Otoyomegatari – 65

I don’t resent authors seeing their manga get anime adaptations, believe me – it’s a big deal for them.  But every time I see an adaptation of something mediocre, formulaic or worse (and more and more often these days it’s not even from a manga in the first place), I seethe a little.  There are so, so many brilliant manga out there screaming for anime – Spirit Circle, Hi Score Girl (sob), et al.  But none are better than Otoyomegatari, because, let’s face it – there’s just not much that is.  I’ve heard all the reasons why it hasn’t gotten an adaptation – lack of commercial hook, impossibility of doing the art justice, all of it.  But in the end, none of them are reason enough.  This series has won almost every major award for manga, and for good reason – it’s unbelievably great.  And it screams out to be adapted.

I’ll keep the faith that maybe, someday, Otoyomegatari will get an anime (like almost every other Manga Taisho winner has).  In the meantime we do at least have Mori-sensei’s manga to console us, and it continues to be a marvel not just of peerless art, but masterful storytelling.  Admittedly Mori is on strong turf here – the Karluk-Amir canon is without a doubt Otoyomegatari’s best face forward – but she’s really been on a roll with these last several chapters.

It marks something fairly new for Mori to be focusing on male bonding of this sort, not jut in this series but her entire catalogue.  But that’s a good thing, because she’s (naturally) really good at it, and also because it’s great to see an author of her brilliance push herself by tackling new themes.  Otoyomegatari is not primarily a Karluk coming-of-age story, but that is one of its major threads, and up to this point the dominant influences in his life have been women.  As mature and resourceful a boy as Karluk is, he needs the experience of learning how to be a man from other men – and this sojourn to the wilderness with Amir’s kin is proving to be elemental in Karluk’s growth in ways he probably never imagined when he decided to pursue it (which was an act of exceptional maturity in itself, it should be noted).

Among the many skills Karluk is learning among the Halgal men is falconry of course – in this chapter it’s mounted falconry, which considering the birds weigh upwards of 13 pounds is no mean feat for a small boy.  Mori-sensei’s mastery of animal forms is no less total than that of humans, of course, and she gives is a stunning confrontation between Karluk’s falcon and a fox – one which ends with Karluk’s first kill, and a very riled-up raptor that Karluk must soothe before he can retrieve it.

The most significant scene of the chapter, though, comes when Karluk goes to Amir’s cousin Joruk to get his boot quiver (cracked due to stiffening from the cold) repaired.  Karluk blithely asks the young man whether he or his relatives intend to marry – innocently unaware that under the circumstances, that’s a loaded question.  Joruk’s conceals his barbs in good humor, and that’s mostly how they’re intended I think – but there’s a definite twinge of genuine envy in them.  Karluk has something Joruk and his kin will likely never have – partly due to the transgressions of their father, partly due to Azel’s earlier imperiousness, but generally due to circumstances beyond their control.

Joruk’s pointed question of “If the guy is younger, how is he supposed to make his wife actually fall in love with him?” – in whatever spirit it’s intended – is far too on-point when it comes to Karluk’s insecurities for his comfort.  Karluk knows that Amir loves him, certainly – but is she in love with him yet?   That question haunts his thoughts, surely, and likely will for some time.  Karluk is plenty empathetic and clever enough to understand the Halgals’ plight and to feel for them, but it also makes him appreciate what he has – an amazing wife who he knows is devoted to him, whatever his self-doubts.  The arc, really, is about a noble child wanting to become a better man for the sake of a strong and proud woman he loves – and there’s a narrative purity to that which really shines through in Mori’s writing.

The art is, of course, effectively a character in Mori-sensei’s story in its own right – incredibly expressive as well as being exquisitely detailed.  What comes across in reading Otoyomegatari is that there are no frames, no images that are simply good enough – Mori seems acutely aware of the emotional picture her images paint.  The glint of the fox’s teeth as it bares them, Joruk’s wry smile and sad eyes, Karluk’s feet as he crawls under his furs, the ribbed supports of the yurt – one senses that Mori has a finished picture in her mind before her pens ever hit the page, and doesn’t rest until the two are matched to the tiniest detail.  She’s an artist and a writer of almost peerless talent, and it’s a genuine privilege to be able to enjoy her work when she’s at the peak of her powers.

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10 comments

  1. J

    To be fair, Emma was something of a wash visually. That manga may not have been quite as spectacularly drawn as this one, but the adaptation was still much plainer that it should be in order to trust anyone to do this story right.

    Honestly, I’m not sure anyone still (semi-)active has both the skills and the patience for this. The likes of One Punch Man (brilliant, but clearly a level below Otoyomegatari) are about as good as it gets for an off-grid adaptation.

