Kaoru Mori: Anything and Something

Kaoru Mori is the fan-favorite author of the popular manga Emma and A Bride’s Story. As she explains in her comic-format foreword, this volume is a “stewpot book… a bunch of manga short stories, illustrations, and columns” she’s done over the past ten years, since the launch of Emma.

It’s good to see such a collection make it to the US, especially for those eager to buy whatever she has available, but I found the result a mixed bag. I love Mori’s illustrated author’s notes, and there are several of those in this volume. I liked hearing her comments on her career or reactions to her own work or the products (anime, figures) made from them. However, the actual short stories mostly weren’t for me. I think I was expecting more from them, in terms of meaningful content, than they were intended to have.

The first story features a crazy maid and butler. I like Mori’s maids, when they’re given room to shine and space for character development, but this was too silly and over-the-top for me. I felt the same way about a later two-parter with a fighting maid. The piece about a girl who needed glasses for class was barely an incident, although Mori draws an adorable schoolgirl in fetching frames.

Several pieces clearly came from men’s magazines, since the subjects often boiled down to “look at these attractive women.” There’s one with a bunny waitress, one with a woman in a low-cut swimsuit, one with various body parts of a girl in tight shorts. A 40-page story written by Satoshi Fukushima, “Sumire’s Flowers”, is supposedly about friendship between two different art students, but all I will recall about it is how obvious the author is in establishing that one of the girls doesn’t wear underwear.

The second half of the book, which is shorter art pieces, was much more pleasing to me. There are pinups and advertising images, which allowed me to focus on the beauty, grace, and dignity of Mori’s women without feeling like I was being treated as a peeping tom (as I sometimes felt after the works in the first half). We learn more about the character designs for some of Emma‘s cast, and the last few pages even are educational, as Mori explains corsets. She covers more than I could have ever imagined but still leaves out the damage they did and their health impacts, such as the inability to breathe fully if wearing one too tightly laced. Her work is about fantasy and historical escapism, after all. She also explains fireplaces and servants in an Agatha Christie novel.

The book is well-assembled. The hardcover will fit nicely on shelves next to A Bride’s Story, and the table of contents includes original sources for the material, a very nice touch. It’s a pleasure to see a manga with page numbers, especially one where they’re so helpful for cross-reference. As the crowning touch, it’s translated by William Flanagan, whose work is always enjoyable to read. (The publisher provided a review copy.)


  1. I did hear about the proliferation of butts in this book. XD That does make me a little hesitant to pick it up but I know it’s Kaoru Mori and her lineart is going to make me weep (in a sort-of good way!)

    Will definitely be on the lookout for this. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Johanna!

  2. I’m probably one of the few people not enamored of Kaoru Mori’s work it often feels too intrested in details and the Mangaka’s intrests that the stories sometimes suffer. Although when story and art mesh it’s a thing to behold. This volume just felt like a mixed bag

  3. The wife in the one piece bathing suit is my new standard of beauty in manga. I love the book. I never felt like a peeping Tom. I would argue that Mori has a way of drawing women that appreciates their beauty without objectifying them.

  4. I’m not sure we would agree on what constitutes objectification, since you have a generosity in evaluation that means I see it more than you do. However, in this case, the entire point of the story is for that woman to be looked at — she’s talking to her husband about how she wore that swimsuit on their honeymoon, and we’re put in the eyes of the husband. That’s pretty much the definition of the male gaze.

  5. I know we’ll have to agree to disagree. That story takes place within the context of what I assume is a loving relationship. So yes, there is a sense of desire there. But, it’s not simply desire for her only on a physical level. Granted, it’s well documented that I read much into my manga. So when I read this story, I’m assuming the role of the husband and all the emotional attachments that entails. Someone could read that story as simply a voyuer, but I think he is the poorer for it.

    Also, don’t you think the wife is teasing her husband? She’s putting on that long forgotten suit as a way of getting him to go on another foreign vacation.

    It’s in moments like these that I appreciate your perspective and wisdom.

  6. I think you may be thinking as follows: Objectification is a bad thing, there are positive emotions in this story, so it can’t be bad, so it can’t be objectification. If that’s close to your thought path, it’s also a fallacy. Objectification is simply treating the woman like an object, on display for us to view. There might be good reasons for it, or bad, but that doesn’t change what it is. As I understand it.

  7. Johanna, I didn’t know that objectification was a morally neutral term. I thought it always had a negative connotation. Thanks for the clarification.

  8. “one with various body parts of a girl in tight shorts”

    When I first read that, I was thinking that the body parts that go into shorts are a pretty small selection, since shorts are usually worn on only on part of the body. ^^;

    Yeah, we were staring at her butt most of the time.

    I think that I liked all of her stories, but just to varying degrees. The Emma stuff reminded me that I want them to pick up the Emma license, and give that story the same treatment that their Kaoru Mori works currently get.

  9. Oooh, that would be great to see, Emma omnibus editions in hardcover.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.