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Manga / Victorian Romance Emma

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It's London, the late 1890s. Young Emma is a "maid of all works" who lives and works for a former governess, outstanding because of her unusually high level of instruction (her mistress has taught her all sorts of subjects) and her glasses (which women of her class and station hardly ever wear). When a former pupil of her mistress, William Jones, drops by for a visit, both maid and man fall in love with each other. However, there are numerous obstacles to their relationship, like their different social statuses, the pressure on William to marry another woman, among other things.

The manga, by Kaoru Mori, also has a number of side stories, covering things like older characters' pasts and the daily lives of minor characters. They have more of a Slice of Life feel than the main story.

Yep, it's a classic, almost cliched story whose premise is almost a Dead Horse Trope. However, the story feels very fresh because of the personality of the main characters, and the fact that almost no one can be hinted as a real villain, even those who don't like Emma and William's relationship. It also helps that the Victorian sense of romance is very similar to the Japanese sense.

There was an anime series in 2005, which only covered half of the story. A second series, which completed the second half, began in April 2007. Both series have been released separately on DVD in the U.S.; an omnibus DVD edition, in two volumes, was released on September 13, 2011.


Although it has a sizable Periphery Demographic, fans explain it as "a show about a maid, but not a maid show."

Not to be confused with Jane Austen's Emma.

