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REVIEW: Manga review: Emma: A Victorian Romance by Kaoru Mori

Emma_cover Emma by Kaoru Mori. Published by CMX. Retail: $9.99 2/7 Volumes released in English. Series complete in Japanese. Rated T+ (teens and up; female nudity in a matter of fact manner, mild sexual references, kissing) . A-

Note: I feel distinctly uncomfortable addressing a frank letter to a Japanese mangaka. It’s so… Ugly American. So I will be addressing readers for the most part in these reviews so that I don’t have to be so circumspect.

Dear Readers,

One thing you’ll discover if you read much manga is that accuracy in setting isn’t something that really concerns most mangaka, if a story is set outside Japan. But there are exceptions. Emma is one of them.

Admittedly, there are a few things used here and there that are slightly anachronistic, such as having a model airplane in a few panels well before the first one ever flew, but they are used to make the story a little more colorful and are not major plot points so they don’t bother me. It’s the feel of the story I love.

I opened this manga expecting a lot of the typical Japanese trappings for romance. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to find something that felt very British to me (I’m an American, so I admit that it might not feel that way to the Brits.). The pacing, the main characters, the detail in the artwork, especially the drawings of London, and the period feel (1896) are all well done.

The romance is a nice one as well. Both Emma and Mr. Jones feel very like they must have been: a maid trying to become better than she is but knowing there are some boundaries she should not cross, and a rash young man who has fallen in love and won’t listen to reason about those very things. I love how they try to do what’s right by society’s rules, but unhappiness, and awareness of what they’re missing eventually overwhelms them and brings them together again. In the end there are no magical answers for the two of them, even though they do get some unexpected help along the way. Their relationship felt real to me.

This is a romance for older teens, so it has its share of emotional romantic moments, such as here, where the h/h are reunited at one point (panels are read right to left, top to bottom).

 

Emma_v4p1Emma_v4p2Emma_v4p3Emma_v4p4Emma_v4p5
But it also has more than its share of quiet reflective moments, such as a lovely but sad chapter where Emma goes through the motions of cleaning her mistress / teacher’s house after the older woman dies. There’s very little dialogue but it says plenty:
Emma_v2
One thing that may genuinely bother readers concerned with authenticity is the most colorful and lively character, Hakim Atawari, Mr Jones’ best friend, an Indian prince. Everything about Hakim is fantastical, especially his free and open interactions with British upper class society. However, he brings such life and fun to it, that I for one do not care about his authenticity. I have learned to view such things as windows into the Japanese mind and to enjoy them as they come.

Other readers however, might prefer to have those windows closed when they’re reading about Victorian London. But to me, it’s one of the things I like best about Emma (and manga in general), comparing it to what I know of history, and pondering why things were interpreted such a way through a Japanese lens. And Hakim is just charming.

So unless you’re one of those readers from the Regency list for whom mention of a spoon made of a certain metal alloy at the bottom of page 87 when that particular metallurgy wasn’t introduced until 1825 which is decidedly not Regency just ruined the whole book for you, then you should be able to enjoy this romance despite the few things that might be off. Because seriously, for manga, this is very well researched, and very true to its times.

Right now only the first two volumes of the seven book series are out in English. I have already read all seven volumes from the Japanese, and can assure you that it belongs on a romance list. I think this story is one of the most accessible for Western lovers of romance, and urge anyone interested to pick up the first two volumes and give it a try.

Sincerely,

ジェーン
(Jān)

reads any genre as long as the books aren't depressing. Her preferred reads these days are in manga format and come from all manga genres, but she especially likes romance, doubly so when there are beautiful men involved. With each other. Her favorites among currently-running English-translated manga series include NANA, Ze, Ouran High School Host Club, Junjou Romantica, Blood Alone, Vampire Knight, Skip Beat, Silver Diamond and anything by the holy triumvirate of BL: Ayano Yamane, Kazuma Kodaka and Youka Nitta, including any scribbles they might do on the backs of napkins.

32 Comments

  1. Rosie
    Feb 22, 2007 @ 11:12:07

    I’ve wondered and been curious about manga especially when I run across a review or post about someone who really loves it. However, I’ve had no clue where to start. This sounds just like what I’ve been looking for. Thanks.

