Emma Volume 1
I’m very glad Yen Press brought back Kaoru Mori’s maid manga Emma. The period piece combines a cross-class romance (gentleman and maid) with beautifully illustrated details of daily life, set during a time, 19th century England, that appeals to many readers, given the elaborate dinner parties and social rituals.
When the series was originally released by CMX, I covered most of the volumes, so I won’t talk in detail about the plot, but I did want to note how lovely Mori’s art is. It’s more obvious in her work on A Bride’s Story, since that culture is a lot more foreign to readers. This series feels like watching a costume drama on PBS, so her facility with expression and emotion requires attention on the reader’s part to note. The reading is so smooth that it doesn’t jump out, making it all the more skilled.
It was a pleasure to be reminded of William and Emma’s relationship, beginning with his first encounter with her, at the home of his former governess. I hadn’t recalled the comedy, as Emma opens the door and smacks him in the face, but I did remember his quiet self-possession and her warm personality (and glasses!). Rereading the story allowed me to pick up on more detail in their interactions. The presence of continuing depth makes this a volume worth owning, to reread.
I hadn’t remembered how quickly Emma is established as desirable, despite her status, with several suitors. And the introduction of Hakim, just to introduce some amazing visuals, since he comes from India with a bevy of elephants. Plus, William’s siblings have a ton of energy and motives. Then there’s the visit to the Crystal Palace museum, and their first kiss, and William’s family obligations, and social ties building a chasm between them.
This hardcover Emma volume 1 collects two of the previous volumes, with the addition of two sepia-toned street scenes as frontispieces. As a longer read, we can spend more time in this far-away world. The author’s notes are still included for both volumes, about Mori’s anglophilia. Although the translation is by Sheldon Drzka in both cases, old and new, the adaptation has been reworked to read more smoothly and with more distinct character voices. In other words, it’s a subtle improvement.
The CMX volumes, in comparison to this one, look more faded. The black inks are sharper here and the paper whiter. Also, the dust jacket is reversible. The front and back images of the original first volume can be turned inside to reveal the front and back images of the second, a nice touch. (The publisher provided a review copy.)