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4.4 out of 5 stars
Emma, Vol. 1
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 20, 2006
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Emma, as you might have guessed, tells the story of a young Victorian/Edwardian maid and her forbidden romance with a gentleman from a large merchant house whose family has aims for him that are much higher than she.

Volume one of the series contains the first seven chapters of the eventual fifty-two and focuses on basic introductions. We meet the shy, but kind and intellegent, Emma, the exotic Hakim, prim Mrs.Stowner, the somewhat daft and dashing Young Master Jones... the list goes on.

Pretty much every character we see, be they the main focus or the bit part side characters, will show up many times throughout the series, and not just as filler. Every single character has a point to them, whether it be to show some side of Victorian Society or to help a more important character (or even just the reader) figure something out about the story at large. I really must applaud Mori for this.

The art is superb, with a strict attention to details and architecture. There's something about the way Mori draws that lends elegance to her character's features. Despite the fact that Emma and Eleanor are considered beautiful, they're not drawn in the typical manner associated with beauty in manga... in fact, they're quite atypical if you compare them to other manga... but, in the spirit, mood, and fasion in which they ARE drawn, you cannot help but see them as so.

The pacing is just right for this sort of quiet courtship... slow and delicate, with an emphasis on subtlety that makes you feel like you're sharing a well reasoned secret with Kelly as she watches the two grow closer.

In the translator's/author's notes/bio at the end of the volume, a point was made that CMX has decided to bring over the series untouched. I assume that means it will be unedited, and am glad and hopeful that my guess is right. FAIR WARNING; in the later volumes there will be some female nudity as there are two, perhaps three bath scenes with several characters that have yet to be introduced. Parents should know of those, though I consider it to be quite tasteful.

There are only two things I didn't like about the release... one, was a choice the author made in the creation. There's a scene late in this volume where the reality breaks down a little and several characters, in typical fashion, have animals hovering near them that represent their current moods. It's generally a good emotive tool, but in a title that strives to portray a reality fairly strictly, this seems out of place. It's a fairly MINOR beef, and hardly noticeable, but I thought I'd mention it.

The other issue was a production one... in particular, the paper stock that CMX used. Perhaps it was done for affect, to make it seem aged (as it is a period piece), but the texture and color of the pages are off... too rough and off-white. It kind of washes out the art and makes it lose crispness. The cover too, is off odd consistency. I just recieved my copy yesterday and already it is starting to bow seriously, in spite of the care I've taken not to bend the spine in reading it. I really wish they used the heavy stock, at least on the cover, like the job they did on Megatokyo's fourth volume. Oh well.

My final recommendation is to BUY THIS BOOK... and every volume after. It's a short series, so it won't take too much of a bite out of your budget, and is WELL WORTH the investment. This is one of the few manga titles that I would include under the heading of LITERATURE... it's just that damn good, in story, character and rendition.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
In my manga reading habits, I'm not usually much of a shoujo fan - endless high school romances and magical girl storylines tend to bore me to tears - so I'm far more of a shonen fan. Give me action and explosions. Adventure. Heroism. Daring deeds -- escapism at its best.

But I'm also a reader of historical romances -- Regencies mostly -- so period tales appeal to me too.

I was browsing Amazon one day searching for something 'new' to read (can't camp on the "order now" button for the next "One Piece" volume all the time... heheh) and stumbled across a review for "Emma". Curious and intrigued, I bought the first volume. I'm willing to give most things that pique my interest a try with at least one volume.

Oh my. I devoured it in less than 15 minutes. Then went back and savored it again with a slower, more thorough read. And did that again and again over the next week while I waited (impatiently!) for my copies of volumes 2-3-4-5 to show up.

Gorgeously and subtly rendered art and story. Compared to shonen, this story moves at a snail's pace. But that's part of the charm. It builds. Slow and sure. Lets you become familiar with the people and place and the time. The rich details of daily life (for both upper and lower classes) are astounding. Not boring, but fascinating. So much cleanliness and comfort and convenience that modern, industrialized life renders simple and of little thought to how to it is achieved now, used to be done by laboriously by hand. And in the case of the lifestyles of the wealthy, by many many hands. It took a lot of support to run a mansion. (Which also employed a lot of people!) We've forgotten that. And forgotten that many of the world still live that way - by hand and with support from many others.

The story is just as deeply researched into the ways and mores of that very different time. Mori-sensei tells an engaging and heart-tugging tale within that venue. She's done a fabulous job of re-creating and capturing the tensions, prejudices (spoken and not), class barriers amid the reluctantly (and often painfully) changing culture of Edwardian England.

