By Kaoru Mori. Released in Japan in two separate volumes by Enterbrain, serialized in the magazine Comic Beam. Released in North America by Yen Press.
After the last omnibus proved to be quite depressing at times, it’s a relief to see that this new one contains a happy ending, of sorts. Given this is still an interclass relationship in Victorian England, of course, the definition of happy is a lot more repressed than you’d expect, but it works. I was somewhat relieved to see that Emma’s arranged abduction by Big Daddy Campbell was less ‘let’s have her murdered’ and more ‘let’s dump her far away from London and remind her she is merely a working-class girl’, something which Emma sadly takes to heart. Luckily, after a thorough search of all of England (the coincidences fly thick and fast in this volume, but I suspect Mori is well aware of how ridiculous it is – it feels Dickensian), William and Emma are reunited, he managed to break off his engagement to Eleanor (and also his family’s upward mobility, though hopefully that’s temporary), and Emma prepares to enter high society.
While things are mostly dramatic, there are moments of humor that serve to lighten the mood. Eleanor has been treated horribly by the narrative, and her emotional breakdown would be incredibly depressing were it not for the presence of Hakim’s identical triplet concubines doing their best “staaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaare” at her. And the scene of Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Molders, and Emma trying to sort out the many and varied rules of etiquette, some of which contradict each other, is pure gold. That said, William and Emma’s romance is played with the utmost seriousness, and seeing her decked out in fine fashion at the end of the main story is breathtaking. Mori can draw, and it’s still one of the best reasons to get her works.
Emma proper ends here, but there were three volumes of side stories which were collected as well, and the first of these is the second half of this omnibus. We get to see a young Kelly Stownar and her long-dead husband when they were young just-barely-getting-by newlyweds, trying to save up to see the Great Exhibition, in a very sweet and touching chapter. Eleanor, having been exiled to Brighton as a disgrace by her evil father (presumably she is a disgrace for now being good enough to keep William Jones’ attention despite his being – ugh – a merchant), gets to meet a young student who turns out to have been William’s underclassman at school, and they bond, although I am pleased to see it doesn’t seem to be a rebound relationship – indeed, Eleanor seems to want to emulate him more than romance him. I also liked the chapter devoted to Tasha, the clumsy maid who befriended Emma, and her huge family that she goes home to visit.
Emma is always best when it evokes mood and shows us gorgeous things, and there’s a lot of that in this omnibus. And, of course, if you like William and Emma’s romance, you will be pleased as well. More side-stories follow in the final omnibus, including, I understand, an actual wedding, though it does take place several years after the main plot.