14 November 2010

Anime rec: Victorian Romance Emma

Victorian Romance Emma is an anime based on a manga by Kaoru MORI. Emma is a maid in London in 189X. Her employer is a widow who used to work as a governess for the Jones family. One day, William Jones, the eldest son, comes to visit Mrs. Stowner, and Emma opens the door on him (in a near-slapstick fashion, before he even knocks). They fall for each other, but his family strongly disapproves: they're gentry, she's a maid.

Complicating matters is William's father, who wants him to marry Miss Campbell, the daughter of Baron Campbell.

The anime adaptation follows the manga fairly closely in the first season, which covers two volumes, then makes some changes in the second season, which covers the remaining six volumes. The second season focuses on the obstacles placed in William and Emma's path by the mores of Victorian society, as well as members of that society.

The manga was meticulously researched, and MORI included everything from Mudie's library to the Crystal Palace, and she got the fashions spot on (after the first few chapters).

William has a friend from India, Prince Hakim, whom he met at school, and Hakim has a small troupe of girls who surround him all the time (and are silent). There may be a bit of stereotyping going on here; I'm not familiar enough with Indian culture during the colonial occupation to make that assessment.

Mori doesn't gloss over the rigid class hierarchy in England at the time, but she doesn't get Dickensian on it, either. When Mr. Jones says that he won't allow his son to marry a maid, it's in part because he's just ascended into the Society that includes balls and debutantes and nobility, and he doesn't want William to tarnish his reputation, but also because maids are lower class. But Baron Campbell scorns the Joneses as nouveau riche scum. He can't win, it seems.

The anime runs 26 episodes. Even for anime, this was a very niche title. Nozomi Entertainment licensed and released it in the US. Each season comes with a 100-page booklet on Victoriana and about the characters. The packaging is very nice, and if you look in the extras on disc 1 of season 2, you'll see my name listed as one of the people who supported the release of the second season.

The manga has 9 volumes and was published in the US by CMX. Older volumes are hard to come by on Amazon (they start at $25 for a $10 book). Right Stuf still lists most of the volumes.

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