    Unfortunately I think this story’s time for an anime has passed.

  2. You might be right, but honestly I hate that kind of thinking. If that’s true anime might as well hang it up as a medium right now, because the fight is lost.

    For me, Otoyomegatari has such a terrific story that I’d want to see an anime even if it couldn’t do the art justice. Same with Vagabond. If you look at stuff like Hyouka and Mahoutsukai – even Rakugo – I think anime is still capable of delivering truly beautiful visuals. Made in Abyss, too. Would it be the equal of Mori or Inoue’s work? No – but it could still be beautiful.

  3. B

    I love this site. How can I contribute?

  4. Thanks very much, Brandon. If you’re so inclined, the links are up at the top of the sidebar. Patreon or Paypal are the two main options – with Patreon you pledge a certain amount per post (you can also set a monthly cap, if you want). With Paypal it’s either a monthly subscription or a one-time contribution – that can be any amount you like.

    Needless to say, support is much appreciated. Hosting costs are going up every year as the site gets bigger…

  5. J

    Huh, seeing Spirit Circle mentioned by you had me pleasantly surprised – so you’re read (at least one of) Mizukami’s works, too? Really wish his works would finally get some anime adaptions, because they’re genuinely good. Samidare, Spirit Circle, Sengoku Youko – doesn’t matter which one. Why that still didn’t happen is a mystery to me.

    Back to Otoyomegatari though – that one’s also a mystery. That one actually DOES have the acclaim, but still didn’t get an anime adaption, which both puzzles and frustrates me. I mean, yes – studios start to increasingly play it safe as far as adaptions go, but… bleh, hard to really put that frustration into words.
    Chapters like these make me love the manga all over again though, not just for the art – it just clicks. I think I even initially started the manga a year or so ago because of your posts here.

  6. Mizukami is great. Spirit Circle is his best, but I’d be happy to see any of his series get adapted. It seems a very odd oversight that nothing he’s written has gotten any kind of anime, even an OVA or special.

    The thing with Otoyomegatari is, it kind of has it all. It wins every award it can win. It sells damn well, really. The author has a prior adaptation that did reasonably well. So what’s the deal? Yeah, it doesn’t have a conventional anime hook – but other Taisho winners with lesser sales and no hook have gotten anime. I really believe the intimidation factor with Mori’s art is a big part of it.

    Don’t sleep on Vagabond, too. If I’m not mistaken that manga has sold more volumes than any manga that’s never gotten any anime. Again, it’s won every major award and has a mangaka who has a history with anime. And it’s not as if Inoue is being difficult – he’s said he’s open to the idea of a Vagabond anime and no one has ever approached him about it. What the fuck?

  7. J

    Please don’t remind me of Vagabond. Seeing how it’s my #1 manga, to this day I’m still hoping that this will somehow end up as an anime at some point – without any luck so far. Doesn’t help that the manga has been on hiatus for so long now either – seeing how it’s on the homestretch as far as the story goes. Maybe when it’s actually over? One can hope, at the very least. So much good material that doesn’t have an anime yet.

    Personally, I’d want an adaption of Sengoku Youko the most – started out the weakest of his big three, but at the same time grew on me by far the most, especially because of characters like Shinsuke, Senya and Douren. Samidare seems to be the one best suited for an adaption as far as the length goes though, is what I’d say. (Honestly though, even Spirit Circle is just barely behind Sengoku Youko for me.)

    Out of curiousity, how well does Otoyomegatari sell exactly? Rarely look into those numbers except for a few select Shounen Jump manga like HxH.

  8. Volume 9 sold 305K, ranking it #52 among all manga volumes for the first half of 2017. Considering the demographic that’s pretty darn good.

  9. e

    – I’s brobonding time! Or rather it has been for a while now. Did anybody in this corner really doubt she would not do it justice, really ;P?
    – Right after he exits Joruk’s yurt Karluk’s eyes seems to be watering just a bit, and not only as a shielding reaction to the elements. Beautiful subtle touch.
    – Our beautiful tiny man with his gigantic feisty female partner. Feathered or not you gotta love dat evolving bond. Also yay for both animal imagery porn and returning ‘care for your eagle’ motif/parallelism. First came the broken wing one, now this. And they both are related to Amir in some fashion. Yeeeeeeh.
    – The things I’d do to get a full 7 Seeds anime adaptation too. Graaaaah.
    – Anyway… just a little note: that’s not his boot that cracked, but his arrows… uh… tube-shaped container? (what’s the name for it in in English my inner Robin Hood groupie is dying in shame right now ). It’s pretty clear in context because Mori highlights the arrows clattering as they fall to the ground out of the rip hole.

  10. His quiver? Noted.

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