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Manga / Emma: A Victorian Romance

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19th century London was a time of technological innovation; photography, trains, automobiles, and many other inventions were being thought up or refined. Societal expectations, however, hadn't changed much: what class you were born in still defined a lot about who you were and what you could do. This was as true for the poorer classes as it was for the rich elite, and any relationships across class boundaries were met with scorn and disapproval.

Such is the setting that Emma lives in. She works as a maid for retired governess Kelly Stownar, an outwardly stern looking woman who possess a kind heart. Emma herself is proof of this, for she has knowledge that only the higher classes are taught, and a pair of glasses that only the rich would've been able to afford. There was something that Kelly couldn't give Emma, though: beauty.

Emma's good looks are part of what catches the eye of William Jones, a former student of Kelly's who stops by one day for a visit. Soon after meeting her, William becomes smitten with Emma and there's something about William's awkward demeanor that she finds charming. With a little help from Kelly, the two star crossed lovers begin a courtship.

Unfortunately, William has obligations to fill. His straitlaced father, Richard Jones, wants him to marry Elanor Campbell, the daughter of a viscount. A marriage to a viscount's daughter would raise the Jones' family's social status, something that a marriage to a humble maid would never achieve. As Emma and William's relationship deepens and forces threaten to tear them apart, they will have to come to their own decisions about their futures, both as individuals and as a couple.

Emma (エマ, Ema) is a historical romance seinen manga by Kaoru Mori. The manga was originally serialized in Comic Beam from January 2002 to May 2006, ending with 52 chapters compiled into seven volumes. Side story chapters as well as an epilogue were serialized under the name Emma: Further Tales from September 2006 to March 2008, collected into three volumes. All ten volumes were originally released in English by CMX. When CMX was dissolved, the series remained in limbo for several years until Yen Press rescued the series in 2015. They would re-release the series as a five volume omnibus set, printed in hardcover.

An anime adaptation under the name Emma: A Victorian Romance was made between two studios. Pierrot handled the first season which aired in 2005, and Ajia-Do produced the second which aired in 2007, adding the subtitle of "Second Act". Both seasons use the same director, Tsuneo Kobayashi. Nozomi Entertainment released it on DVD in North America in 2008 using a then-unusual "pledge" program to cover the cost of extras like an artbox and artbook. Ten years later, in 2018, Nozomi launched a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund a Blu-Ray release for the series and English dub for Season One, with Season Two as a primary stretch goal. The campaign was a success, earning almost twice its asking price, allowing both seasons to be dubbed.note 

