Thursday, July 16, 2009

Emma, vol. 1

The story: Emma, after whom this series is named, is a maid in Victorian England. Having been taken in and trained at a young age, she works for a retired governess. One day, a former student, William Jones, comes to call upon his old teacher and falls in love with Emma at first sight. And while it might seem like Emma has little experience with the opposite sex, she actually receives regular love letters from her many admirers and even a proposal from William's good friend Hakim, who is visiting from India. While she may seem like a simple, meek maid, there's more to Emma than meets the eye.

Reaction: I was quite enamored of the setting for this manga, especially since I read a lot of Victorian-era novels growing up. While some might see Emma as meek or shy, I like to think of it as a quiet strength; it's admirable, really. I also found William a peculiar character. Despite his upbringing, he resists what's expected of him and his station in life. However, I rather enjoyed his and Hakim's unexpected meeting with Emma in the lending library. Talk about embarrassing!

Deep thoughts: I thought it was interesting that CMX, the American publisher of Emma, published a note in the back regarding the historical accuracy of this manga. Unfortunately, it looks like Kaoru Mori didn't get a historical consultant for Emma until after this volume, as William receives a delivery of a toy plane. The problem is, the airplane wasn't successfully flown by the Wright brothers until the early 1900s, which is after the setting of this story. While it is a whimsical touch, I don't know why a plane in particular was chosen.

Artwork: It is claimed in this story that Emma is a great beauty, but she isn't necessarily drawn as one. In fact, she's quite plain, especially in comparison to the other women featured throughout this volume. Additionally, I found the characters somewhat interchangeable in design, unless they were older, ethnic or dressed in a certain way. Regardless, what really shines here is the background scenery, costume design and setting. Victorian England is well represented here with cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, brick townhouses and iron streetlamps. There's even a flair of the dramatic brought on by Hakim, with all of his Indian finery. Of course, the costuming for the rest of the cast is era appropriate.

The verdict: If only. There were a couple of missteps in this volume that I couldn't ignore. But, I can't help but be intrigued by the story set before me. If nothing else, it's the start of a great love story, set in Victorian England -- where many great romances have taken place in literature. Of course, I'm interested in seeing what comes of Emma and William, especially with their class differences. Emma is available in the U.S. from CMX.


  1. I don't consider the airplane to be a problem/error, any more than I would consider watching a person today playing with a model or toy of some sort of spaceship. Gliders had flown and attempts were being made or soon-to-be-made(maid? :) at powered flight. It's not like the toy means that man has flown in Emma's era, just that the concept was out there.

  2. @Anonymous I was pointing out an historical inaccuracy, as Emma is set in 1885, far before the success of manned flight. Having reviewed the volume again, it's fairly clear that the toy plane William receives is a miniature version of the Wright brothers' Flyer III, which didn't become famous (and thus mass-produceable) until 1905. The only reason I mention the inaccuracy is because it broke up the story for me. When I saw this scene, I found myself flipping back to the beginning to double-check the year. It doesn't ruin the book, per se, but it does cause a bit of a distraction to this reader.

  3. Emma may be published by CMX, but unless something's changed very very recently, you Cannot get volumes 6 and 7 anywhere, except maybe for several hundred dollars each, second hand, on amazon. those being the end of the actual main story, and apparantly out of print. even the library here doesn't have them, though they have volumes 1-5.

    believe me when i say this is all kinds of annoying. i was collecting that one :S

    that said, it is a Really good story up until the end of volume 5, and the side stories in 8 and 9 are great. [don't know about 6&7 obviously, and 10 isn't out yet.]

    blah. seems like this is the only thing i end up saying, over and over, on various manga blogs... i'll get a reputation at this rate :S

  4. To be sure that we're talking about the same thing (and how many airplanes can there be in the volume), you're referring to the plane on page 31 of volume 1, correct?

    The plane there is of a more modern design than the 1905 Flyer III (more modern than the Wrights' 1913 design, too). According to, the Flyer III was a plane with two propellers pushing from behind from the wing and with no fuselage (pilot still laying down on top of the lower wing, perhaps). I think that the design of William's toy is a little too modern, but I don't see it as being any more out of place than a toy spaceship would be in a manga set in the year 2009.

    Can I include URLs here? I've never written a blog response. ^_^; has a page covering mid- and late-nineteenth century milestones. Included is a drawing of a scene at the Crystal Palace in 1868 that shows a triplane hanging from the ceiling. Powered flight might not have occurred until almost 20 years after the start of the Emma manga, but the concept was not unknown; it was just more like science fiction to most people.

    The exact URL for the page (if this works, anyway) is:

    You might need to paste that URL back together if it doesn't post correctly.

  5. ...sigh... Comments can't be edited? I should have added that the appearance of the plane didn't knock me out of the story because while manned flight hadn't yet occurred, it wasn't a completely unknown concept. With William's interest in toys and gadgets, I can understand how he would end up with a toy airplane.

    IIRC, the Emma anime used a slightly less-modern airplane design, but I don't have a DVD-player handy to take a look. The book included with the DVDs refers to the 1840s Aerial Steam Carriage, which has a wikipedia entry for more information.

  6. @Chargone I can understand your frustration. I wasn't aware of the issue surrounding the sixth and seventh volumes, as I borrowed these from the library. Best of luck finding them!

    @Anonymous Ah, good to know about the specifics regarding aviation in those days! I'll admit I don't have as keen a knowledge of aviation history as you do, so I did learn quite a bit from your comments. I'm glad that this is somewhat addressed in the anime, too. I'm sure Kaoru Mori wanted the change made for accuracy's sake. Thanks very much for your comments - you've certainly helped create a lively discussion!

    PS -- As far as I know, there's no way to edit your comments in Blogger, even if you have a profile on the system (although you can delete your comments). Then again, I don't know of any blogging platform that allows one to edit comments without a registered profile. Sorry!

  7. @Chargone I forgot to mention that there are a couple of spots where one can purchase discount CMX titles: Discount Comic Book Service and In Stock Trades. Unfortunately, neither of them seem to have the volumes you seek in stock. But, these are great spots to purchase discount DC/CMX and Dark Horse titles. Info via TangonaT.