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. Translated by Sheldon Drzka.
The final omnibus of Emma picks up where the last one left off, and is mostly a collection of side-stories, some of which are only vaguely related to the actual Emma series. Mori tries to explain why she did various stories in the afterwords, but it’s not hard to see that she’s simply getting bored, and using the excuse of a popular series as a way of testing her abilities and letting herself draw whatever she wants. Sometimes this is excellent. The scene with the Molders in their bed, and the flashbacks to how they met, is amazingly sexy, as the author herself tells us, and you really see how much the two adore each other, even if Wilhelm remains as stoic as ever. On the flip side, Teo’s Amazing Adventures in the Wild is a nice excuse to draw a wordless animal story plot, but the resolution hangs disbelief by the neck till it’s dead.
This volume is at its best when it’s dealing with the murky world of Victorian emotions – or, as the series ends, Edwardian emotions, as we move into a new century for Emma’s wedding. The three-part story of a troupe of opera singers and a love triangle is well-done if melancholy, and as ever benefits from multiple minor plot points flittering throughout the main one. Eleanor meets her college student again, and this time it’s more romantic than the last volume – indeed, Mori seems to revel this time around in seeing how many people she can try to hook up, and even the kids seem to have chemistry with each other. There’s even a series of Emma 4-komas in one chapter, mostly following the other characters, as we learn Grace is cute when she’s embarrassed, Hans has no weaknesses (except when he does), and that the butler is just a big softie.
Of course, it all eventually DOES come back to Emma, as her marriage to William is the last quarter of the book. It’s mostly a very good time, but there are reminders that this is still a bit of a status thing – Grace is still upset with William for breaking up with Eleanor, and even though she realizes it’s not Emma’s fault she’s still awkward around her and has to excuse herself. And the Campbells are, of course, not there. But for the most part it’s a glorious event and a party, and there’s a wonderful heartwarming moment where Emma has to write her name and is almost forced to admit she doesn’t have a last name, till William tells her to use Mrs. Stowner’s. Wedding, saved, everyone dances, bride gets completely smashed (in a genteel, repressed way – this is still Emma).
Despite dragging things out a bit with the side stories, Emma is still a wonderful series, and I’m very happy that Yen gave it this deluxe hardcover re-release. It may have some historical inaccuracies and unbelievability, but it’s so emotionally moving that you don’t really care. It’s also a series with a huge cast where, by the end, I was almost able to name everyone without resorting to the internet, which is am impressive feat. Very happy to have read this.