This series provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The manga originally ended without a wedding or a distant finale, so Kobayashi and Ikeda added one for the anime's second season. The manga itself would show the former in its final chapter.
  • Animation Anatomy Aging: During her younger years, Aurelia had much larger eyes compared to the present day of the story. This is even more obvious with Kelly, whose face changes completely between 18 and 60.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Vivian is the second youngest of the Jones' children, and she often pesters those around her, including her older siblings.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: About half the characters are aristocrats, titled or not, and many are very pleasant and friendly. Viscount Campbell is the one who mainly plays the trope straight: he's highly classist and a schemer.
  • Art Evolution: The manga starts off with the lineart giving its characters soft, round features. As the series progresses, the style evolves into a more sharp, defined style.
  • At the Opera Tonight: William and Eleanor watch The Barber of Seville together, with a later side-story going behind-the-scenes with that particular cast.
  • Author Appeal: Mori wasn't shy about admitting that half of the things she put in the manga were because she liked them. This includes things like her being a huge Anglophile and loving maids (and blondes), but things that have little to do with the story are setting, such as Hakim's quadruplet entourage.
  • Babies Ever After: After going through so much in their effort to stay together, Emma and William are eventually married and have four children.
  • Big Fancy House: Much of the series takes place at two of these – the Jones Estate in Hampstead and the Mölders Estate in Haworth. Emma, who started the series living with Kelly in a standard townhouse, is overwhelmed the first time she sees the former and soon works in the latter. Unusually, this series shows just how much work goes into keeping one of these running. We are shown some of the inner workings of both.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Most men in the series are drawn with thick eyebrows, such as William, his father Richard, and Viscount Campbell.
  • Bilingual Bonus: All non-dialogue writing in the series in both manga and anime is suitably in English, despite the fact that the creators and their primary audience are Japanese. While Mori has made some spelling flubs ("Cristal Palace" instead of "Crystal Palace"), the English shown on signs and in letters in the anime is almost flawless. The letters also provide detail beyond the dialogue and give a nice flavor to the writing style of the time.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Emma's eyesight progressively got worse as she got older. The glasses she owns during the series mostly help, but long distances are still somewhat blurry. She doesn't want to give up that particular pair, though, because Kelly gave her those glasses; they were the first gift anyone ever gave her.
  • Crash-Into Hello: Dorothea almost ran Wilhelm down with her horse when she first saw him.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Tasha often makes more work for collages due to her mishaps, such as breaking things. Her coworkers consider her only a little better than useless. She gets teased a lot, but they can't bring themselves to fire her or really lay into her on account of her cheerful nature and knowing that she doesn't do it on purpose.
  • Distant Finale:
    • The three chapter finale covering William and Emma's wedding at the end of volume ten evidently takes place several years after the end of the main part of the series; the narration notes that Queen Victoria has passed away, and younger characters such as Colin and Vivian have also visibly aged.
    • The anime's finale is even more distant, with William and Emma already having a few children.
  • The Door Slams You: Emma and William met when Emma opened a door just as William raised his hand to knock. Mrs. Stowner was more than a little amused at the mark it left.
  • The Edwardian Era: The manga's Distant Finale takes place sometime around 1904-1905, as the narration makes note of Queen Victoria's death (which occurred in January 1901). The anime's is later still.
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: In the manga, Dorothea has a very frank attitude toward sex, though this may be partly to emphasize her "foreignness". In real life, differing attitudes between the British Isles and Continental Europe were openly discussed at the time.note  Then there's the scene where Maria bathes with Adele and waxes about how she could never have just one man. While Adele isn't amused, she doesn't tell her off for her blasé attitude, instead simply warning her to not let her love life interfere with her work.
  • Faint in Shock: Emma faints at a ball, in part because her corset was laced too tightly, but mostly because she learned William was engaged.
  • Fanservice: Dorothea gets several rather gratuitous naked scenes.
  • Funny Foreigner: Hakim Atawari is an Indian prince who is a friend of the British William. Hakim's foreignness provides some of the comedy in the earlier parts of the series, mainly from his harem of silent girls and the fact that he brings an elephant to ride on.
  • The Gay '90s: While the exact year is never specified, the series cannot start earlier than 1895 due to the Tower Bridge's existence. The epilogue takes place some time after 1901 as it's mentioned that Queen Victoria has died and motorcars are rapidly replacing horse-drawn carriages in London.
