Monday, February 2, 2009

Review: Emma - A Victorian Romance (2005, 2007)

Emma - A Victorian Romance (2005, 2007) is a historical-based anime TV series that takes place in Victorian-era England. The location is the late nineteenth century in London. Both seasons contain 24 episodes. When two people from different classes fall in love with each other, their romance seems ill-fated. Can the power of love and destiny overcome societal pressures and customs?

First Season

William Jones, a member of the gentry (wealthy merchant) class and heir to his father's business, visits his former teacher and governess, Kelly Stownar, at her townhouse. When he meets her maid, Emma, for the first time, he immediately falls in love with her. Emma, a quiet and graceful young lady, feels the same way for him. Originally from a poor seaside village, Emma was kidnapped as a young girl to be sold to a London brothel. She manages to escape and work odd jobs. When she meets Ms. Stownar, the retired governess takes the girl under her wing as an experiment. She teaches Emma how to do household chores and how to read, write, and other subjects, a task which was unprecedented at the time since English maids came from working-class backgrounds and generally did not receive an education.

However, his family disapproves of him associating himself with the lower classes, particularly Emma. His best friend, Hakim, nonetheless encourages their relationship. William's father arranges his son to court Eleanor Campbell, daughter of a viscount, whose family is part of the peerage (higher classes). Although she falls in love with William, her feelings are unfortunate since William does not love her. How will Emma and William's relationship flourish in a society where a rigid class structure forbids it?

Second Season

After the sudden death of Mrs. Stowner, Emma reluctantly ends her relationship with William and leaves London. She starts a new life in the English countryside by becoming one of many maids in the Molders family estate in Yorkshire. The Molders became part of the new gentry class and immigrated from Germany. Her presence also catches the eye of the highly-skilled and sullen footman, Hans. He holds great respect for Emma's strong, quiet spirit and gradually becomes more protective of her when he notices her in vulnerable situations.

Meanwhile, William proposes to Eleanor to the delight of his father. A marriage to the viscout would bring the Jones family to a higher social class, and the Campbells would in return would become wealthier in an era where non-royal industrialists are quickly gaining more influence. Eleanor tries to win William's heart, but he still deeply misses and loves Emma.

However, Emma and William do not realize that fate will make them meet again in the most unexpected and romantic circumstances.

I LOVED THIS STORY! When I first watched this series years ago, I was very impressed. Kaoru Mori, the mangaka (female artist), painstakingly used historical accuracy in her illustrations and storywriting. Emma, the main protagonist of the story, is easy to sympathize with because she must overcome strict class boundaries and unfortunate events to be with the man she loves. I also admire William's continuous persistence to court Emma as his priority. Societal pressures be damned.

Although this story is not paranormal, it is special in a sense that fate and destiny will make sure things work out between Emma and William. Love is one of the most powerful feelings in the universe. They could have succumbed to societal pressures (William's proposal to Eleanor) or avoided negative outcomes (Emma leaving London after Mrs. Stownar's death). Happiness is more important than money. Before her death, Mrs. Stowner noticed William's pursuit of Emma and supported the relationship. Fate bought the two young people back together where they could live happily ever after.

The music was also fantastic. Kunihiko Ryō composed and arranged the opening theme ("Sihoulette of a Breeze"). The music has a nineteenth-century touch (classical music, bustling street corners) that reminds audiences what they are watching. I also highly recommend the manga (7 volumes total). Here is a word of caution: the anime and manga follow different storylines. The series has been licensed by Rightstuf International.

This series is available to rent and purchase on DVD. You may find Season 1 and Season 2 on Amazon.com.



Opening Theme: "Silhouette of a Breeze"

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