Saturday, August 8, 2009

Manga Review: EMMA by Kaoru Mori (Vols. 1-7)

Emma cover vol 1Emma cover vol 2Emma cover vol 3
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Emma cover vol 7

Emma by Kaoru Mori, Volumes 1-7

Emma was the only book I managed to finish on vacation (if you consider all the books in a series to be one book, which I sometimes do--especially when I read them all at once).  I love manga, but I usually stick to vampire romances.  However, I'd heard such good things about this series; and my library managed to get the entire set in literally hours before I left, so I decided I to give it a try.

Emma is about a maid named Emma and her adventures.  One would be tempted to call it a historical romance, but it's really more in the style of penny dreadful novel or a Dickens story.  There are lots of characters and different sub-plots running through all of class-conscious, nineteenth-century English society; not to mention abductions, runaways, secret engagements, parental twists, dancing girls, and random nudity (that last one must be for the menz).

The central plot, though, is a love story between Emma and the wealthy bourgeois, William Jones.  They meet when he goes to visit his old governess.  William is immediately attracted to our bespectacled heroine, who serves him tea, and he maneuvers to meet her in public.  Meeeeanwhile, his super-serious dad wants him to mingle with the debutantes and choose a wealthy society girl to be his wife.  Not to mention Emma is being chased after by every male between Covent Garden and Brighton.

The first volume was okay, but I didn't start getting into the series until the second volume.  In that book, William takes Emma to the Crystal Palace, and it's awesome.  And they kiss!  And is sooooo well done and romantic and different the way Kaoru Mori depicts it.  It was during volume the second that I started to get a feel for the characters, who I loved.  William lives with his father, two younger sisters, and younger brother; plus his unforgettable guest and BFF, Hakim the Indian prince, who magically travels (+ elephants and dancing girls) between England and India in the blink of an eye!  At first Will seems a little bland, but his character starts to come out when he's surrounded by his family and friend and interacts with them.

Emma is mainly a passive character all through the series.  I like the girl, but she loves to clean, which makes me question her sanity; and she seems mainly content to let the status quo remain intact.  The major tension in the books comes from wondering whether or not Emma will take a chance a break the class barriers that separate her and William so they can be together.

Mori obviously put a lot research into the historical setting, and I loved the clothes, food, and architecture she treats us with as the story goes on.  Although that's not always consistent.  There was one scene in the first volume where William is playing with a model airplane--hellooooo, nineteenth century!  But overall I was impressed with the sense of historical time and place that the books had.  The clothing especially was fabulous.

Not that this series is all about the tortured love affair between Emma and Will--c'mon, this is manga!  These things can go on indefinitely.  There are plenty of sub-plots and other affairs winding their way through the books, from Will's fiance (not Emma), to his fiance's sister, a little girl who finds his hat, his parents' stories, his siblings, and all the servants in the house Emma works in. 

Basically these books are just fun and entertaining, on occassion completely ridiculous, and totally addictive.  I dragged through volume seven because I didn't want the series to end!  And then the ending resolved nothing, and I was all, "What the hell?!"  But fortunately, a quick search on Amazon revealed that, even though volume seven is supposed to be the last issue, there are actually two more available and a third to be published.  Hooray!

I would heartily recommend Emma, especially if you love anything related to the nineteenth century.  And now back to vampire romances.

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