“The Long Road Home”
Fanservice! And I don’t mean that sick wheelage.
Otoyomegatari continues to be a wonder, carried aloft on wings of sublime art and refreshingly simply storytelling. Mori-sensei’s occasional bursts of plot have generally been successful, but for me there’s no question that this series is at its best with the slice-of-life chapters. She manages to keep them fresh even as she relies on familiar themes to drive the story.
Pariya and Umar are most definitely the B-couple in Otoyomegatari, but they’ve established themselves as a fine pair in their own right. As we left them, they’re attending to a woman who’s collapsed at the roadside, leaving her small child terrified. Both Umar and Pariya are smart and responsible kids, and he manages to find help from the local settlement while she stays to provide what treatment she can. It turns out this woman has something of a history of such episodes, and naturally the locals (especially her family) are very grateful that the two travelers were around to save the day.
Pariya, naturally, is only too glad to accept the villagers’ offer to stay the night, and Umar reluctantly agrees. Nothing untoward or improper happens of course, but there are some interesting bonding moments between the two to say the least. Umar opens up to Pariya that his mother was sickly too, and died soon after he was born. This emboldens Pariya to open up as well, though of course that’s never going to come easy for her. Eventually she manages to choke out the question she’s been dying to ask: does Umar want to marry her enough that he’s willing to wait until she’s ready (her needlework being the largely symbolic premise behind the wait)?
Umar is as even-keeled as Pariya is a basket case, and his response is very much in-character – “Yo, it’s cool. No prob.” Of course so is hers – she can’t quite bring herself to believe it and seems hell-bent on talking him into changing his mind. So Umar does something entirely out of character for once – he impulsively kisses Pariya to seal the deal. “Now I owe it to you!” This is the knockout blow that closes the chapter, but Pariya – and us readers – are only to glad to be counted out on the canvas (and/or straw).