March 8, 2010

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Emma Volume 5

Written by Kaoru Mori
Illustrated by Kaoru Mori
CMX

Emma is this month's featured series in the Manga Movable Feast, so I figured I'd get back to reading it. Little did I know that my library does NOT have the entire series!

After the shocking events of the prior volume, things relax a bit as our cast of characters takes time to reflect upon what has happened. What will William and Emma do now that they've found each other again? How will Emma's employers react? What happens when Eleanor's father, the Viscount, arrives on the stage, full of the arrogance of power?

While answering some of these questions, Mori's story sets up more as this manga series reaches the halfway point.

I think it's extremely interesting that instead of jumping right back into the ongoing story, Mori opts to take us back into the youth of William's parents. There are important clues to be had in the past to help us understand the present, but I'm sure that just about every reader opens this volume and thinks, "What's going to happen to Emma now?" only to get what happened to her potential in-laws instead.

It's a great storytelling trick that gives this modern take on a Victorian age plot another notch in its belt for creativity and strong storytelling. Mori keeps her readers on edge and helps us understand the actions of William's parents all at the same time. It's far better than just having Emma angst for pages on end, which another author may have chosen to do.

Once we return to Emma, we quickly shift back to her life as a maid. However, everyone knows there's something different about her. The somber, quiet young woman is gone, replaced by a person who shows a new light shining in her eyes.

By contrast, Mori doesn't allow us to forget Eleanor, who probably doesn't deserve what looks like is coming her way. While William pines for Emma, she's left in the cold. It's hard not to feel sorry for her, even if you think she was a bit pushy in terms of getting a marriage arranged. Plus, from what little Mori gives us of her father, he is a real jerk.

The idea of love and what it means when the bounds of social structure are not strictly followed per English cultural norms is on full display here. Emma, William, William's parents, and even the Viscount himself show the damage that can be done by playing with fire. (There's even a fire in Emma's household, just to emphasize the point.)

Mori's research into the time period shows once again, with the idea of class walls, extensive correspondence (I love how so many people in this world write letters!), and the handling of delicate social issues (i.e. burying them) all ring true to what I know of the period. As with the prior volume, these supporting structures make the story better rather than distract the reader. Each volume, Mori gets a little better at letting her knowledge make for a better story, rather than just to show the reader how many books she's read on Victorian England.

If there's one part of this volume I wasn't all the fond of, it was William. How much of that is intentional, I'm not quite sure. I know he loves Emma, but the idea of stringing Eleanor along while he dithers over who to marry bothers me. I feel like he is trying to have it both ways in this volume. He writes that he loves Emma, and even goes to visit her, but he has not told Eleanor the truth. (I think, however, that she's gotten the picture.)

It makes William seem less like a man constrained by society and more like a person who wishes to have it all. Unfortunately for him, I don't think Mori's going to let him. In fact, I think there's a very good chance he may lose it all.

Here at the halfway point, there's still a lot of stories left to be told, and someone, possibly a lot of someones, are going to be hurt in the process. Things look like they are coming to a head with William's rash decisions regarding Emma, but I think Mori still has a trick or two up her sleeve. How things go over the next several volumes is definitely going to be interesting.

Emma is one of my favorite manga series, and I hope to be able to find all the volumes to be able to complete it. I'd hate to be left hanging with the fate of Emma and William's love hanging in the balance. CMX books don't seems to be the easiest thing to find if you're not a person who orders material online, but I urge to seek it out. I think you'll like it a lot. I know I do!