Title: Victorian Romance Emma
Company: Studio Pierrot
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 02 Apr 2005 – 18 June 2005
Synopsis: William Jones’s trip to visit his governess Kelly Stowner yields more than just an opportunity to reminisce on old times; he also ends up falling in love with her maid, Emma. However, trouble arises from this relationship because William is a member of the gentry and with his father looking to raise his family’s status by marrying into the nobility, this relationship meets with some major resistance. It also does not help that Eleanor Campbell, the daughter of a viscount has fallen in love with William and seeks to gain his affection.
Atmosphere: Subtle and dignified.
Prince Hakim: The series’s scene-stealer.
Setting: Extremely well-researched and detailed.
Production values: Very high, judging from the detailed artwork and animation.
Music: Fits in perfectly with the setting and the mood.
From the start, it becomes apparent that Victorian Romance Emma is a different breed of romance series. Its entire mood is quiet and dignified (which, in retrospect, is something one should expect from a series taking place in Victorian England), giving it an aura of subtlety that feels refreshing. While other series have the tendency to cram the relationship and characters down the audience’s throat, Emma’s characters are allowed to interact naturally. That aspect, when combined with the show’s attention to detail, helps bring the story and setting to life in such a way that it feels real and by extension, plausible.
The story of a nobleman who falls for a commoner is not a new concept, but the choice for Emma’s setting works because it comes at a time where Britain’s rigid social hierarchy was slowly unraveling, allowing an opportunity for romances such as the one between William and Emma to actually take hold. With that as the backdrop, this show’s dissection of the inter-generational conflict becomes more than just a black and white affair. Rather, this series does an excellent job at capturing the viewpoints of its main characters, allowing the audience to understand where the characters are coming from, thereby casting them all in a sympathetic light.
William Jones’s geniality and earnestness as well as his stubbornness make him an excellent male lead whose forthright actions are laudable. Emma is intriguing because through her detailed background, you come to understand how her love for William is tempered by her pragmatic outlook due to societal norms that it becomes interesting to watch her try to reconcile the two feelings. Eleanor Campbell, who is the third wheel, is sympathetic because her feelings for William are genuine and even though he does not love her back, she maintains her steadfast loyalty to him. Even Richard Jones, William’s father and the chief antagonist of this series, is sympathetic because he is simply a product of his time and after all he’s done to raise his family up the social ladder, he does not want to see his work undone by William’s impulsiveness.
Prince Hakim deserves a special mention because his brashness and outgoing personality serves as an excellent counterpoint to William’s more reserved, cautious demeanor. Hakim’s ability to see the big picture and the insightful remarks he makes pushes William to be more proactive in pursuing his relationship with Emma instead of dwelling on inconsequential matters as a way to avoid facing his problems. In fulfilling this role, Hakim’s roguish nature endears himself to the audience, imbuing every scene in which he appears with a touch of spontaneity and most importantly, his wisdom.
Finally, Emma does an excellent job of taking the viewer back into Victorian England through its attention to detail in the way it shows how people lived during that period. The tidbits that this series shows us, ranging from scenes of the servants ironing the newspapers to the use of tea leaves to aid in sweeping, makes the series enjoyable by bringing the setting to life.
Not many shows since then have been able to capture Emma’s quiet dignity, which makes watching this series all the more special. Its mature, believable storyline combined with a well-written cast and attention to detail in regards to the setting is what sets this show apart. While the ending does not resolve the romance entirely, it does set itself up nicely for a second season while leaving the viewer with a nice, yet bittersweet feeling.
The Rating: 8
Reviewed by: zzeroparticle