November 16, 2010

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Emma Volume 7

Written by Kaoru Mori
Illustrated by Kaoru Mori
CMX

Emma is marooned by Alan Moore in America while William ponders his fate, balancing social standing with true love. Neither are very happy, but both can make their new lives work. As those around both characters start to move on, William makes a fateful choice, one that will change the lives not just himself and Emma, but their family and friends as well.

This is a volume of endings and beginnings, as England slowly creeps into a more modern age. Not everyone will come along willingly!


After an absence of far too long, I finally returned to Emma and her world, finding her at my new local library. It's always nice to return to an old friend of a series, even one that you know is creeping closer to the end. Mori's simple artwork and attention to period detail continue here, as does her ability to closely ape James and Wharton style dialog without lapsing into a pattern of speech that is all but impossible to read, as I've seen in other tries to recreate a time period.

This is a particularly hard volume to review given the way that the story runs. It's also a bit strange to know that this series continues for more volumes but that we have an ending in this volume as well. I can't really think of any other comics I've read that does the same thing, and certainly not in manga. Usually if the characters are finished, we move on to a different title. Not so here. Mori has more she wants to do with her side characters, a point that starts to become more obvious in this volume as Emma and William do not dominate (although they drive) the narrative in this set of chapters.

Throughout Volume 7, we see how you can make an ensemble manga almost by accident. As we switch from Emma to William to Emma's German employers to William's ex-fiance and her dysfunctional family, there's no lapse in interest because Mori has worked to ensure each brings something to the table. Yes, there's just a bit of "What will be their final fate?" going on as we switch away from William for a bit, but Mori is careful to bring the main players back again in time to satisfy the reader's curiosity.

As for the (right now) ending of William and Emma's story, I'd say that the conclusion makes logical sense within the narrative, veering away from the typical James climax where no one gets what they'd hoped for because this is the late Victorian age and it's better to be unhappy than defy conventions. Mori is not afraid to allow her characters to grow in a way that gives the ending more of a modernist, happy ending. I was fine with that, as it's nice to see people I like end up happy on the printed page. (I still don't think William is a good person, but if he makes Emma happy, I can forgive some of his faults.)

On the other hand, there's quite a few folks who end up with the short end of the stick as a result of William's desire to buck his artificial duty, a matter that isn't addressed as strongly as I think it needed to. I'll be curious to see if that changes in the final volumes, where Mori tells stories in what is called the "Emmaverse." William's sister, some of the maids, and Williams's tarnished fiance really need to get a quality resolution, given how much time Mori invested in them during the first seven volumes. If we don't get that, I'll be a bit disappointed.

Emma is a wonderful manga that definitely ranks among my favorites, given that it has a romantic story without being too soppy and characters who are well developed and consistent in their actions. The fact that it reminds me of James and Wharton doesn't hurt a bit, either. I really wish this was still in print. If you are a manga fan as well as a lover of British Literature and if you can find copies somewhere, pick up Emma right away. You won't regret it!