The one problem with Emma by Mori Kaoru is that many people have wondered what happened to the characters after the series finished as there were some definite loose ends and plot point that needed further explanation or closure.
Fans of Emma should therefore rejoice, as Mori has since released Emma Bangaihen (or Emma: Further Tales), and in a surprising move, rather than releasing these stories as a separate series, she has chosen to simply extend the original Emma to ten volumes in order to accomodate the extra bits.
In case you’re wondering why I’m treating this as a separate entity to the original Emma, well, there’s many aspects of Bangaihen that simply feel removed from the ebb and flow of the original tale, and it affords the reader the opportunity to go back and read the manga with a new perspective – something that doesn’t happen very often in any medium.
The story for Emma Bangaihen is very much a slice of life take on the series and is far more episodic in nature – a marked difference to the generally continuous tale told in Emma, and more in keeping with Mori’s other completed maid-related manga, Shirley. The series is completely devoted to tying up certain loose ends left in Emma, something which I applaud Mori for doing and which fans of Emma will greatly appreciate.
Emma Bangaihen begins with a welcome glimpse into the history of one of Emma’s more enigmatic characters – Kellie Stowner. The following stories in the manga deal with with subjects like what happened to Eleanor Campbell after Emma, and how William first met Hakim, as well as offering glimpses into the lives of the Molders family and several of the maids who work there. The stories also cover other aspects of Emma such as a day in the life of The Times, a glimpse backstage at the opera, Arthur Jones at Eton College, and most importantly, what happened to Emma and William.
There is one chapter in particular that stands out from the rest of the series though, as it is completely done using 4 koma and is far more comedic (in a deadpan way), than the rest of the series.
Artwork and character design are very much in keeping with the time period, and are easily on par with the artwork in Emma (so I won’t go into this as much as you can read my review of Emma for more information).
The characters in Emma Bangaihen are actually rather good, something which may not come as a surprise to those more familiar with Mori’s work. Because of the episodic style of the series, there isn’t much scope to develop each character, however the view should be taken that this series can only really be appreciated after reading Emma. As characters go, they are generally very good in their individual stories, however new readers will find them lacking a certain amount of depth unless they have already read the original tale.
That said, anyone who has read and enjoyed Emma will not be disappointed by the characters in Bangaihen.
It should be no surprise that I enjoyed this series immensely as it provides closure to a number of questions I had at the end of Emma and actually serves to enhance the depth of a number of characters. I also enjoyed it because a number of the stories are quirky little jaunts (Polly and Alma’s shopping trip and William meeting Hakim, for example), which have a certain realism about them.
This is something that I would consider essential reading for any fan of Emma, although the episodic style may also appeal to fans of slice of life stories.
I just wish more authors would try and close off a series this well.