I’ve recently been reading Red River, an award-winning 28-volume shojo series known as Anatolia Story in Japan. The manga is about a girl named Yuri Suzuki, who after receiving her first kiss gets trapped in another world, which turns out to be Anatolia during the year 1500 B.C. She was summoned by Queen Nakia in order to serve as a sacrifice so Nakia would be able to kill the eldest princes, allowing her only son to become the next emperor. However, Yuri is saved by the third prince of the Hittites, Kail Mursili, and it doesn’t take long for them to fall for each other. Yuri moves into the palace as Kail’s ‘concubine,’ and she is eventually revered as the reincarnation of the goddess Ishtar. Prior to reading the manga, I had already heard that Yuri is a strong heroine, so I came into the series with high expectations. At first, Yuri bothered me a bit because she cried a lot, but as the series progressed, I came to appreciate not only how kind Yuri is but how strong she becomes. Eventually, Yuri completely won me over and I consider her to be one of the best shojo leads out there. I’m now 17 volumes into the series, so I decided to showcase some of Yuri’s greatest moments (and please be aware that there are definitely spoilers):
- In volume three, Yuri gets revenge for Tito, a young boy who helped her when she first arrived in Anatolia and was killed. She stabs Tito’s assassin and is recogonized as the goddess Ishtar. When Mitanni troops try to invade their borders, Kail must go fight. Since Yuri must still worry about Queen Nakia, who is after her life, so she decides to learn how to use a sword, bow and how to ride a horse so Kail won’t have to worry about her. Take notes, Miaka, take notes.
- In volume five, Yuri is captured by Mattazawa, the prince of another nation, and is forced to live with prisoners. Mattazawa decides to grant Yuri one wish if she can defeat a lion, which is a symbol for Ishtar. After being thrown into a pit with the lion, Yuri escapes thanks to her horse. Instead of wishing for her freedom, Yuri asks the prince to improve his prisoner’s living conditions. Yuri not only shows how kind she is for thinking of others instead of herself, but also how intelligent she is: because Mattazawa had planned to send men to kill her if she had requested to return home.
- In volumes seven and eight, the king of Egypt dies and the Egyptians ask for one the Hittite princes to marry their current queen. After Zannanza, Kail’s younger brother, wins a chariot race he and a group of Hiitite soldiers, along with Yuri, travel to Egypt so he can take his position. However, Queen Nakia sends spies to travel with Zannanza in order to kill him and Yuri and then blame it on the Egyptians in order to start a war. The spies succeed in killing Zannanza, but although Yuri gets shot in the back with an arrow she escapes alive. She threatens an Egyptian soldier named Ramses to take her back to Hattusa, where Kail is. Right as the Hiitites are accusing Egyptian officials of murdering their prince Yuri arrives on a horse after travelling for two days with the arrow still in her back. She refused Ramses’ offer to remove the arrow because it was made by the Hittites and looks different from an Egyptian arrow, which proved that it was a Hittite soldier who attacked them, and thus Yuri prevents war between the two nations.
- In volume 12, Yuri starts giving her aides the cold shoulder when new servants begin working at the palace. One of the male servants tries to get Yuri drunk so he can squeeze information from her about the royal family, but she attacks him and pins him down instead. When her aides rush to help her, Yuri commands them to arrest the other new hired servants, who Yuri figured out were all spies because of their western accents.
- In volume 16, Kail tells the royal court that he wants to marry Yuri, which would normally be out of the question because she is not royalty. However, Queen Nakia, who is still after Yuri’s life, comes up with the idea that since Kail’s army is missing a commander, if Yuri can successfully lead the entire Hittite army she can become his wife. Yuri decides to accept the position – not because she wants to marry Kail, but because she wants the best future possible for the Hittites. Thus, Yuri becomes the only female commander in the entire history of the Hittite empire.
- There are many other great ways Yuri shows both how smart and tough she can be. For example, when Kail is keeping a secret from Yuri that there is a fake Ishtar in town, she threatens to kiss one of Kail’s subordinates to get the information (which works because the subordinate is afraid of Kail’s jealousy). When Yuri ends up in a sickhouse, she decides to improve its living conditions, and even though almost everyone who gets infected with the disease dies, Yuri is not afraid to touch the sickly. But one of my favorite moments has to be in volume six, after Yuri tries to escape from Mattazawa’s imprisonment but fails. When she gives up trying to escape, her aides think she’s going to wait for Prince Kail to rescue her, like a normal girl should. But Yuri tells them that she intends to find use her position to find out about her enemy, to which her aides respond (with tears in their eyes) “Can’t you just wait for your man quietly?” No, she can’t – and that’s why Yuri is awesome.
Yuri is commonly described as ‘little’ throughout the story because she’s much thinner and shorter than the average Hittite woman. But what Yuri lacks in size, she more than makes up for in strength, courage, and above all, heart.