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Manga / Victorian Romance Emma

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It's London, in the mid-to-late 1890s. Young Emma is a "maid of all works" who lives and works for a former governess, noteworthy and outstanding because of her unusually high level of instruction – her mistress 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: their different social statuses, the pressure on William to marry another woman, among other things.
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Sure, you may have heard this story before; the basic premise is a bit cliché, but it works thanks in large part to the likeable and strong personalities of most characters, especially the two leads.

This manga, running in Monthly Comic Beam from 2002 to 2008, was the first long-form story by Kaoru Mori, who quickly demonstrated many of her trademarks that would carry over to future series – strong female characters, historical settings, and obsessive attention to detail particularly with clothing. The main story ran for seven volumes, and was immediately followed up by three more volumes made up mostly of Slice of Life side stories covering the pasts or continuing adventures of secondary or minor characters.

A 12-Episode Anime scripted by Mamiko Ikeda and directed by Tsuneo Kobayashi at Studio Pierrot aired in 2005. It covers the first three books. A second series (also twelve episodes) aired in 2007 to complete the story, although its details diverge from the manga significantly toward the climax for dramatic effect and ease of narrative.

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In North America, the manga was originally licensed and translated by CMX, the now-defunct manga label of DC Comics, and quickly became one of their most popular series, though its good sales were not enough to keep Time Warner from pulling the plug on the subsidiary. Nearly a decade after CMX shuttered, Yen Press – which was already publishing Mori's subsequent series A Bride's Story – picked up Emma, retranslated it, and released it in five oversized hardcover volumes (basically the same format in which they print Bride's Story but thicker).

The anime was licensed by Nozomi Entertainment in 2008 and released on DVD in two boxsets, one for each season. In September 2018, Nozomi announced their intention to use Kickstarter to attempt to fund an HD upscale for the series and an English dub. The campaign ended 30 days later having grossed over $250,000 – more than enough to dub both seasons. The first season is expected to be released sometime in 2019. There also exists an earlier dub made for Anglophone Asia by Animax, but (as with most Animax dubs) fans of the series don't like to talk about it.

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As fans of the series like to explain, Emma is "a show about a maid, but not a maid show."

Not to be confused with Jane Austen's Emma, which is nearly two hundred years older.


