Red River, or Sora wa Akai Kawa no Hotori, is more popularly known as Anatolia Story. The series was published in Japan in Shojo Comic from 1995-2002. In 2001 it won the Shogakukan manga award in the shojo category. Viz media published the series in the states from 2004-2010. Fans of historical romance will find this series an action packed adventure with plenty of historical references and a touching love story.
The Gist: Fifteen year old Yuri Suzuki is magically summoned from Japan to the days of the ancient middle east. She arrives in Hattusa, capital of the Hittite Empire, at the will of Nakia, Tawannana and Queen Dowager of the Hittites. Nakia plans to use Yuri as a blood sacrifice to curse the Hittite princes in hopes of putting her son Prince Juda, last in the line of succession, on the throne. Fleeing from the Queen Dowager, Yuri is unknowingly rescued by Prince Kail Mursili II, third in succession of the noble Hittite princes. To thwart the scheming Queen Dowager and protect Yuri, Kail claims she is a blessing from Ishtar, goddess of love and war. He makes her his concubine and takes her to his seraglio. As the story unfolds, Nakia’s scheming continues and Yuri must decide between returning to Japan or staying at Kail’s side. The more people Yuri meets, the more they come to accept her as Ishtar and desire for her to become their Tawannana. Eventually Nakia’s destructive plans lead to Kail becoming King. He wishes to make Yuri his Queen, but first they must stop Nakia’s machinations and create peace among their warring neighbors.
The Characters/Romance: Protagonist Yuri stands out in the ancient setting because she was raised with modern ideals of equality and movement away from any class or caste system. In that sense, she has no fear standing up for others regardless of their station in life. This is what wins the hearts of many of the people in the time period. She is truly brave, and with some instruction, becomes an asset on the battlefield. The people come to see her as a reincarnation of their goddess of war, Ishtar. Yuri often impulsively charges into problems, which keeps the storyline interesting. Kail has his hands full trying to keep up with her.
Kail’s character is not a stereotypical alpha male, warrior ruler. While he does play the protector and feels he must fight another man to prove his manhood, he does have a vulnerable side when it comes to Yuri. He does not try to dominate her, like other men of that time period attempt. He is considerate of her feelings, and respects her bravery and compassion. Although the two fall in love, they keep each other at a distance because of the likelihood that Yuri will eventually leave back to Japan. It is this romantic tension that livens the story as well as the scheming plots of the Queen Dowager, Nakia. Now that’s a character you will get frustrated watching. By the end of the story you’ll be dying to see the woman get what she deserves.
This is a long saga – a total of 28 volumes – that does not come to a lull at any point. The action continues throughout, and many books end with a cliffhanger. Thankfully, the whole series is released so that’s not going to be an issue. It took me a little over a week to get through the series, and that’s because some nights I just kept reaching for the next book. The characters are all well developed, and the last volume includes some side stories of other memorable characters in the series. The amount of historical content is terrific as well. Shinohara brought life to ancient names like Pharaoh Rameses and Queen Nefertiti of Egypt. Rameses becomes a rival of Kail Mursuli II and falls for Yuri. Shinohara even made up a story as to why the ancient bust of Queen Nefertiti only has one eye.