Emma: A Victorian Romance

Alt title: Eikoku Koi Monogatari Emma

TV (12 eps)
3.998 out of 5 from 2,456 votes
Rank #1,384

At the end of the 19th century, in a time when social classes dominate society, a woman named Emma serves as a maid for a retired governess. One fateful day, a man named William from the upper class arrives at the mansion to visit the governess, and leaves having fallen in love with the young maid herself. In a time of such prejudice, love between the classes is frowned upon; but for William and Emma, their hardships are just beginning. Can the two break free of the bonds society has forced on them, or will they succumb to the pressure and banish each other from their hearts?

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The Gift image

Episode 1

The Gift

Two Worlds image

Episode 2

Two Worlds

The Confession image

Episode 3

The Confession

Mudie's image

Episode 4

Mudie's

The Dinner Party image

Episode 5

The Dinner Party

The Visit image

Episode 6

The Visit

Crystal Palace image

Episode 7

Crystal Palace

The Pocket Watch image

Episode 8

The Pocket Watch

Alone image

Episode 9

Alone

Missing One Another image

Episode 10

Missing One Another

The Past image

Episode 11

The Past

Lilies of the Valley image

Episode 12

Lilies of the Valley

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Reviews

VivisQueen
7

StoryYou wouldn't be too far off to describe Emma as the 'Jane Austen' of anime, given its subject matter. As a whole, the series relies very little on gimmicks or catch phrases or even spectacular animation, and the plot is very, very straightforward. It attempts to evoke a sense of quiet empathy instead, meaning it's the kind of series you watch when your soul wants a rest from the mecha explosions and magical transformations. What makes this anime interesting is its setting, and how not evil forces but widely accepted social conventions strain a love so pure and sweet that it seems impossible. It's definitely not Romeo x Juliet, extravagant and cheesy, or Bokura ga Ita, confused and disturbing, but lies somewhere in the less explored subtle and realistic section of romance. Emma and William's first meeting is a perfectly ordinary social situation, they live normal lives in a world of dutiful routine, so following their random passion as it blossoms, withers, and blossoms again is a lot of fun. My biggest complaint is that Emma brings little originality to the table and many of the developments turned out to be quite cliché - at least to Western audiences who are used to BBC adaptations of the classics. Of course this means the series lacks rewatchability; I could certainly watch an episode here or there to refresh my memory of key events but I don't actually feel like reliving the series in its entirety. I suppose this flaw is largely forgivable as its formulaic core is wrapped in rich mileu and robust characterisation.AnimationThe mellow mood of the anime is accompanied by an understated but detailed presentation. The tools Emma uses to sweep the floor in the first episode, to the names of shops and design of formal attire are the product of extensive research. Even the way the décor in the Jounes' house feels like a hand-drawn adaptation of real places. The people, on the other hand, are designed with simplicity in mind, with not-too-big eyes, realistic coloured hair, but overall a general lack of detail in features. William could look like any other character if you just changed his skin tone and hair style, for example (heck, he could even be Emma!). The grey-tone look of the series is highly suitable and, for those of you who have ever set foot on British soil, it's very reminiscent of our typical overcast weather.SoundAs with many of the other aspects, Emma's score is well matched but not exceptional. This might have to do with the fact that most of the time there isn't any music during the scenes. Occasionally, to heighten the mood or highlight some special moment, there will be piano music, but many scenes are carried out with natural sounds like those of birds or carriages. The opening score is very pleasant to listen to, quite upbeat and relaxing piano music, while the end theme has more haunting flutes, but after the first few episodes there is no reason to sit through either.CharactersMost of the cast is pretty much stock, or at most minimally layered to provide enough conflict. However, the creators actually managed to avoid using stereotypes for the main two protagonists, presenting us with lovers who are both well-defined individually and extremely believable as a compatible couple. William is a little on the naïve side despite his high social status. He's not charming or engaging in the traditional sense, which I think is a brilliant touch because the series thus avoids creating typical fangirl fodder. We see in him someone who prefers escape through quirky Victorian gadgets and exotic friends rather than fighting for what he wants, which makes his part in the conflict frustrating to watch at times. Emma in slight contrast is the worrying realist, who loves deeply and passionately but tempers it with common sense. Her behaviour is always dignified and her quiet strength, the way she expects nothing in return for her love, is admirable. It's not that she's passive exactly, but that in a strict world where the odds are stacked against her, she picks her moments very carefully. Perhaps the one other interesting character is Mr Jounes, William's father, a man who wants the best for his family and sees the achievement of this through using the social system. How very inconvenient, then, that his silly son is intent on flouting that same unforgiving system. When Mr Jounes and William share a scene, there exists an acute tension which I find highly intriguing, but this particular series of Emma doesn't expand upon it much. Altogether, though, the characters make for a satisfying drama.OverallVictorian Romance Emma should appeal to mature tastes, people who like to appreciate the touching subtleties of impossible love rather than the violent struggles involved. As a story, it has reliable albeit predictable foundations whilst delivering on refreshing and believable protagonists.

