May 10, 2010

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Emma Volume 6

Written by Kaoru Mori
Illustrated by Kaoru Mori
CMX

While William debates about what to do with his life, those around him are taking action. The slimy viscount will stop at nothing to make sure that William's marriage to his daughter Eleanor goes through, and soon Emma may pay a terrible price for her love of a man outside her station.

Is this the end for Emma and William? Should it be? When William weighs his love for Emma against his desire to respect his family's place in society, which one will win? And who will be hurt in the process? It's a lose-lose situation as we race towards the climax of the main story of Emma.

Most of the chapters in this volume are called "The Worst State of Affairs" and that's extremely apt, as Williams' inability to decide what he's going to do basically starts to wreck the lives of everyone around him. He's proving to be even more of a selfish jerk as this series progresses, trying to hold on to both parts of his world for as long as possible.

It's a trend I noted before, but here it breaks Eleanor's heart and throws Emma into danger, and that's only two of the people it affects. You could easily spend some time writing an essay or two on how William's desire to have his cake and eat it two also causes problems for his sisters, his parents, and even the other servants at Emma's German household.

At this point, I don't want William to get *either* girl, because a man who can't decide and strings people along deserves neither. Plus, I can't see any way in which William will be happy. If he does stay with Eleanor, he's going to be miserable and beastly to her. If Emma is saved from the predicament he put her in with his dithering, then he's going to lose all he has and be miserable and resentful to Emma for causing him to give up his life of luxury.

That's the beauty of what Mori has set up in this manga. Thanks to a complex web that tightened as we went along, there are now so many strings attached to William's actions that no matter what he does, there will be a heavy price to pay. We see this play out across this sixth volume. Everything William does or fails to do sets something in motion, and the cost is high. By the time we get to the big battle of words that's been brewing for some time now between William and his father, the reader can see that William is boxed into a corner that's half the fault of classicism and half his own doing.

The question is, does William see it, too? There may be shonen action lines by his face, but is there a light bulb, too? Given that William seems to change his plans about as often as Nascar drivers change tires, I'm betting the answer is no. I'll be curious to see how Mori handles this as she wraps up the narrative.

Despite being the title character, Emma's role is not very big here. As with anyone of her personality and class status, she is merely reacting to what happens around her. Thrilled at the idea of being with William but tempered by her general restraint, we see her getting caught up in one of the strings William has unknowingly weaved in the course of his actions. She's taken in because of her good heart, and seeing her punished for being arguably the only innocent in these whole proceedings is hard to read.

I don't want Emma to end up with William so much as I just want her to be happy. It seems like all being close to William has done for her is to make matters worse. After all, getting captured by Alan Moore is not a fate I'd wish on anyone. (Just trust me on this one, it requires reading the book to get the joke.) I hope that Emma is okay, but I worry that unless Mori opts for the happy ending, we may see even worse things in store for her.

Speaking of the ending, I admit that I am a bit concerned about how this one is going to wrap up. I really like the direction that Mori has taken this tale of Victorian England because she's exposed the flaws of a class-based society very well. However, in order to finish things the way she should, I think the ending could end up quite painful for her characters, Emma in particular. That's the way I think it should go, but can Mori pull that off when so many times we see writers give a story a "happy" ending because it plays better to the majority of readers?

I didn't like McCarthy's "The Road" because I felt the ending was tacked on with no relation to the way the rest of his dark tale proceeded. I worry quite a bit that Emma's going to be resolved in such a way that leaves people feeling good about life but ultimately doesn't mesh with the rest of the books in the series. I'm hoping I'm wrong, but I'm braced either way (and please don't tell me!).

Though I do like the plot of this volume a lot, I can't say that the art really moved me this time. We still get some awesome period work in terms of dress, but there's a sameness to the characters that really bothered me more here than in the past. In the big scene at the end, I couldn't tell William apart from his father, and it was had to keep track of the various young women in the Jones household. I wish that Mori has worked a bit harder to make distinctions, and it's the one thing about Emma as a whole that can be a problem for the reader. She still does a nice job with facial emotions, however, so we get the full impact of the drama by reading everyone's eyes. I wish some of that detail on the faces had been expanded to make a few more visual cues for the reader as to who is speaking, however.

It may take me a bit to track down a copy of the rest of Emma, which is annoying given how close I am to the end. I really do want to see how all this plays out. I've enjoyed Emma a lot, and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a manga series that's a bit more adult but still has strong themes from shojo in terms of characters and relationships. I'm glad to be reading Emma, and I think you will be, too.