Sunday, September 6, 2009
Emma, vol. 8
The story: This volume contains short stories of the side characters in the Emma-verse. From Kelly, Emma's former mistress, to Eleanor Campbell, Kaoru Mori shares glimpses into their lives. There's the opening of the Crystal Palace, a trip to the shore, the life of a newspaper in Victorian London and Tasha the maid's visit home. But, these are no ordinary, "everyday" scenes, and instead capture fond memories, auspicious starts and solidify decisions made by the characters involved.
Reaction: I love Emma, so it's safe to say that I really enjoyed this volume, even with its disjointed, unrelated stories. As someone who works in the media and still reads a real newspaper everyday, I loved chapter five, "The Times." It was really all the little details that got to me—from the ironing of the newspaper by maids (so the ink doesn't rub off onto the reader's fingertips) to how announcements bring people together. Of course, the other chapters are much the same and reminiscent of a simpler time, where courtesy and manners were standard and not optional, like they are today.
Deep thoughts: Because of "The Times," I again lamented the state of the modern newspaper industry. While many dailies have reduced their coverage to shuttering completely, there's been a steep drop in profits not only because of changes in readership habits (why pay for a subscription when you can read the news online for free?), but also because of the current recession. Since display is the lone way for newspapers to profit (classifieds used to be an income source prior to the proliferation of Craig's List), they've lost quite a bit of money as retailers have felt the economic crunch. While I dislike the much reduced volume and news coverage in my local newspaper, it's the layoffs of those involved in its creation—from layout designers to writers and editors—that I deplore the most.
Artwork: Again, Mori does a great job with period costumes, the setting and the finer artistic details. From the bathing suits during the two-part "Brighton by the Sea" to the newspaper close-ups, she captures each with an ease and seeming effortlessness. But most impressive are the panels in the Crystal Palace. Since the structure no longer exists, it's amazing to see it come to life within these pages. Capturing the crowds, the exhibits and the mood is no small feat, but, again, Mori does it and quite well at that.
The verdict: Highly recommended. Even without its main character, this manga is a true delight and captures the life and times of the characters all too well. I continue to be impressed by this ostensibly simple and understated manga, and look forward to the final two volumes, especially with the return of Emma in the forthcoming tenth volume. Emma is available in the U.S. from CMX.
Review copy provided by CMX.