Saturday, December 27, 2008

Emma (manga, vol. 4) by Kaoru Mori

William continues to attend parties and act like his father's perfect heir, pretending that he doesn't think about Emma, but the strain of this is really starting to show. Eleanor is still mooning over William and mistakenly believes that some of the things he says and does indicate a potential interest in her. William makes matters worse by actually asking Eleanor to marry him, and he realizes how big a mistake this was when he meets Emma at a party. Emma is only at the party because her employer has instructed her accompany Mrs. Trollop, who, unbeknowst to Emma, is William's mother. Emma and William's reunion is a great shock to both of them, and they suddenly find themselves having to actually figure out what to do about their feelings for each other. The only bright side is that Mrs. Trollop may actually be willing to help them out.

I love this series, I really do. It drives me crazy sometimes, how slowly the plot moves, how many things Mori forces the reader to guess about, and how little has actually happened so far in terms of William and Emma's relationship. Instead of getting frustrated, however, and throwing any one of the volumes aside, I instead eagerly reread sections, examining each character's dialogue, expressions, and body language, trying to figure out what they're thinking that they're not saying. It's both fun and aggravating, and I desperately want to get my hands on the anime in the hope that it will provide information I haven't been able to glean from the manga (this post was written way back in July 2008 - I now own the first season of the anime, but haven't yet watched it).

As far as William and Emma's relationship goes, this volume has some great emotional scenes. I loved the bit in the beginning where William is thinking about Emma and his decision to act like the perfect society gentleman until he actually breaks down and cries. The same goes for when Emma and William meet again at the party - it's a good thing Emma faints, or their relationship might've become embarrassingly public right there. As it was, they were both pretty flushed. William and Eleanor's recent engagement only heightened the emotion of this scene, especially since Emma didn't know about William's engagement before the party.

I have to say, though, that William's proposal of marriage to Eleanor had me actually yelling at the book. It was pretty obvious that his decision would cause problems later on, and it was a dumb thing for him to do after only recently wondering how much longer he could stand to live this lie. He could easily have used Eleanor's sister's reaction as an excuse for backing out of a more permanent relationship with Eleanor - after all, Monica (Eleanor's sister) is somewhat scarily attached to and protective of her sister. Maybe he was hoping Monica would stab him in his sleep or something, putting him out of his misery?

I did kind of like Monica, though. When she first showed up, I actually kind of thought she was a guy. It's too bad that she turned out to be both a woman and related to Eleanor, or she could have swept poor Eleanor off her feet after William broke her heart (which is what I'm figuring he'll do by the end of the series). Monica seems stronger and scarier than Eleanor. Maybe it's actually a good thing that she's not a guy, or she would've run roughshod over Eleanor and put her in a gilded cage. She would probably have also challenged William to a duel over Eleanor's hand in marriage...

Hakim shows up for a bit in this book, looking amused about Monica (she definitely can't walk all over him) and disappointed in William after he proposes to Eleanor. Even though he never really feels like a person (he's one of the least fleshed-out characters in the series), he's still one of my favorite characters, mainly because he's much more likely to say what he's thinking than William.

There's a little part in this volume where the servants at Emma's employer's house do a bit of work and chat about Emma - apparently, the men in this house are just as attracted to Emma as the men in London were. My favorite bit was the discussion about Hans. After the previous volume, I had speculated that Hans (another one of the servants) was interested in Emma, and the servants in this volume speculate about the same thing. Unfortunately, in this volume, as in the previous volume, Hans doesn't actually do anything that confirms this speculation - this is another one of those areas where I end up reading and rereading scenes, trying to figure out what characters are thinking and feeling.

For the most part, I'd recommend this series to anybody looking for a slow-paced cross-societal romance set during the Victorian Era. The artwork is gorgeous, with lots of little Victorian details (beautiful clothing, objects, servants cleaning things and caring for clothing, etc.). In this volume, there are a few lovely pages illustrating a portion of The Barber of Seville, an opera William and Eleanor have gone to see. At this point in the series, the romance is finally heating up - William has mucked things up by proposing to a nice young lady before he's managed to get Emma out of his system, and the whole thing was a problem to begin with because of the class differences between William and Emma. The characters are all fascinating. Besides the historical details and the romance, the characters are one of the big attractions of the series. About the only reason I might be reluctant to recommend this series, particularly this volume, to some people is a few panels worth of nudity (Emma's lady employer stands around naked for a bit, before she is finally dressed by Emma and her husband, who pitches in by tightening her corset). Some readers might also not like Emma and William's passionate kiss after William has only recently wished his somewhat tipsy fiancee good night after the party.

There's not much in the way of extras, just a 4-page afterword manga written and drawn by Kaoru Mori, discussing the manga, Mori's obsession with maids and all things British, and a little bit about Mori's time at the Esquire Club (famous for its bunny girls).

As with King of Thorn, I seem to have a miserable time trying to come up with read-alikes/watch-alikes for this series. I don't have much personal experience with slow-paced historical romance, and all my usual favorite places to look for potential read-alikes/watch-alikes have failed me for this series. I can only hope that I'll be able to flesh out this list one day.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Fruits Basket (anime TV series); Fruits Basket (manga) by Natsuki Takaya - Tohru had been living with her grandfather after her mother died, but circumstances and Tohru's own desire not to be a burden meant that she ended up living alone in a tent for a while. However, she gets taken in by the Sohma family, who are hiding a secret - certain members of the family turn into animals in the Chinese zodiac when they're weak or hugged by a member of the opposite sex. Both the manga and anime are good - the anime follows the manga pretty closely (except for a few things, and the last episode), but it ends well before the manga does. Those who'd like another story with a slowly developing (and seemingly doomed) romantic storyline might enjoy this title.
  • Maria Watches Over Us (anime TV series) - Yumi is a first year student at the Lillian School For Girls, an exclusive all girl's catholic school. She admires Sachiko, who will likely become one of the heads of the student council. When Sachiko asks Yumi to be her soeur (older girls take on a younger girl as their little sister, or "soeur," and instruct them and watch out for them), Yumi finds herself having to figure out the relationships between the girls in the student council and her own feelings for Sachiko. As this is apparently a shoujo-ai series (romance between girls), it's not for everyone. However, those who'd like a slow-paced drama/romance involving a strict social environment might enjoy this series. I have yet to see it, but the many (two or three) ads that RightStuf has sent me have worked their way into my brain, and I'd like to.

No comments:

Post a Comment