There are panels without text that still shout so many things at you. Mori-sensei, I bow to you. Your storytelling skills shine in this medium of manga. You are a true master of your craft. I feel your characters boredom as well as their enthusiasm. Their hope and their pain. Grief. Desperation. Joy. Resignation. Without you having to hurl any of those words in my face. They act pained. Or content. Or afraid. Or confused. Or they pretend those things. And I can see it -- or miss it -- just as the people around them in the story do.

This isn't action-adventure or even blatant romance (at first). What it is is a tale of quiet, ordinary heroism. About finding the courage to follow (or even truly understand) one's own heart. And then finding the deeper courage to live one's own heart.

I'm pulling for you Emma and William.

(I'm pulling for you too, Aurelia and Richard! It's never too late!)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
Emma is maid to a retired governess; her beauty and grace have attracted many suitors, some beyond her station in life. The story line follows both sides of the romance, giving insights into the vast class differences of the times and setting up what are sure to be difficult social hurtles for Emma and Mr Jones.

If you're a fan of quiet heroins of Jane Austin and the graphic styles of Japanese Manga, I think you'll find this first book appealing.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
As a Literature major, I have been force-fed Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and other famous English authors. I didn't really enjoy them (although I love Great Expectations) but that was due to immaturity and being forced to read 100 pages a week along with other piles of homework. When I saw Emma sitting quietly on the shelf, it was calling to the part of me who is a Lit nerd. Emma is amazingly accurate and it grabs your heart and refuses to let go! It should be a boring manga, but it's NOT. You sympathize with the characters and want them to be happy (and together).

As a manga freak who's growing tired of the romance mangas that feature 100 hot girls after a boring guy (known as harem manga/anime), the sappy high school romance manga that has misunderstandings galore with the girl running away crying every 10 pages, and the popular guy/girl meeting an unpopular girl/guy, Emma is a huge breath of fresh air! I normally prefer action/fantasy over romance, but, once again, Emma has me more interested in her struggles with society over a magical girl's struggle with an evil queen. Buy it. Please. The other reviewer put it perfectly: Emma is a winner. Thanks to it, I feel more interested in Jane Austen and the rest of the English authors I will be reading throughout my education in Literature. I hope they release the touching and heartbreaking 'Emma' anime as well....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2012
Format: Paperback
I can't believe that while I live in one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world that I have not given manga a chance before today. It's a shame really I've spent the last 21 years living under a rock it seems. I mean how can I have lived in a predominantly asian community almost my whole life and not have piced one up before today? Alas, life is filled with such regrets.

Anyway, about the book itself. It wasn't great but it wasn't bad either. I found it to be a cute little story. I liked Emma, but felt she should say more. Her employer intrigues me. I like her a lot but I am not a fan of Hakim, or Mr. Jones Sr. William is still meh for me.

I like how the story was set in England and how the author/illustrator paid close attention to make it seem real. A prime example is the use of Mudie's Lending Library.

In the next installment I hope that Emma comes out of her shell a little more and I hope that Hakim goes away along with Mr. Jones Sr. William can stay but that's only because I'm not sure whether I like him or not. Maybe the next book will help me decide whether I do or not.

I found this to be a cute 3 star read and I'm glad I started my manga reading career by reading this.
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on May 31, 2010
Format: Paperback
Emma is one of the best anime series I have read in a while.

The story is driven by the characters and incorporates many visual details from the setting: 1850's England. Class differences is an overarching theme of the book and series.

Emma is a maid to a retired governess. The retired governess, Kelly, isn't particularly lower class or upper class. She spent 30 years working as a governess for wealthy families, and some keep in touch. That puts her in an odd social class where she communicates with both classes on a regular basis. Emma is decidedly poor and lower class, but has been exposed to the upper class through Kelly. She was raised from a young age by Kelly, who has no children, and trained to read and write and do governess type things.

Emma is pretty, and because Kelly mixed with and keeps in touch with various levels of society, various levels of society occaisionally ask Emma out. Emma declines all invitations and shows no interest in any suitors, until she meets William, a former pupil of Kelly's who pays Kelly a visit.

William is from a wealthy family, but a bit ditzy and airheaded. His father wants him to get out more in society and to learn the family business. As part of the plans for taking over the family business, his father wants to set him up with an appropriately socially connected wife. William's childhood friend, Hakim, comes to visit from India and brings elephants and dancing girls. There is not any rhyme, reason, or explanation for his having an Indian prince with elephants and dancing girls for a childhood friend. It just happens, because author likes to draw it.

