Emma a Victorian Romance
By the Nozomi Entertainment Production Team, 2008.
Nineteenth-century London may seem an odd setting for a Japanese anime, but for the tender love story of Emma: A Victorian Romance, there’s no better age. Victorian England was an era when new ideas were beginning to revolutionize everyday life, but traditional attitudes still staunchly held sway in social matters. So when romance unexpectedly blooms between an impoverished maid and a wealthy young man, they quickly discover just how deep society’s disapproval can run.
The Emma anime was based on the original manga series of the same name by the talented Kaoru Mori, and Nozomi Entertainment is delighted to present a rare and exclusive interview with the Emma manga-ka herself.
It is widely known that you are quite a fan of “all things English.” When did your fascination with Victorian England take hold? What is it you find so appealing about this culture?
I’m knowledgeable about the lifestyle and culture of the late Victorian era, but I’m not an expert on England. I wasn’t specifically interested in Victorian England at first, but that was the era that appealed to me most.
I used to read foreign picture and children’s books when I was a child, because I liked to read. Every now and then, a maid would appear in those books and I became fascinated and curious about them.
I also think it’s because my parents were in the interior design business. I really liked buildings and I enjoyed looking through the imported wallpaper and curtain catalogs. The catalogs would have sample pictures of already-decorated rooms and I was drawn to the Victorian English designs. I used to imagine a maid working in her black and white uniform in a mansion with beautifully decorated rooms.
Answering your question about what appeals to me the most about Victorian England is difficult. I feel like the more I learn about it, the more I become closer to it, like a good friend. I love everything about it, both the good and bad aspects. I guess if I had to pick one thing, it would be the culture of the working class, because maids were the first thing I became interested in.
How did your interest in the culture and time period lead to the creation of Emma and its “world”?
I’m not sure if I’m answering your question correctly, but I was inspired to create Emma because that’s all that was on my mind. The “World of Emma” wasn’t fully realized from the start. It took shape as I started to draw and study the era along the way.
What kind of research did you undertake in your efforts to make Emma as historically accurate as possible? Why do you feel this is important?
I had some knowledge about the Victorian Era from reading and watching things related to that era, but I was only able to afford research materials after I was paid for the manuscripts. When the serialization began, I was working feverishly and I didn’t have much money so I wasn’t able to fully research everything beforehand. All I had on my mind was “I love this era! I want to draw it!” and that’s how it all started. That's why there are several historical inaccuracies in the beginning. I amended things along the way but I left some inaccuracies as is because it was too closely tied to the story.
I enjoy drawing something historically accurate. I believe it’s a way to show respect to the people who lived in that country and era.
Many of the manga and anime that have been brought to the U.S. feature maids in “moe,” “fan service,” or “strictly comical” contexts. What was your motivation behind making Emma a lush, believable tale?
I can’t speak on behalf of anyone on why maids are shown in “moe” or “fan service” contexts, but personally I think it’s because they don’t really understand what a maid actually is. They just think the outfit is cute.
Just looking at the maid outfit, I think it’s wonderful too, but I was drawn to that profession and the era in which that profession existed. I wanted to create a story in that historical context, thinking that Emma’s story might have really happened.
Do you see any parallels between the English society you depict in Emma and Japanese society today?
I often think about how some things never change. Lifestyle and customs may have changed, but anything that has to do with human emotions doesn’t change, no matter what country or era we live in.
The cartoons from Punch [a magazine from the Victorian era] still make me laugh today, and even though a Japanese artist created Emma, people from foreign countries tell me they enjoy my work.
As a manga-ka, what is it like to see one of your works adapted into an anime? How involved were you in the process? Were you surprised by any part of the process? Have you had the chance to view the finished anime adaptation?
It was a strange feeling to know my work was being animated. It was also embarrassing, because my fantasies and favorite things are woven into my work. On the other hand, I was very happy when I learned that people enjoyed my work so much they requested it be turned into an anime.
The only thing I did for the anime was lend my research materials and answer questions about the characters. A lady named Riko Murakami was in charge of doing all the period research and the anime staff worked extremely hard, so I was able to enjoy the show as a viewer.
I didn’t know much about the process of creating an anime, so it was full of surprises. I knew it took a lot of people to make an anime, but I simply thought everyone just did their part.
I didn’t realize how intense the creative process is. Everyone is pushed to their limit. If one person goes down, the next person takes over. If there are a hundred staffers, those hundred staffers will work to their limit.
I enjoyed the anime so much. I was anxious to receive the sample episode every week. I hope everyone enjoys the show as much as I did.<
Emma is a very strong-willed female character, and many fans admire this about her. Who or what was your inspiration for Emma? Did you have a preconceived notion of what type of character you wanted Emma to be?
Emma isn’t based on anyone specific. Rather, she's based on what I find attractive about a person.
Emma was my first serialized manga and I was just learning how hard it was to draw a manga on a monthly schedule. I was inexperienced, but I knew I wanted to create a character that I would look forward to drawing every month, and a character the readers would find appealing.
It’s embarrassing because she’s too perfect, but I still enjoy drawing her. She's one of my favorite characters.
Even though you’re continuing the story with Emma: Further Tales, when you look back at Emma as a whole, what are your impressions? If you could go back and create it again, would you do anything differently?
I never would have thought so many people would read and enjoy my work. It’s not perfect, but I think it turned out much better than I imagined.
If I were to create Emma again, I might change the phrasing of a few lines and amend some things here and there, but I would probably keep it faithful to the original version. I put all my energy into creating Emma in a limited amount of time every month. Sometimes I had to push myself even after I was completely exhausted. It might not be perfect, but I believe I made all the right choices. Six years of my life were dedicated to Emma and I have no regrets.
How do you hope audiences are affected by Emma? What do you hope audiences are taking away from the story?
When I first started reading manga it was a revelation. I thought, “Manga is fun! I didn’t know manga could express something like this!” It would make me happy if the reader thought the same when they read my manga. It would make me really happy if the reader thought, “Maids are wonderful! The Victorian Era is fascinating!”
It would be great if Emma made people interested in other manga and motivated them to draw their own. If more people drew manga, I’m sure there would be a lot more interesting manga out there. I’d like to read many more interesting manga. Personally, I’d like to read a manga based on a maid during the Victorian Era.
Do you have a message for the English-speaking fans who are about to experience the Emma anime and manga for the first time?
I hope you enjoy Emma. It would make me happy if you enjoyed both the manga and anime.
A very special thanks to dedicated fan “Lego” (Brandon) for his assistance with the questions for this interview!
Kaoru Mori Bio
Born September 18, 1978, Ms. Mori harbors a true love for all things British. Her first commercial work, Emma, which follows the life of an English maid, launched her into the spotlight in 2001 when it was first serialized in Comic Beam. Emma quickly gained a loyal following, and ran for ten volumes. In 2005, the series won the Excellence Prize in the Manga Division of the 9th annual Japan Media Arts Festival. That same year, Emma was adapted into an anime by Studio Pierrot, and Ms. Mori collaborated with Riko Murakami to create the Emma Victorian Guides. One of Ms. Mori’s most recent works is Shirley, a spin-off story set in the Emma world.