Story/Art: Kaoru Mori
Translation/Adaptation: Sheldon Drzka
What They Say
Not wishing to cause a scandal within the Joneses’ household, Emma chooses to make a clean break from her old life and takes a train to the sea. As chance would have it, Emma finds herself sharing a car with another maid, one who serves at a large manor in the country. A big house bustling with servants seems an ideal place in which to move forward after losing her mistress and leaving her love back in London. Learning the precise dance of domestic service in her new environment is a welcome challenge, but how long can hard work divert Emma’s mind from the longing of her heart?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
I think if I lived in Victorian England, I would spend most of my time cursing and union organizing. Even just reading about it makes me feel constricted, so just imagine how much worse it would be if I actually lived there. That’s one of the strengths of Kaoru Mori’s manga: it’s a love letter to the Victorian era, but it’s also an indictment of it.
In the previous volume, we met Emma—a beautiful, intelligent maid working for a woman named Kelly Stowner. Mrs. Stowner previously worked as a governess for the Jones family, primarily taking care of the eldest boy, William. One day William popped in for a visit with his old governess and there he met Emma. To put it mildly, it was love at first sight.
Their relationship unfolded slowly. Despite their mutual attraction, their respective social standing made their romance illicit, even scandalous—especially to William’s family. Although the Jones have money and the social standing that comes from it, they don’t have the pedigree of the other, older, nobler families. This makes the family (except for William) supremely aware of everyone’s social standing, and William’s father works towards cementing the Jones’ position through the time-honored custom of marriage. William, being the oldest, stands first on the chopping block, and you better believe that a maid won’t be perceived as a suitable marriage candidate for the future head of the family.
Emma ended up fleeing London after the death of Mrs. Stowner and went to work for The Mölders, a rich, German immigrant family trying to set roots in England. Emma goes from being a single maid in a small household to one of an army of servants in a mansion. Luckily, Emma is smart, resilient, and willing to work, and she soon stands apart from the others, becoming the traveling companion of Mrs. Mölders, and catching the eye of one of the servants, Hans.
Meanwhile, William blames his family for Emma’s flight, and he reacts rather extremely, deciding to become the perfect English gentleman and to wring out any joy and light in his life. In many ways, it’s a rather childish form of revenge—“I’ll show them! If I can’t be with the one I want, I’ll make sure that my entire life is miserable!”—and it leads him to making a huge mistake that will hurt someone who doesn’t deserve it.
In this volume, we also meet William’s mother, who lives apart from the rest of the family for unknown reasons. Her name is Mrs. Trollope, and she seems to be a well-traveled person possessed of radical ideas for her day and time. I find Mrs. Trollope fascinating, and I wonder if she is based on the writer Frances Trollope (known often as “Fanny”) who wrote, among other things, Domestic Manners of the Americans, as well as anti-slavery and anti-Catholic novels. It’s never made clear if William’s mother is Frances Trollope, but she certainly seems to be. I’m looking forward to finding out more about her in future volumes.
Although the two spend most of their time apart, Emma and William constantly think of each other, and it’s through coincidence and Mrs. Trollope that the two meet again.
Kaoru Mori does a fabulous job of crafting a new story that keeps the spirit of the works of Jane Austen and the Brontes. Her story is as much about this specific time and place as it is the love story between Emma and William. Mori’s writing and art transport you there, and it effortlessly elicits strong emotions and invests you in the story. I’ve never been a huge fan of the novel of social manners, but Emma is such a strong, character-rich, and meticulously detailed story that I lose myself in it.
Emma, Volume 2 picks up right where the previous volume left off. It builds the world but never loses the story’s emotional core. Even if you don’t care much for Victorian England or the genre of the novel of social manners, the story and the art here are so good that it’s worth a read. Dr. Josh gives this an…
Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: N/A
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: August 18th, 2015