  2. Jan
    Feb 22, 2007 @ 11:27:11

    You’re welcome Rosie! It’s really a nice story, and I think one that most of us who love romance would sink right into. :)

  3. Sandra Schwab
    Feb 22, 2007 @ 11:43:11

    Thanks for the review, Jan! This series sounds lovely indeed. And the drawings are very nice and uncluttered, which is what I prefer when reading mangas. :)

  4. Jan
    Feb 22, 2007 @ 12:01:22

    Yes, the artwork is detailed yet clean throughout. Her drawings of the architecture, clothing etc of London are just beautiful, yet at the same time the attention she pays to space feels very Japanese. It’s a lovely combination.

  5. Keishon
    Feb 22, 2007 @ 17:24:51

    I had to break down and order this one because B&N didn’t have it. I like artwork that is pretty clean as well which is why I enjoyed Blood Alone released by Infinity Studios. Thanks for the heads up.

  6. Jan
    Feb 22, 2007 @ 18:08:28

    Our B&N only carries kids’ stuff. Borders has a wider variety, if you can get to one of them. But online is the way I go because I always order enough to get free shipping, which I suppose isn’t necessarily a good thing. ;)

  7. sagumi
    Jun 16, 2007 @ 00:11:17

    i love emma story very much and i want to know what happen in emma season two

  8. crystal
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 11:27:16

    Rightstuf.com and another company they own is bring out season one and season two out on dvd at sometime to U.S. market, but they have not figure out a relesae date yet. (not not going be 2012)

  9. henna
    Oct 14, 2007 @ 06:49:22

    i love emma story very much.it is my favourite book.
    i am so happy. kaoru mori is best!!!!!
    emma1,emma2,emma3,emma4,emma5,emma6 and emma7 is best.
    i have only emma5,emma6 and emma7,but i read all of them.
    fortunately i read all of them.
    congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Jan
    Oct 14, 2007 @ 06:53:09

    I love it too. Did you know there is a sequel? I hope it gets published here as well. :)

  11. henna
    Oct 14, 2007 @ 23:58:51

    jan,how old are you? i am only 13 years old and i dont write or speak very good english,but i understand it.
    emma it´s really a nice story.i am emma stories really idol.
    i hope others people like it.

  12. Jan
    Oct 15, 2007 @ 00:39:23

    I’m older than most manga fans. I’m in my 40’s. But manga has good stories for all ages, and I love them all. It’s nice to hear from other people around the world who also love it. :)

    Do you have other favorite series? Have you tried ones like Fruits Basket? Or NANA?

  13. henna
    Oct 15, 2007 @ 12:03:16

    do you write a sequel? ,exting!!!
    hopefully i have enought money to buy emma book´s.
    one book cost 6,50 euro.
    i don´t have other favourite series but i read lots of manga books.but emma is best.
    i live in finland.were you live?my cousin in finland love emma too.
    i have two cousin in japan,megumi and tomomi.

  14. henna
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 12:21:10

    emma and william, so romantic.
    Do you write more emma books?

  15. henna
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 12:27:07

    why do you dont answer?
    london,1800- ,so nice clotes. i wont to dress so beatifull clotes.
    london is nice place.

  16. Jan
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 12:40:46

    Sorry, I’m working right now. I’m not the author of Emma though. I just wrote the review. Kaoru Mori is writing more Emma. :)

  17. henna
    Oct 20, 2007 @ 00:39:36

    i´m sorry. :(
    i distrub you. i´m so sorry.
    i love emma so much.
    i know you are not the author ,but i dont write very rood english.
    my text´s acconpany undestand wrong.

  18. henna's cousin
    Nov 17, 2007 @ 02:45:33

    how old kaoru mori is??
    and how many book’s she write now??

  19. Diana
    Nov 26, 2007 @ 16:06:58

    I love this story so much…sadly I can’t read Japanese yet (I want to learn) but I deal with the two volumes that are out in English. I already know what happens though; I watched the anime version, but I love the manga more.

    Manga/anime is for people of all ages. :D

    Finland, …I do so love the internet, lets us connect to people around the world!

    Kaoru Mori’s style amazes me. As you said Jān, its very clean throughout.

    As you said, not all things are historically correct, but those of us who wish to enjoy the story instead of criticizing it, are willing to overlook such things and see it for the victorian romance that it is.

  20. Diana
    Nov 26, 2007 @ 16:10:16

    Sorry about writing too much…I just love this story! I can’t wait for the rest to come out!

