Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: CMX Manga
Author: Kaoru Mori
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shoujo)
MSRP: $9.99 US
Rating: T+ (Teen Plus)
Release Date: Now Available
A very Victorian romance.
There are few mangaka who are able to pull off telling a story set outside of Japan and do so brilliantly enough that you find yourself absorbed but the story and characters rather than pointing out the shortcomings in the setting. For example, very few mangaka can pull of the Wild West era of America. Still, when one does manage to pull it off, as in the case of Volume 1 of Emma, the story is enriched by it and makes it all the more special.
Kaoru Mori has often expressed her love for all things English and more so in the Victorian era just as new innovations become common place. The story finds a handsome young man from the wealthy Jones family about to knock on the door of his old live-in governess who practically raised him only to have his hat knocked off and his head bumped by the door that is opened by the young live-in maid.
Her name is Emma and in the very instant their eyes lock, William Jones is completely smitten. She’s beautiful and graceful in the manner that well trained maids are graceful and even with her glasses the beauty shines through. His old governess, Kelly Stownar, notices his attraction to her immediately and even though she was harsh on the boy when he was growing up she so really wants to see the young man happy. So begins the unusual romance between a young aristocrat and a maid.
If this story sounds like it’s been told before in other manga, I would agree with you but what makes Emma such a rare breed of shoujo manga is in the uniquely slow manner in which the romance blossoms. You see, William isn’t the type of man that is prone to simply professing his love to a girl nor does he flirt. He simply is just there hoping for a chance that he could one day tell her how he feels. Emma is also quite different seeing as she doesn’t really recognize her beauty despite the fact that she is often being courted by many admirers.
William finds himself wanting to see Emma again and he does visit but his awkward nature doesn’t really push him into making a confession. Instead, he offers to buy her a new pair of glasses when he notices that Emma didn’t see him waving from far away. Having suffered from poor eye sight, Emma is rather attached to her current glasses thanks to her employer so she asks William for something else instead.
Things get interesting when William’s friend from India shows up with a crew as well as four of his best elephants. He is Hakim, a young man much like William who comes from a very wealthy family. His friend decides to stay for a week but when an elephant ride turns sour for William it is Emma who takes care of him. In an instant, however, Hakim sees Emma and falls in love with her. So taken by the beautiful maid that he dresses like a true English gentleman and pays her a visit and make a surprising confession to her. William, we can see, is clearly uncomfortable with that.
The story also touches on the life of Kelly Stownar who didn’t have the chance to have children with her husband who died before his time. Instead, she has grown to think of both William and Emma as her own. She had taught both of them and, despite her strict nature, both William and Emma appreciate all she has done for them. Even William’s father decides to pay their old governess a visit after Kelly takes a nasty tumble.
As I mentioned in the beginning, Mori does a marvelous job of invoking the period, the customs and the setting perfectly. Whether its looking through the books at Mudies or William clashing with his father over an arranged marriage, the feel of the Victorian era is everywhere in this manga. Mori even adds her delightful sense of humor.
Volume 1 of Emma is an impressive and pleasant manga that doesn’t fall under the same shoujo trappings of other series. What we have here is an enchanting and enjoyable read and a series that started off perfectly thanks to the wonderful characters and setting. If the other volumes are like this then consider is hooked on Emma.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Visiting his old live-in governess, a young man from a prominent family named William Jones meets and becomes totally smitten by her maid named Emma. While William isn’t the sort of chap who goes about announcing his intentions, Emma finds the young gentleman to be interesting … even more so when William’s wealthy friend from India comes to town.
Kaoru Mori’s art is exquisite when it comes to the gorgeous backgrounds and the attention to detail she pays to every aspect of the characters’ appearance and other details. What a delightfully well-drawn manga.
One of the most enchanting romance stories to come from the mind of Kaoru Mori, Volume 1 of Emma is a charming manga that is wonderfully original and totally fun to read. Very few shoujo manga manages to capture the feel and era of a setting outside of Japan but Emma manages to do so perfectly enough that you will find yourself consumed by the story. Consider this a real Must Have.