August 31, 2009

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Emma Volume 3

Written by Kaoru Mori
Illustrated by Kaoru Mori
CMX

Emma's new adventures begin as she joins a family of maids at the service of a German family who immigrated to England because of the societal connections. She's a model employee, perhaps just a bit too model for those around her.

Will her quiet consideration lead to moving up the ranks? What do you do when your education does not match your social standing in a society where class is all important? Plus, how do you deal with being the new kid on the block when you're asked to do extraordinary things?

Those are the main questions this volume of the continues-to-be-excellent manga featuring a young woman's journey through England in the late Victorian period. Mori once again outdoes herself with meticulous research on England of the time, in this instance the hierarchy of a large serving staff being the focus of her efforts. She also deftly constructs a new set of characters while revisting some of the older players as well. (Never fear, William's part in this manga is far from over, especially if some of the hints thrown down are true and not red herrings.)

I continue to have the very small problem that descriptions of the setting are ocassionally more important than the characters, but that's part of what sets Emma apart from other mangas.

It was very adventurous of Mori to pull her title character out of her comfort zone and remove the romantic conflict that was built up over the first two volumes. While I still think we'll see this revisted in a later edition, the idea was brilliant. It also helps that Mori did not go for the standard trope of "character has good position, someone dies, now their life turns to misery." Instead, Emma is given a job that, while certainly not good as we'd define the term, is pleasant enough for her station in life. Points to her for keeping the character's life free of writer-driven angst rather than natural progression.

As much as I enjoyed the start of the series, I'm really looking forward to the complex dynamics Mori set up for both the servants (who seem to have their own dysfunctions within a smoothly operating household) and the wealthy family they work for. Plus, the fact that she did not completely abandon her original creations says there's a lot to look forward to over the course of the series.

Emma is a quality manga that you should definitely be reading.