  21. henna
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 10:57:47

    kaoru mori is really best.
    i love so much emma book’s.REALLY!!!!
    who are you diana? i read 7 emma books.

  22. Diana
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 12:10:27

    I’ve sadly only read one of the books…but as I said before, I know what’s going on and what happens.

    Who am I? I..don’t understand.

  23. MD
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 19:37:47

    I’m a guy but I don’t care what people gonna say to me! bwahahaha! Emma is the coolest romantic manga that I have eva read! I hav been readin hundreds of manga of different genre and I found that Emma is one of the best. From its detail, plots, emotional value and everything. Just finish readin the manga for the third time and still it wasnt boring.

    Kaori mori had done a great in creatin this manga. I hope the author could create one more episode of the manga about whats gonna happen in the future about emma and william coz i wanna read it!

    Anyone please tell me where i can find the author biography or the manga official website.

  24. Red
    Jul 16, 2008 @ 11:06:30

    I’m a guy too and i’m not ashamed to say i love this story too :D awesome story telling. If i’m not mistaken i just read somewhere online Kaori Mori created a sequel. From what i have heard it details what happens to the other characters like what happened to Eleanor and such and doesn’t focus too much on the 2 main character (it drops hints here and there about the 2, from what i have heard). If only i can find the scanlation now :/

  25. The Wandering Reader
    Oct 12, 2008 @ 14:14:36

    I have been wanting to read this story, and your post confirms it; do you know if the books are translated into English yet? The last I had read in Anime Insider fans were waiting for an English version of Emma.

    Thanks so much for the post!

    – The Wandering Reader

  26. (Jān)
    Oct 12, 2008 @ 15:16:05

    The English version of the original has been completely released (7 vols). CMX has also licensed the 3 volume sequel but I’ve not seen any releases of it yet.

    The complete first season of the anime has been released and can be purchased at a very reasonable cost almost anywhere (rightstuf.com is a great place to buy), and the second has been licensed with no release date yet announced.

  27. LG
    Dec 30, 2008 @ 20:18:04

    Oh, I love your review – it describes Emma so nicely. I’m working on mine (slowly), and I know they’re definitely not as clear.

    The pace of the romance in this series is so slow that, if it were a novel and not a manga, I probably would’ve quit reading out of frustration. However, Mori’s artwork is just so pretty that I don’t mind the pacing, and I end up obsessively poring over characters’ expressions, words, and body language instead.

    I’ve finally been able to scrape up the money to buy the first season of the anime, and I hope to buy the second soon. I agree, Rightstuf.com is a great place to buy (although I end up spending more than I should after looking through their bargain bins and aiming for free shipping).

  28. Pétalo
    Jun 16, 2009 @ 11:50:40

    This is one of the best Emma manga / MORI Kaoru san review I have ever read for years!

    So wonderfully described the atmosphere this manga engulfs you with. Also, this review justs MORI san’s art in general…
    All very well said, Jān! ^_^

    I’ve read all the seven volumes, watched the two seasons of anime, and eagerly looking forward to getting the three manga sequel volumes.

    Oh, and LG, you spoke my mind! I loved the way you reasoned the attraction, or rather the obsession, that keeps you tightly clung to this manga right to the end.

    And as for “connect to people around the world”, here’s Pétalo all the way from Kuwait… (Just in case, please don’t start with the stereotypes and misconceptions! Thank you for your understanding. ^_^)

  29. Emma (Volume 1) by Kaoru Mori « This Librarian in Training
    Feb 01, 2010 @ 18:55:23

    […] @ Dear Author […]

  30. Emma Volume 4 « Sequestered Nooks
    Jun 10, 2010 @ 20:10:09

    […] it’s more than I could have hoped for. For example, this reviewer at Dear Author uploaded one of my favorite scenes (images are potential spoiler). You can just feel the emotion in the body language of the […]

  31. dapuni
    Aug 12, 2010 @ 00:37:48

    this is so nice, a lot of people liked emma. :D not to mention boys too.

  32. hirohiron
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 22:08:28

    This might be too late for this post, but the whole series of Emma has ended volume 10, not 7. But yes, the main stream of their story is ended on vol.7. The author of this manga gifted for us and she brought very good finale of Emma and Mr. Jones on vol.10. You should check them out. (Now we’re in 2011, you probably read them already.)

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