Indian friend and William are both interested in Emma. They talk about it with one another. Meanwhile Emma feels poor, lower class, and insecure. And that's the story for book1 of Emma.

Overall, this series was a good quick read. It's a mindless romantic comedy. There isn't much that's serious, including the ominous class differences which are not at all developed and just sort of there. Characters reemerge through the series and are fleshed out over the course of 7 books. Even minor characters are likely to reemerge and become more developed at some point in the future. The series does a good job of building personalities, and a self-contained world.
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on November 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
If someone told me a year ago that one of the most compelling historical romances about Victorian London would be a Japanese manga, I'm not sure I would have believed them. While manga excels at romances, a tale that compellingly explores the rigid class barriers and undeniable attachment between a ladies' maid and a gentleman is both more grounded and more subtle than many manga are. Emma never discards manga's conventions, making it a useful story for convincing nonmanga fans of manga's broader appeal and shows further evidence that manga can rival the best of Western comics in diversity, eloquence, and vivid storytelling.

The initial volume introduces us to the shy but determined Emma, a young maid whose employer, Mrs. Stowner, is a wise if demanding retired governess who once worked for the nobility. Mrs. Stowner has encouraged Emma to become more than most maids might dream, gaining an education and a sense of her own worth, even if her rung in society is set. A former pupil from a wealthy middle-class family, William Jones, visits the household, even now intimidated by his battleaxe of a governess but compelled by propriety to call. Beautiful, intelligent Emma immediately catches his attention, and in the way of young noblemen who aren't quite aware of their position, William soon starts making up excuses to visit Emma, to accompany her on errands, and to push, just a little bit, for more. Emma, despite herself, warms to William's attentions and allows herself to fall in love.

Reality soon comes crashing in, however, as Mrs. Stowner passes away and the two realize their way together is breaking apart. Each tries to follow the correct path and put aside their growing affection. William, as the eldest son, must fulfill his family's wishes by landing a suitable fiancée and ensure their rise to the gentry class by marriage. Emma, all too aware of her low position in relation to William, must find suitable employment before she's reduced to living on the streets. Fleeing her attachment to Edward, she lands a position at a large country house. Her industriousness and close-mouthed demeanor invite speculation from her fellow servants even as she impresses her employers with her education and practicality. Neither Emma nor William can completely forget the other, glimpsed in Emma's rare moments of private loneliness and William's growing distaste for family parties and society galas, but they each try to make the best of their situation.

While the series uses Emma and William's connection as the focus, Mori excels as illuminating their world with an array of engaging, three-dimensional personalities surrounding the would-be lovers. William's father is stern and desperate to keep up the family name. Having endured his peers' disapproval of his unconventional wife, he and William's mother now live separately for his good name and her health, and he does not want to see similar regrets curse his son. His siblings, who provide many of the choicest examples of how family knows best how to make you laugh and want to scream, are sympathetic to William's feelings but fear the repercussions. William's Indian friend Prince Hakim and his harem provide comic relief as he finds everyone's inability to say what they mean ridiculous (he is, admittedly, the least historically accurate of the cast, but you forgive him for goading everyone else into action). A compelling facet of the series portrays William's new fiancée, Eleanor Campbell, a young woman who's doing everything according to the rules while still hoping that she can forge a love match amid all of the propriety. It's a testament to Mori's sense of character that Eleanor is neither a dimwit nor a harpy, and her slow realization that William's heart is already taken makes her situation, and powerlessness, all the more heartbreaking. Emma's view on the world is similar to Gosford Park or Upstairs, Downstairs: the invisible world of servants where hierarchies can be just as strict and presumption above one's station draws icy looks and unexpected allies. Her reserve and competence inspire a lot of gossip and occasional resentment. Whatever practical advice Emma has internalized, it's obvious that her heart is still reaching out toward London.

Throughout the seven volumes, there are melodramatic moments, especially toward the finish as stakes are raised and it's no longer just a question of whether Edward and Emma will find each other but how far everyone else will go to keep them apart. What makes the whole series work, though, is how powerfully all of the plot is grounded in real emotion. Every glance, touch, and gesture tells volumes, and not just between the lovers: One of the most moving scenes in the series is when Emma gently packs away her dead mistress's house, moving through the familiar rooms for the last time. The inevitable admission of feelings between Emma and William, an incredibly satisfying romantic moment, is shown almost without a sound, making you feel every bit of their teary embrace. All the attention to detail and setting doesn't make readers impatient--instead, every panel extends the tension, and you read along with the feeling that all the emotions are simmering just underneath the surface, and if you relish the feeling that each turning page might unleash a flood. The atmosphere of Victorian London is in every panel, in every detail of costume, architecture, and technology, and Mori's meticulous research shows in every line. At the same time, her clean, eloquent character design telegraphs the emotions and state of mind that are the heart of the tale.

