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.