This series provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Especially in regards to the ending. The manga ends without a wedding or Distant Finale, at least at the time when the anime was produced. The last few side chapters wrapped it up with a wedding.
  • Animation Anatomy Aging: Compare Dorothea and Aurelia in flashbacks to their older versions. Also Kelly Stowner to some extent.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Argh, Vivi.
  • Apron Matron: Mrs. Kelly Stowner.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Mostly averted, as about half the characters are aristocrats. However, played devastatingly straight by Viscount Campbell.
  • Art Evolution: The manga starts off with its characters having soft, round features, making it quite unique compared to other manga. As it goes on, the style evolves into a more sharp, defined style, eventually with a typical "manga" look.
  • Advertisement:
  • At the Opera Tonight: Will and Eleanor watch The Barber Of Seville (presumably Rossini's version) together; Grace and Viscount Campbell are also fans. A later side-story goes behind-the-scenes with the cast.
  • Author Appeal: Author Mori Kaoru is an avowed Anglophile and very fond of maids (and possibly blondes)
  • Big Fancy House: This series shows just how much work goes into keeping one of these running.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Any writing in the anime shows up in English... but the series is produced entirely in Japan.
    • Spelling is a little irregular at times, like the Cristal Palace Gaid in volume 2 of the manga.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The final ending takes place early in the Edwardian era and just about everyone's happy. That is, until you realize what happens in less than 10 years...
  • Blind Without 'Em: Emma needs her glasses.
  • Cheerful Child: Erich Malders
  • Coitus Ensues: What happens between Wilhelm and Dorothea Malders in a side-story.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Kelly Stowner, again.
  • Crash-Into Hello: Dorothea almost ran Wilhelm down with her horse when she first saw him.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Tasha. 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.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Especially for Western readers. Curiously enough, the Victorian sense of romance is similar to Japanese ones.
  • Distant Finale: While it's not THAT distant, the 3-chapter finale covering William and Emma's wedding at the end of volume 10 apparently takes place several years after the end of the main part of the series, judging from how the children have aged.
  • The Door Slams You: Emma and William meet when Emma opens a door just as William raises his hand to knock. Mrs. Stowner is more than a little amused at the mark it leaves.
  • The Edwardian Era: When the finale takes place, sometime in the early/mid 1900s.
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom:
    • In the manga Dorothea has a very frank attitude toward sex, though this may be partly to emphasize her "foreignness". Standing naked in front of a window is probably going over the line, though. Then there's the servant girls bathing together and openly talking about how much they enjoy sex...
    • Actually it was just one maid talking about how she could never have just one man and the head maid telling her to not let her love life interfere with work or the household
    • It's also shown that Dorothea's attitudes have rubbed off on her husband as well.
  • Fanservice: Kind of an odd contrasting case, there's almost none, with the exception of Dorothea, who gets several rather gratuitous naked scenes.
  • Funny Foreigner: Prince Hakim and the Malders (specially Dorothea)
  • The Gay '90s: A newspaper in one of the side-stories suggest that most of the plot takes place around 1898 more or less.
  • Genki Girl: Vivianne
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Dorothea and Wilhelm are two of the nicest aristocrats you'd ever meet. They have a very active and loving sex life.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Naturally, but the level of detail is striking.
  • Gossipy Hens: Eleanor's interchangeable friends, at least one of whom has a crush on Grace
  • Great Detective: Very noteworthy aversion (this being a Victorian London tale, after all) when Emma gets abducted.
  • Happily Married:
    • Wilhelm and Dorothea Malders
    • And later William and Emma.
  • High-Class Glass: Vicount Campbell and Wilhelm.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Behind all their efforts to keep up appearances befitting their rank of Viscount, the Campbell family is in serious financial distress- and that is the only reason Viscount Campbell tolerates the Nobility Marries Money engagement between William Jones and his daughter Eleanor.
  • Historical Detective Fiction: When Emma gets abducted, William's search gets greatly hampered (notably averting the common Great Detective trope commonly associated in fiction with Victorian London) by what historically were the means at his disposal in 1890's England and America.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Eleanor and Hans to William and Emma respectively.
  • I Was Quite a Looker:
    • Johanna, the Malders' head cook, claims to be this, but we only have her word for it.
    • Actually, Kaoru Mori drew Johanna's younger self in the author's notes section in manga volume 6 and commented it with: "Young and pretty Johanna"
  • Is That Cute Kid Yours?: Grace gets this now and then about Vivian and Colin. She does not take it well.
  • Knight Templar Big Sister: Monica, to Eleanor, though not quite as extreme as most examples.
  • Large Ham: Monica.
  • Love at First Sight: William towards Emma
  • Meganekko: Emma
  • Meido: Emma and about half the cast
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Both the manga and anime have scenes where characters have their corsets laced. In the manga, the author explains that she is fond of such scenes.
  • Old Retainer: Stephens to the Joneses.
  • Only Six Faces: It is often difficult to differentiate between the characters; the author usually uses hairstyles and Animation Anatomy Aging to make her characters distinct. Most obvious with the women in Hakim's harem—it seems to be made up of several identical Indian beauties.
  • Parental Abandonment: Emma is an orphan; the Jouneses have a Missing Mom due to what looks like a case of post-partum depression. She's not dead, just retired in the Yorkshire countryside because she couldn't stand the stress of society life.
  • Playing Pictionary: Most people who see Colin's drawings can't quite tell what they're supposed to be, 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.
  • Porn Stache: Dorothea agrees to marry Wilhelm on the condition that he grows one — his face looks "scary" without. In her defense, it does make him appear more paternal.
  • Promotion to Parent: Grace has to fill in for her absent mother and busy father with Vivian and Colin. She might be a bit too good at it. William also catches a little of this.
  • Scenery Porn
  • Seinen: You'd think it would be Shoujo or Josei, given its focus on romance, but according to The Other Wiki, it isn't.
  • Self-Made Man: Mr. Richard Jones, who grew up outside of the traditional aristocracy and made his money through business. Although he rigidly conducts himself according the standards of a proper British gentleman, the Jones family is still seen as Nouveau Riche by some of the titled peerage.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Emma. Not that she's unattractive in her everyday maid outfit, but when she gets dolled up to accompany Mrs. Trollope to the party, she's stunning.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Rather obsessively in some respects. And then the translators Stateside decide to have Richard Jones say things like 'Blimey' just because he's British. Because, you know, people of his class would've said that. That said, there are some lapses by the author herself. In chapter 2, for example, there is a functional biplane model. Biplanes of that type only existed around World War I, almost two decades after the setting of the series.
    • It helps that after the release of Volume 3, a historical consultant was hired to maintain historical accuracy. That same consultant would also consult for the anime. As an amusing example of how it helped, in the series finale it's shown another planenote  that would be perfectly at ease in the 1900's.
  • Show Within a Show: The characters attend operas and plays pretty regularly. One manga chapter features The Prisoner of Zenda and another, The Barber of Seville.
  • Shrinking Violet:
    • Emma- justified on account of her social station; a girl from beginnings as... humble as hers could never have hoped for a respectable position as a lady's maid, which was fairly high-class for a poor girl in that day. Emma is keenly aware of social class and recognizes her absurd luck at having been taken in and educated by Kelly Stowner. She is thusly reluctant to do anything forward enough to jeopardize her career (or hurt William's standing), even if it means turning down the man she loves.
    • Also little Ilse Malders, who is quite shy.
  • Sleeping Single: Most of the aristocratic couples have separate bedrooms. This was very common in that era, partly because many upper-class marriages were Arranged Marriages, 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.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": One fan translation, while very good in most respects, insisted on the spelling 'Jounes.' The original official spelling was "Jounse," so this might not be as ludicrous as one might think.
  • Spoiled Brat: Vivian.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: William is just a bit too late to catch Emma when she leaves town.
  • Tsurime Eyes: Eleanor and the other Campbells.
  • Uptown Girl: Inverted, the girl is the poor maid and the guy is the wealthy gentleman from the Ritz.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The story of how William's parents met.
  • The Voiceless: Colin, until the Distant Finale.