cassiesheepgirl
9.2

When I read the synopsis, this was one of those series that seemed kind of sweet, so I thought that I'd give it a go; and oh how glad I am that I did! This tale of unobtainable love set in Victorian England had me gripped from the very beginning and I marathoned the entire twelve episodes in one day; I just couldn't get enough. Despite its relatively slow pacing, you still manage to get a real sense of the progression of the central protagonist’s love and, as such, you really begin to care about them and their plight. Emma is so genuinely lovely and hardworking that she becomes possibly the most likeable heroine that I have ever encountered in anime. Unfortunately for her she happened to fall in love with a wealthy gentleman, William, and he reciprocated her feelings. Part of what makes this series so brilliant is the contrast in Emma and William's personalities. Emma is realistic about their situation, whereas the naïve William believes that everything will work out. Also, where Emma possesses a lot of inner strength, William occasionally errs a little on the spineless side, often buckling under the pressure from his family. For me, the biggest surprise of the series was the attention to detail throughout. So many times in anime, you get a stereotyped view of Victorian England, however, the intricate detail in Emma adds an extra sense of realism that just sucks you in. As such, the whole series oozes a sense of grace and dignity entirely befitting of the era. The series is also accompanied by a charming soundtrack, which really sets the mood without becoming intrusive. Each piece of music ideally suits the character or scene in question, and this is definitely one of my favourite anime soundtracks to date. Victorian Romance Emma quickly became one of my favourite series because of its exquisitely quiet charm. For anyone who likes a good romance story, that isn't overrun with ecchi or so sugary-sweet that you find yourself physically retching, I would highly recommend this series.

HKBattosai
9.4

Victorian Romance Emma is one of the greatest surprises in anime for me, if not the greatest! Perhaps that is why I've rated it so highly since I had average expectations going into watching this with my wife, who happens to be obsessed with Victorian England. So this anime was right up her alley from the very beginning. I never expected it to up mine. The story takes place in 19th century Victorian London to be exact. It is the romantic tale of a young member of the gentry, William Jones, and a maid, Emma, who happen to fall in love with each other. However, William’s family disapproves of this due to their difference in social position. During this time the social class you were born into dictated the path your life went, and William and Emma were viewed no differently, except to them. Thus, begins their slow pacing tale that feels deliberate but appropriate and fitting for their story. Not once did I hope for things to rush along faster, except for what happens in episode 12. The end of that episode had me chopping at the bit to start the Second Act. As far as animation goes, the anime has a very soft look to it. Nothing is overly vibrant or flashy, which feels natural for this era and locale. The characters are somewhat plain looking, but not poorly done and they are animated consistently throughout. The backgrounds look authentic and add to the atmosphere very well. The music is nothing out of this world, which is perfect! It plays to the story properly and it is music you would expect to hear from this time period. The ambient sounds of the various scenes, especially the outdoors ones, are subtle but quite appropriate. Along with the aforementioned music, the entire audio soundtrack compliments what is happening at the specific scene in any particular episode. The audio compliments its authenticity. Although everything mentioned up to this point is excellent, what makes this series the most enjoyable are the characters. This starts with the hardworking, realistic Emma and the naïve Mr. William Jones. She clearly enjoys his company wherever they may be when they meet up, but she does not allow herself to get too close simply because she understands their difference in social standing. William on the other hand does not see the social differences between the two of them. In his eyes, he sees Emma as the woman he’s fallen in love with, regardless of her being a maid or not. You add many other wonderful characters like Emma’s employer Kelly Stownar, William’s Indian Prince friend Hakim Atawari, among others, and you’ve got yourself an excellent cast befitting of the series. Nothing more can be said about Victorian Romance Emma other than if you're looking for a romantic tale with a sense of realism and true enjoyment, then I highly recommend checking this out. It's rare when almost all the aspects of an anime come together with such high level quality. ENJOYMENT SCORE:  10/10 Season Two Review Additional Information: Video Format:  DVD (2013) Audio Format:  Japanese Dolby Digital Surround (with English subtitles) Publisher:  Nozomi Entertainment Equipment Used:  Samsung UN40C5000QF 1080p LED TV, Samsung Blu-ray Player BD-P1590

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