passed out. I’m always moved to see the extreme reactions of Amir whenever she feels Karluk is in danger, and Karluk’s outrageous amount of valour despite his small stature. Their growing love is the emotional heart of the series.
The climax of the chapter surely comes at the hands of his Grandmother – who rides out into the desert and puts an arrow through the heart of Amir’s father, who even as he’s stumbling wounded is spitting his venomous promises of revenge against Amir and her new family. Karluk’s Obaa-san is a hard, hard woman – but it took a hard woman to do what she did here, in the interests of putting an end to this bloody affair once and for all. She doesn’t tell Amir what really happened, only that the old man is dead – and there’s no sign that Amir suspects the truth. It’s surely better that way.
This is the end of the arc, and the final page tells of a new one with a change of venue starting next month. Selfishly I hope it’s a short one, because I like this story best when it focuses on Amir and Karluk, but Mori has certainly given herself plenty of options.