If you put Emma on the shelf next to what many hold up as great manga, like Lone Wolf and Cub, Akira, or Abandon the Old in Tokyo, you'll get a lot of folks looking at you a bit funny. I know a lot of readers (let's face it, guys especially) who look at the cover and raise their eyebrows. The cover certainly does promise pretty maids and, with its creamy tones and textured paper, a whiff of nostalgia for a past we never knew. What you can't tell from the cover is that alongside the lace and tea there is a laser-sharp criticism of society's rules and the overarching understanding that all the love in the world cannot easily overcome significant gaps in wealth and upbringing. Don't expect a Pygmalion romance dressed up in wide eyes and aprons, and don't discount it just because there are no samurai or wise-cracking heroes. Prepare instead for a historical drama inspired by Austen, Wharton, or Eliot, and dive right in.

-- Robin Brenner
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on May 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
I dislike sappy romance novels but after this manga got rave reviews, I decided to read the first few chapters out of curiosity. The cover and art looked sentimental and simple, and I feared it was for twelve year-old girls who read those pink-colored Regency Romances by the bucketful. Well, I read the entire darn thing straight through till the early hours of the morning, it was unputdownable. You rooted for the lead characters and simply had to find out whether they got together in the end. Adults will appreciate the art - how does she make those simple-looking characters come alive? The atmosphere and emotions leap off the paper. Some panels have you lingering with admiration, unable to turn the page. According to Wikipedia, the author was only in her 20's when she wrote these 10 volumes. Amazing storytelling and drawing skills.

The only complaint - while the hero William is credibly portrayed maturing from a lackadaisical boy to a businessman and head of the family, the heroine Emma seems little changed by the love story. If it is love at first sight, the two really seem to not know much about each other at all through their trials and tribulations. He likes her 'cos she's incredibly pretty and has a genteel bearing. The only strength she seems to have (other than an ability to read French) is the ability to rationalize and tolerate the worst adversity. On the literary spectrum, a more ass-kicking heroine would push "Emma" from the "romance genre novel" towards the "literary novel". Still, enormously entertaining, like a Wilkie Collins, a Charlotte Bronte or Daphne du Maurier.
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on July 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
My experience with Emma was interesting, as I was introduced to Kaoru Mori via her later long form work (A Bride's Story) and also tracked down several of her shorter works before reading this.

Emma is a love story between members of different classes in an time when social status meant everything. Emma herself is a maid, and a certain young noble gentleman and she shouldn't be thinking about each other the way they are.

The era is obviously well researched and carefully reproduced, and I can certainly see the overall quality, but I'm having trouble getting into Emma. I like slice of life stories in general and can handle a slow pace if I'm drawn in, but I found the first volume surprisingly boring here. So far it doesn't have the charm of Mori's other maid related work Shirley, I don't know enough about the characters to really care about the romance, and I've read so many other things set in Victorian England the setting alone isn't catching my attention.

The art is Mori's usual, which is to say incredible. Not as intricate as her later work on A Bride's Story, but just as impressive and lovingly done. It's clear she put a ton of effort into getting the details right.

Overall not bad but so far I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as her other work and am in no hurry to read more. I wish I had liked it more, but so it goes. If you're more into pure romance stories and/or less familiar with Victorian times than me I can see this being a lot more engaging.
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Format: Paperback
Kaoru Mori, <strong>Emma, vol. 1</strong> (CMX, 2002)

Mori's first manga series, set in England circa 1885, is your typical upstairs/downstairs romance, with all the manga trappings thrown in--visitors from afar, outrageous and complex plot twists (this first volume is pretty straightforward, actually, but Mori's afterword promises a full complement of "where the hell did THAT come from??" in volume 2), general silliness, etc. Where she seems to rise above the masses of England-central manga is in her research into the period. The names actually sound like honest-to-pete English names, which is a rarity in manga set in English-speaking countries (if a few names seem more modern than the era in which the story is set). She's looked into some of the nooks and crannies of the period that even English historical authors tend to ignore (Mudie's Lending Libraries!), which gives this, well, a more Victorian-England feel than any other manga I've read that deals with the period. The central love story is intriguing as well, with both the principals in the love triangle and a number of their associated characters fleshed out and interesting. (The main exception is William's father, though I'm hoping that changes in the near future.) A good, solid beginning. If it stays at this level of quality, I'm going to like this one a great deal. *** 1/2
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