My thanks to NetGalley and Kodansha Comics for a review copy of this one.
Blissful Land is a manga comic/graphic novel set in eighteenth-century Tibet, and it was this setting that essentially drew me to this book. This tells the story of Khang Zhipa, a thirteen-year-old “doctor-in-training”, who lives with his father, a doctor/farmer, his mother, also a farmer, and younger sister Pema. He is somewhat obsessed with the herbs that he collects, and prepares medicines to treat whoever is in trouble. He in fact dreams of helping not only his village but other villages around. When the story opens, he is returning home from another herb collecting excursion accompanied by his Yak and Sangay, his dog when he tries to help a farmer who’s been suffering exhaustion. They notice a party of travellers heading to their village, which is bringing a bride all dressed in her finery. When Khang arrives home, he is surprised to find the travellers there, and after a day or so, to find that the bride is in fact here to be married to him in due time, and will be staying with his family till then. The story is basically a very simple one with each chapter giving one a peek into the kind of life people in Khang’s position may have led every day, the things they did, the food they ate, and of course how Khang and his bride-to-be, Moshi Rati, get to know each other better, learn of each other’s interests, and importantly, learn to communicate with each other as time passes. This is of course only the first volume so the story stops part way.
This was a really pleasant and charming story—and a pretty quick read. Despite having nothing much in terms of plot, it is wonderful to see what life may have possibly been like in a small mountain village of Tibet of that time. I loved the artwork, which is really very beautiful–the buildings and the surrounding mountains, and especially the costumes of the characters—I wonder if the final product has coloured pages because that would really make it so much better (like the cover, which is gorgeous). I also really liked how the author incorporated information on the various herbs and plants that Khang used in his treatments, and also the time and effort the actual preparation of various medicines took. Also the way the characters are introduced to the reader is fun. There is also some additional information at the end about the names used, some customs, Yaks, and even a recipe for butter tea. This was overall very pleasant to read, though I would have liked if the story didn’t stop somewhat abruptly even though it has a second part. 3.75 stars.