Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Loyal helper: manga review

Another manga review

from http://thestar.com.my/lifestyle/story.asp?file=/2008/11/9/lifebookshelf/2228409&sec=lifebookshelf

Sunday November 9, 2008

Loyal helper

Manga Review

Story and art: Kaoru Mori
Publisher: CMX; 190 pages
(ISBN: 978-1401217778)
For ages 13+

SHE cooks, cleans, does the linens, helps out with the garden, brews fantastic tea and is even skilful enough with the needle to create new dresses out of old ones. And I’m not talking about a Stepford wife but 13-year-old orphan Shirley Madison.

When cafe owner Bennett Cranley put up a notice for a live-in maid, she didn’t expect to get a respondent so young! But seeing that Shirley has waited for her for almost the entire day, Ms Cranley is reluctant to turn her away. So she hires Shirley to take care of the house and the young helper goes about her duties with utmost devotion.

Although this is a manga about maids, don’t expect to see the submissive and fawning maids of the meido category. The protagonist here is a faithful, skilled and courteous maid from the old English society.

Personally, I would have preferred an unconventional and boisterous manga but this feel-good manga is enjoyable because of its interesting and distinctive characters. I can already see a very warm and meaningful relationship developing between Shirley and Ms Cranley.

Shirley is a quiet, reserved lass whose determination to serve her employer loyally will bring a smile to your face.

Bennett, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of Shirley. A spirited and independent woman, she has made a bold choice in her life – to run a business on her own, a rare thing for a well-brought-up young lady to do in Victorian England.

Included in this manga are two short stories on two other maids. The first is about a maid called Nellie and her five-year-old charge while the other is about Mary Banks who works for Viscount James Bolton, an old man with a fondness for playing pranks on his staff – all of two people for most could not take his teasing and quit.

Interestingly, Nellie looks a lot like Emma, the well-known title character from Kaoru Mori’s other manga also about a Victorian-era maid. But both are unrelated as far as the story goes.

The manga’s simple art befits the feel-good tone of the story and the gentleness of the lead character but fans of Emma, who are used to Mori’s painstakingly detailed presentation of Victorian fashion and architecture, will be disappointed that they won’t get the same level of intricacy here.

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