  • Genki Girl: Vivian is an energetic girl who doesn't always know when to keep to herself.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Absurd attention to clothing detail is kind of Mori's thing, which leads to multiple panels featuring stunning, period-accurate dresses.
  • Gossipy Hens: Eleanor's friends often engage in gossip whenever they appear. This also happened with Society women around Aurelia but that was Played for Drama and directly contributed to her issues.
  • Happily Married:
    • Wilhelm and Dorothea Mölders have a healthy and happy relationship with one other.
    • William and Emma are still as much in love with each other as they day they first met.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Behind all their efforts to keep up appearances befitting their rank of Viscount, the Campbell family is in serious financial distress. It is for this reason and only this reason that Viscount Campbell tolerates the engagement between his daughter Eleanor, and William, whom he despises as being an upstart.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: The anime's opening theme, "Silhouette of a Breeze", is an orchestral piece accompanied by piano with no lyrics. The second season's opening, "Silhouette of a Breeze (Celtic ver.)", is a different arrangement that uses Celtic instruments like the flute and harp.
  • Historical Detective Fiction: When Emma gets abducted, William's search gets greatly hampered by what historically were the means at his disposal in 1890's England and America.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Eleanor knows that marrying William will just make both of them miserable, so she lets him go despite being deeply in love with him. Hans is likewise aware that his love for Emma is one-sided and will most likely remain that way.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Johanna, the Mölders' head cook, claims to have been a head-turning beauty when she was younger, but, aside from a small sketch by Mori in one of the afterwards, we only have her word for it. Her daughter being drop-dead gorgeous might back this up.
  • Is That Cute Kid Yours?: Vivian and Colin are sometimes mistaken to be Grace's children. While they are related, Grace is actually their older sister, and she doesn't appreciate it when people assume otherwise.this claim, though.
  • Inconsistent Spelling: The vast differences between the Japanese and English languages has led to some confusion as to how some of the character's first or last names (or even both) should be spelled. The differences in translation between the CMX printing of the manga, the Yen Press printing, and the anime just make it harder (though everyone agrees CMX's version, the oldest of the three, is the least correct).
    • Is Kelly's married name "Stowner" or "Stownar"?
    • Is Wilhelm's family name "Mölders", "Malders", or "Maulders"?
    • Is Hakim's last name "Atawari", "Atawaly", or some combination of the two?
    • Does Emma take the train to Haworth or Harworth?note 
  • Knight Templar Big Sister: Monica to Eleanor, though not quite as extreme as most examples.
  • Love at First Sight: Both Emma and William fell for each other pretty much as soon as they laid eyes on one other.
  • Meido: Emma and about half the cast are maids, though they're a more grounded take on the trope compared to most manga and anime since Mori did a great deal of research on how real Victorian-era maids worked and dressed.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Both the manga and anime have scenes where characters have their corsets laced. In a manga omake, Mori explains that she is fond of such scenes.
  • Old Retainer: Discussed regarding Aurelia's longtime ladies'-maid Martha. Aurelia is well aware Martha, who has been with her since she was a child, is getting on in years and deserves a dignified retirement. Kaoru Mori showed in one omake with an age-chart that Martha along with Stephens, the Joneses butler, are the oldest characters in the series.
  • Only One Name: Emma has no family name that she can remember. This becomes a problem when she must sign her name on the Church registry at her and William's wedding. After a moment of awkward panic, William suggests Emma use "Stownar", Kelly's last name.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Emma is an orphan at least twice over; her mother died when Emma was very young, leaving her cruel aunt and uncle-in-law to take of her. After she was kidnapped and brought to London, Emma was later adopted by Kelly in all but name. Unfortunately, Kelly would die of eventually die of old age, leaving Emma without any parental figures once again.
    • The Jones kids' mother was sent to the Yorkshire countryside by their father in order to save face after she unintentionally humiliated him in front of the elite. She visits from time to time, but mostly stays in Yorkshire. Worth noting this is perfectly fine with her except the not-being-with-her-kids part.
  • Playing Pictionary: Most people who see Colin's drawings can't quite tell what they're supposed to be, such as mistaking a rabbit for a horse, which really upsets him. William is the best at identifying these pictures since every other Jones sibling once drew like that.
    • This includes William himself, according to Stephens, who keeps all the kids' drawings on the walls of his office.
  • Porn Stache: Dorothea agreed to marry Wilhelm on the condition that he grow a moustache, claiming that his face looks scary without one. In her defense, it does make him appear more paternal.
