These short Otoyomegatari chapters (we’ve had three in a row now) are kind of annoying, because a little bit of Mori-sensei’s writing and art only serves to makes you want a lot more. Truthfully, as detailed and stunning as her drawing is I’m surprised Mori even manages to hew as close to a monthly release schedule as she does, but the absence of more material in this case only serves to make the heart grow fonder.
I like the approach Mori takes here, and I’m surprised more series don’t employ it. She devotes the chapter to the titular revisits with storylines that haven’t gotten much love of late – starting with a character we haven’t seen in what seems like years. Mr. Smith and Alli are still making their way overland when they’re set upon by bandits on what’s supposed to be a safe trail – bandits who steal everything they have except the horses (which bolted when the bandits started whooping and hollering). Of course there seems to be a purpose behind this development, which forces Smith and his guide to backtrack to their last stop (surviving without camels would be impossible) – and we know there’s a certain unfinished chapter in Mr. Smith’s life waiting for him back at that village.
The next stop is Amir’s three brothers, who are still trying to find a way to survive the winter as landless nomads. That means a source of water through the winter months is crucial, which means trying to negotiate the rights to use the well of a local tribe. Azel does not prove himself especially adept at diplomacy here, it must be said – though I think he’s right that he’s not the sort that would “hand the local geezer his teeth” as his brother suggests. It’s not hard to feel some sympathy for these guys, but it must be remembered that they did go along with their father’s nefarious attack on Karluk’s village – with reservations or no.
Finally and most delightfully, we get a few pages devoted to Karluk and Amir. Every time Mori-sensei returns to these two she reminds us that Otoyomegatari is always at its best when they’re the focus of attention. It’s not necessary for events of great consequence to be happening for the Amir-Karluk material to be riveting – just watching them go through their daily lives is more than enough. This time around the matter at-hand is the bow that Amir has made for Karluk – which his grandfather gently notes is stiff enough that it would be challenging for a grown man to master it. Amir is naturally horrified and immediately moves to “fix” it, but Karluk is just as horrified and insists she let him master it as is. This is a matter of male pride if anything ever was, and Karluk’s pride is always on-edge as a boy married to a girl so much older than he.
Karluk’s grandad also notes that his wife was once a fine archer, but gave it up (though not entirely, as we know full well) to fit in with her new village. Of course this immediately sets Karluk off to worrying that Amir will feel pressure to do the same, and his worry makes her worry that she’s done something mortifying to merit it. What’s really wonderful in watching these two is that they’re so solicitous of each others feelings, even if they sometimes lack the experience to know the right thing to say or do about it. It remains a love story quite unlike any other in manga – and hopefully soon, like no other in anime.