Emma, Vol. 5

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.

Emma, Vol. 4

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.

Emma, Vol. 3

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.

The entire first half of this omnibus gives the reader the opportunity to watch a giant other shoe dropping, and the back half then shows the shoe’s impact, with horrible consequences for many people, but mostly for Emma. Last time I talked about how well the repressed yet burgeoning love between William and Emma is, and it flowers here, with Emma visibly getting happier and less repressed. William too is different now that he accepts his feelings and is determined to do something about them. Sadly, that determination runs up against absolutely everyone – his own family, who are determined that he not make the same mistakes they made, and more importantly his fiancee’s family, who may cross over the line into actually being evil, or at least willing to commit slow murder.


The author is very fond of big, dramatic moments – you see it in her Bride’s Story series as well – and you can see why, as she’s fantastic at handling them. The arrival of William at the Molders estate, and Emma running out to embrace him (the the surprise and amusement of the ENTIRE household) is fantastic, and reminds you again that it’s nicely coincidental that Emma ended up in the one household in Britain that wouldn’t be appalled at this. That said, that’s why William came up to meet her – the rest of society is not going to be quite as forgiving. The volume starts off with a flashback showing us how William’s parents, Richard and Aurelia, met and married. Aurelia is not of a lower class like Emma is, but she’s still “eccentric”, and that’s deadly for the time. More to the point, she’s introverted, and the pressures of society exhaust her to a damaging degree. Which is why they now live apart. It’s very bittersweet.

As for Eleanor’s father, wooooow. It’s rare we meet someone in a manga like this who gets to be pure evil. He’s really well handled, too, being extremely polite to William’s father, then throwing away his gloves in disgust afterwards, as he had touched someone of a merchant class – horrors! When William breaks off his impetuous and foolish engagement to Eleanor, to her horror, the Viscount calmly sees what needs to be done – Emma needs to disappear. Luckily, he knows some thugs who can fairly easily trick and abduct her (though the cliffhanger seems to hint she may be rescued soon). This sequence may be the weakest in the book – it’s a bit overmelodramatic, to be honest – but it’s earned, at least, and the true high point of the last half of the book is Williams’ screaming match with his father in any case.

I expect things to be resolved soon, even though we have two full omnibuses to go – the last three volumes of Emma were side stories and sequels, so these two wacky kids should get their happy ending soon. Which is good, as this volume could get pretty depressing at times – as Mori herself notes in the afterword. No worries, the journey is still very much worth the effort.