  • Promotion to Parent: Grace has to take care of her youngest siblings, Vivian and Colin, in the absence of her ill mother and busy father.
  • Self-Made Man: William's father, Richard Jones, grew up outside the traditional aristocracy and thus has no title. He made his fortune by building upon the trading business started by his own father. Although he rigidly conducts himself by the standards of a proper British Gentleman, the Jones family is still seen as Nouveau Riche by some of the titled peerage. It was worse before he married Aurelia, who does come from a noble family but was considered something of a social pariah.
  • Sexual Karma: Dorothea and Wilhelm are two of the nicest aristocrats you'd ever meet, and they have a very active and loving sex life. This is in contrast to Viscount Campbell, who is decidedly classist and cheats on his wife.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Emma isn't unattractive in her everyday maid outfit, but when she gets dolled up to accompany Mrs. Trollope to William's engagement party, she's absolutely stunning.
  • Shipper on Deck: Kelly Stowner is obviously aware of Emma and William's mutual attraction and supports it. Dorothea does as well to an extent even though by doing so she stands to lose one of her best employees. Aurelia zigzags it by refusing to stop her son when given the chance yet admitting to Richard in private she finds it foolish.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The characters attend operas and plays pretty regularly, with one chapter focusing on William and Eleanor going to a performance of The Barber of Seville.
    • A later chapter shows Vivi reading The Prisoner of Zenda, of which she's become a big fan.
  • Shown Their Work: Mori is an admitted Anglophile who did a lot of research on the country and time period where the story is set. At some point after the release of Volume 3, Mori brought on historical consultant Rico Murakami to help her with the smaller details. Murakami would also go on to be a consultant for the anime adaptation.
  • Sleeping Single: Most of the aristocratic couples have separate bedrooms, as was common in the era depicted. This is partly because many upper-class marriages were arranged, but even for Happily Married couples it was considered "proper behavior" not to sleep together all the time. Also, a husband wasn't supposed to witness his wife putting on makeup or other Women's Mysteries. Wilhelm and Dorothea discuss this trope in a side story; they're a loving couple with an active sex life, but when Wilhelm suggests they start sharing a room, Dorothea says she'd rather not since she doesn't want him to see her putting on makeup.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Invoked and obliquely discussed with Emma. She does not like it when anyone says she's attractive. This is because her above-average looks led directly to her being kidnapped from her native village as a child and brought to London where she barely escaped being sold into prostitution.
  • Spoiled Brat: Vivian acts quite bratty at times, butting into situations where she really shouldn't be.
  • Starcrossed Lovers: William is a nobleman and Emma is only a housemaid. Their love has been tested so many times due to the classism at the time. Until they eventually married and have four children.
  • Street Urchin: Emma lived on the streets as a child for many years before Kelly took her in and gave her an education. Emma considers it one of her darkest secrets, and is ill at ease even telling sympathetic people like Dorothea about it, to say nothing of the man she falls in love with (she does eventually tell him).
  • Train-Station Goodbye:
    • In the manga, by the time William reaches the station Emma is set to depart from, the train's long gone and he's alone on the platform.
    • In the anime, William gets to the train just as it's pulling out of the station and Emma consciously ignores him.
  • Tsurime Eyes:
    • Eleanor and the other Campbell women are drawn with eyes that slant upwards. While Eleanor is more even-tempered than this design choice usually implies, her sister Monica is assertive.
    • Vivian is an energetic girl who isn't afraid to speak her mind, and her eyes are also drawn in the tsurime style. Mori joked in an early omake how Eleanor and Vivi have such similar eyes.
  • Uptown Guy: William is a wealthy gentleman who falls in love with a maid of unknown background. This is the plot's biggest conflict, as Victorian society considers the idea of a romance between class barriers completely unacceptable.
  • Victorian London: The series largely takes place in Victorian-era London, complete with a classic Jane Austen-style romance between the main character and her love interest.note 
  • The Voiceless: Colin doesn't really speak at all thanks to being shy. Considering he wears his heart on his sleeve, he doesn't really need words to get his feelings across.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Chapters 30 and 31 are devoted to the story of how William's parents met and what led Aurelia to living separately from her husband and children. In the anime, this is Episode 18.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: In an anime-only scene, Emma briefly returns to the fishing village in East Yorkshire where she was born, only to find it completely abandoned save for a few ruined houses. She thought earlier this might be the case when she recounted the village was desperately poor and had no clue if it still existed.

Alternative Title(s): Victorian Romance Emma