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_v4p5But 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_v2One 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.




26 comments on “REVIEW: Manga review: Emma: A Victorian Romance by Kaoru Mori

  1. 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. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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. 😉

  5. 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)

  6. i love emma story very 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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. 😀

    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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. I’m a guy too and i’m not ashamed to say i love this story too 😀 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 :/

  15. It maybe slightly late for me to post this comment, since the review was almost two years ago, but I couldn’t help but express my admiration for this manga, and of course its creator.
    Emma is totally different from that of the usual stuff we read. I mean, by the end of it all, I felt like I have read a Jane Austen myself (not that its exactly comparable, but it had the air of a classic literary piece to me). It trails away a bit from the conventional manga culture but Kaoru Mori has just made it more interesting. Though reluctantly, I must admit that the scene you posted above (the reunion of Emma and William) provoked my tears.
    And Hakim…oh Hakim… He’s just incredibly funny. Even in England he still carried the authority he has back at home. I mean being son to Maharajah… -__- He felt as if he owned the whole of England in his stance.
    Also of notable character is Lady Mildrake, Eleanor’s sister, Monica. I found her funnily amusing.

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