"Otoyome Gatari" (A Bride's Story) is no longer a bridesmaid. After earning second place in manga honors in 2011 and 2013, it clinched the Manga Taisho 2014 top prize earlier this year.
"I feel honoured to be chosen by the voters for my work," manga artist Kaoru Mori said at the award ceremony on March 27. The award is chosen by manga lovers, including bookstore shop clerks and teachers.
Set in Central Asia in the 19th century, the manga depicts the lives and customs of people in an area unfamiliar to Japan, which makes the manga appealing as a travel story.
The first thing that catches the eye in this manga is the neatly-drawn pictures with great attention to detail. Mori said she paid many visits to the National Diet Library and museums to learn about Central Asia, such as embroidery work on clothes and carpets as well as intricate workmanship on ornaments.
"I became interested in Central Asia when I was a middle or high school student and saw crafts from the area at an art museum," she said. "I wanted to draw these things carefully and in detail. I'd be happy if readers felt like they had travelled around countries they've never visited when they read my work."
The grand scale of the multilayered story is also attractive.
The characters are led by Amir, a 20-year-old woman from a nomadic family who marries a boy from a settled family who is 12.
Other characters include Talas, who is forced to remarry after her husband's death, and the twins Laila and Leily who live in a fishing village by the lake and dream about a happy life. While young wives appear as the main characters, there is no single heroine in the story.