This series provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The anime does this with the ending because the original run of the manga wrapped without a wedding or Distant Finale, so Kobayashi and Ikeda added one. The last half of the manga's tenth volume, produced later, cover William and Emma's 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. About half the characters are aristocrats, titled or not, and many are very nice. 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.
  • At the Opera Tonight: William 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: Kaoru Mori was not shy about admitting that half the things that she put in the manga were because she liked them. This includes not only big things like her being a huge Anglophile and loving maids (and blondes), but things that have little to do with the story like Hakim's "quadruplet" entourage.
  • Big Fancy House: This series shows just how much work goes into keeping one of these running. We are shown some of the inner workings of the Jones estate outside London and a lot of the nuts and bolts of the Mölders' estate near Haworth.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Every male member of the Jones family except Colin. In fact, most men in the series have these.
  • Bilingual Bonus: All non-dialogue writing in the series is, naturally, in English. This despite Mori and the animation staff being Japanese.
    • While Mori herself made some spelling flubs – like the "Cristal Palace Gaid" in Volume 2 – the English shown in the anime on signs and in letters is almost flawless. Those letters provide detail beyond the dialogue and give a nice flavour to the writing style of the time.
      Kelly: (to Emma) "When I taught you to write, I never expected you to use your skill like this." (refusing marriage proposals)
  • Blind Without 'Em: Emma needs her glasses.
    • In fact, she's explicitly stated to need stronger glasses than what she has, but refuses to allow William to buy her new ones because Kelly gave her her original pair; it's the first gift anyone ever gave her.
  • Cheerful Child: Erich Mölders
  • Coitus Ensues: What happens between Wilhelm and Dorothea Mölders 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 evidently takes place several years after the end of the main part of the series, judging from how the children have aged.
    • The anime's finale is even more distant, with William and Emma already having several children.
  • 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 around 1904/5.
  • 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 scene in the manga where Maria bathes with Adele and waxes about how she could never have just one man (Adele is not amused and tells her not to let her love life interfere with her work).
    • 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 early in the series. The Mölders (especially Dorothea) later.
  • The Gay '90s: When this series takes place. While the exact year is never specified, it cannot start earlier than 1895 due to the Tower Bridge's existence. By the time of William and Emma's wedding, it's some time after 1901 because Queen Victoria has died and motorcars are rapidly replacing horse-drawn carriages in the City.
  • Genki Girl: Vivian, to a fault.
  • 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: You should expect no less from a Kaoru Mori series. Absurd attention to clothing detail is kind of her thing.
  • 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) in the manga when Emma gets abducted.
  • Happily Married:
    • Wilhelm and Dorothea Mölders
    • Later, William and Emma.
  • High-Class Glass: Viscount 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. 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: Two of the older ladies in the series.
    • Kelly Stownar, first and foremost. One of the first side stories involves her (aged 18/19) and her husband Doug trying to save enough money to visit the Great Exhibition at Hyde Park in 1851.
    • Johanna, the Mölders' head cook, claims to be this, but – aside from a small sketch by Mori in one of her omake – we only have her word for it, and that her daughter is drop-dead gorgeous.
  • 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 omake, Mori explains that she is fond of such scenes.
  • Old Retainer: Stephens to the Joneses. Martha to Aurelia.
  • 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.
  • Only Six Faces: Mori began to have issues with this as the series went on and the cast grew. She typically uses hairstyles and Animation Anatomy Aging to make her characters distinct.
    • Taken Up to Eleven with Hakim's travelling harem; it appears to be made up of several identical Indian beauties. Mori heavily implied this was intentional on her part.
  • Parental Abandonment: As to be expected in a Victorian period piece.
    • Emma is an orphan at least twice over. Her birth parents both died, and she was taken (literally) from her cruel relatives. Eventually Kelly all but adopted her, but then she died.
    • The Jones kids have a Missing Mom. She's not dead; Richard just shipped her off to the Yorkshire countryside to save face after she unintentionally humiliated him in front of the elite thanks to what appears to be a case of undiagnosed postpartum depression. And she couldn't stand the stress of Society life anyway.
  • 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.
    • This includes William himself, according to Stephens, who keeps all the kids' drawings on the walls of his office.
  • 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: A little bit in the manga, and a lot in the anime. What do you expect from the guy who directed The Twelve Kingdoms?
  • Seinen: You'd think it would be Shojo or Josei, given its focus on romance, but according to The Other Wiki, it isn't.
  • Self-Made Man: Mr. Richard Jones. Grew up outside the traditional aristocracy and has no title. He made his fortune by building upon the trading business started by his 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.
  • 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: You really shouldn't expect any less with Kaoru Mori or Tsuneo Kobayashi.
    • That's not to say there aren't mistakes. One in particular occurs in both media – early on, William has a functional toy biplane of a type that wouldn't exist in real life until twenty years later, during World War I.
    • At some point after the release of Volume 3, Mori brought on a historical consultant, Rico Murakami, to help her with the little details. Murakami would go on to consult for the anime.
      • As an amusing example of how it helped, the series finale shows another plane[[labelnote:†]] (a pusher-prop, bi-planed-tail, square high wing monoplane in a car-like carriage — this seems to be a mix between the models built by the Wright Brothers in 1903 – biplane-tail push-proper; and by Pearse in 1904 – monoplane, square high wings, similar carriage)[[/note]] 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 thus 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.
      • During her time at the Mölders estate, after her return from London where she encounters William again, she is much more bright and talkative. All the other staff wonder just what the hell happened.
    • Also little Ilse Mölders, who is quite shy, and the rare occasions she does speak aren't in English.
  • 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, 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 are, of course, the major exception.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": The CMX manga translation and Nozomi's later translation don't agree on much.
    • Is Kelly's married name "Stowner" or "Stownar"?
    • What is Wilhelm's family name?
    • Is Hakim's Princely House "Atawari" or "Atawaly"… or some combination?
    • Does Emma go to Haworth or Harworth? note 
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Invoked and obliquely discussed with Emma. She does not like it when anyone says she's attractive (except William). 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… but had to spend years living on the street begging for work and food instead.
  • Spoiled Brat: Vivian.
  • Street Urchin: Emma was one of these for many years before Kelly took her in and gave her an education. She considers it one of her darkest secrets and is ill at ease even telling sympathetic people like Dorothea about it, to say nothing of William.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: Happens in both media, albeit in slightly different ways.
    • In the anime, William gets to the train just as it's pulling out of the station and Emma consciously ignores him. In the manga, by the time William reaches the station, the train's long gone and he's alone on the platform aside from the little girl selling flowers.
  • Tsurime Eyes: Eleanor and the other Campbell women.
    • Also Vivian, which prompted manga readers of the time to ask if she and Eleanor were related (they're not).
  • 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.

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