Advanced Japanese: Learn Keigo with Manga, Part 2

Keigo (敬語) got you stumped? One way to learn to understand keigo (honorific language) and sonkeigo (humble language; 尊敬語) is by consuming keigo-heavy media. The manga featured in Part 2 is an easier read than Berusaiyu no Bara and is recommended for those around the N2 level of Japanese.

Part 2   「エマ」(Emma)

Level: around N2

Text: 10 volumes, ~200 pages/volume. Text amount (compared to art): light-to-moderate.

Story: London, 1898. Emma is a maid working for an elderly former governess when she meets her employer’s former student, William Jones, the son of a wealthy bourgeois family. Although the two have a mutual attraction to each other, their difference in class seems like an insurmountable hurdle. The story follows their lifestyles in separate social spheres and focuses on class interaction in Victorian England. (This has no relation to Austen’s Emma.)

Keigo: Because half of the cast is the servants of the landed or monied classes, there is a lot of keigo. Additionally, much of the wealthy bourgeoisie and nobility also uses keigo when speaking to each other in polite society.


  • A lot of words are written with Meiji-era kanji because this is a period piece—great way to expand your kanji knowledge.
  • That said, compared to Rose of Versailles, there are fewer specialized terms and it is generally easier and quicker to read.
  • Furigana is minimal.
  • The artwork is gorgeous and aims to show the differences among the classes without being melodramatic (think Jane Austen in content, though not in writing style or time period).


  • A lot of words are written with Meiji-era kanji, and for the causal reader, this can be frustrating.
  • Furigana is often used for kanji you should know (お姉様) at this level but not some specialized terms.
  • The story does focus on class and on Emma and William equally and was published by BEAM, a publisher that caters more to a boys’ comic crowd, but the romance is fairly shoujo. If you can’t stand anything in the shoujo genre, including “outliers” like Ouran High School Host Club and Rose of Versailles, you probably won’t like this.

Recommended for those interested in

  • British history and the Victorian period, particularly in regards to class interaction
  • detailed, gorgeous art in manga
  • practicing reading keigo but sticking to something light and easy to read

Buy it: By MORI Kaori (森 薫). Published by BEAM COMIX (ビームコミックス), 2002. This seems to be a fairly small press; Emma is often hard to find at Book Off. Large bookstores usually stock it, and it is available on 650 yen/volume new.

穴水町の国際交流員のLeah Zollerと申します。私自身はこのブログの編集者で働いていたします。読者様、読でくださったことに対し、心よりお礼申し上げます。

Read Part 1 here.


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