by: Kaoru Mori
Reviewed by: Christian
While the first volume did an effective job of laying down the groundwork for the trouble that William and Emma face in pursuing a relationship, the second tankōbon establishes the extent at which the Jones family will work to keep William dating in line with his class, as well as the extent that Kelly is willing to support Emma against all odds.
Emma was obviously very effected by the harsh reality in the words of William's father at the end of the first volume, but despite what she may say about realizing the futility of pursuing a relationship with William, she just can't seem to turn him down. Nor can William seem to accept his father's words when he feels so strongly about Emma. And so, they have their first date.
But William's father is not content to expect that William will see the light, and so, he works to arrange that his son court a noble by the name of Eleanor Campbell. However, William, still exhausted from his all-night date with Emma, is unable to meet when they arrive, but this does not deter his father, who arranges that Eleanor be his date at the Jones family's next dinner party.
To further compound William's troubles, the rest of his family has reunited under the same roof for the first time in months, and they seemingly already have an inkling that William has found someone, only much to their chagrin, it is not Eleanor that has William's heart a flutter, but Emma, a common maid. They waste little time expressing their displeasure towards William's choice, and when William tries to plead his case to his father, he is met with even stricter resistance.
Eleanor is an interesting addition in that you might initially expect her to be a character you're supposed to dislike. But it's quite the contrary; she comes off as a sweet girl, obviously enamored with William, perhaps a bit naive. She is relatively new to society, but prides herself in the fact that she has not yet erred in her manners. Both her and William are able to communicate candidly with one another at the dinner party, and while William obviously only has eyes for Emma, it's another appealing wrinkle in the story for what could have just as easily been an one-dimensional object of hatred. But I'm getting the feeling that Mori's not going to make it that easy on William.
It's this volume that really shows us William as the "odd bird" of the Jones family. Often bored with his work and even less concerned with the responsibilities of society life, he stands in sharp contrast with the rest of his family. To them, their role in society is everything, and in their mind, William's refusal to conform to this is just as much a reflection on themselves as their own actions. And in truth, that's exactly how it would appear to outsiders, as well. So much of William's actions and life-choices are directly tied in to how his siblings and parents would live out their lives that they see him as naive and selfish to even consider consorting with a lowly maid.
Things aren't exactly all roses on Emma's side, either. Her pillar of strength, Kelly, has been in failing health for some time now. Emma is stressed out enough as it is, and she is becoming increasingly overwhelmed as she now tries to take it upon herself to make Kelly as comfortable as she can. The melancholy Emma feels when dealing with a tragic situation is transferred to the reader mostly in silence, in the paneling, and the nuanced art. Mori really shows her mastery of visually storytelling again in this volume, especially in dealing with Emma's feelings of sadness and loneliness. She is able to convey so much of Emma's loss and emotional state with minimal use of dialogue, that you can hardly help but feel as if you're experiencing it with her.
When Emma and William miss a planned meeting, they both go off to find one another. In doing this, Emma visits the Jones estate, and there she gets a taste for the extent of his family's opposition to her when Vivian, William's younger sister, gives her a piece of her mind. But Hakim is there, as well, and he pleads with her to not give up and wait for William. But it's William's attempt to find Emma that is the truly interesting part because it finally gives us insight into Emma's past. We learn about her tragic origin and how it was that she came to be in Kelly's care. It gives a much better appreciation for just how important Kelly's relationship with Emma is, and demonstrates clearly just how truly lost Emma has become at the present time.
The end of this volume sets up for what will most certainly be the true test for how much Emma and William really care for one another. They've both clearly made mistakes along the way, some circumstantial, others by choice, so it should be interesting to see how Emma's choice will play out, as well as what effect it will have on how William chooses to move forward.
The art is a bit of a step up from the first volume. Backgrounds are still nicely detailed, and Mori continues to excel in achieving an engrossing setting and believable atmosphere with her visuals.
This volume has a nice balance of emotional highs and lows. Both Emma and William are faced with difficult choices now, and it should be interesting to see how they proceed. This volume is still very heavy in exposition, but the payoff is in the ending. The first two tankōbon were clearly meant to set us up for what will be the true course of the manga. It seems we're finally in the meat of the story from this point forward. Good stuff.
Review: Emma (エマ) 1