First Impressions: Emma, A Victorian Romance

They found shy love at first sight.

But will society keep them apart?

Meet Emma: unassuming, quiet, meganekko. AKA Victorian gentlemen's catnip!

I found this anime from random Amazon searching and have kept it on my hidden “Anime to Check Out” wish list for months. Then just last week I found episode one on YouTube, huzzah! I like romances, but this one had me at “Victorian” (being the historical anachronistic gothic nerd that I am). Emma: A Victorian Romance opens without a lot of fanfare or action. In fact, much like Honey and Clover, the first episode pretty much just introduces us to the main characters and sets the scene, which in this case is Victorian England. The titular gal in question is a maid working in the household of a lady of distinguished years (re: old) named Mrs. Stowner. Emma’s employer is a tough, no-nonsense gal who borders on bitchy, but she seems to genuinely care about the people around her. Speaking of which, that brings us to William.

"How do you take your tea, sir?" "Oh, I take it HOT. And with extra sugar, if you know what I mean."

This episode opens with William Jones, a young man from a wealthy upper-class family, visiting Mrs. Stowner, who used to be his governess. William is captivated by Emma from the moment she opens the front door and accidentally smacks him in the face. Emma seems taken with him as well, but in a much more reserved and shy fashion. William accidentally leaves his gloves at Mrs. Stowner’s house, giving Emma cause to run after him, but he disappears before she catches up to him. Then we get a taste of their daily lives: William lounges in an office, admonishes a maid for calling him “Young Master,” and daydreams of Emma’s face. Emma does more chores, accepts a love letter from a postman, then stays up late to write a rejection letter in return. It turns out that despite being a shy maid with glasses, Emma is one hot ticket, and she constantly turns down various suitors.

I'm so rich that I make it rain whenever I want. Stick with me, baby!

The next day William waits around outside of Mrs. Stowner’s house with a bouquet of flowers. However, Emma is already at the market buying potatoes. William browses in a nearby shop, then spies Emma through the window. He flags her down and they walk together, during which we discover that William is a bit of a chatterbox, and that Emma needs a new glasses prescription. William wants to buy her a new pair, but she turns him down. (I, on the other hand, have no problem accepting expensive gifts, which is where Emma and I differ.) We discover in a flashback that Mrs. Stowner gave Emma the pair of spectacles that she currently wears, so perhaps it’s sentimentality that causes her to turn down William’s offer. However, William really wants to buy her something, so she finally confesses that she’s always wanted a lace handkerchief. William is delighted and obliges at once. The episode ends with Emma caressing her new lace handkerchief in her room.

So soft... like a unicorn's back hair...

I can tell right now that this series would be way too slow for some folks, but personally, I love it. British romances are already my bread and butter, especially Victorian romances, so this is basically an anime version of something that I already love. Win-win! Episode one was full of soft glances and longing daydreams and perfectly matched Eddie Izzard‘s description of British drama: “I… I think I’d better go.” “Yes, I think you’d better had.” (If you aren’t familiar with Eddie Izzard’s Dress To Kill or you just love Colin Firth and/or Ben Barnes, check out this great video making fun of British drama.) As with all anime series from a few years ago, the art is a little dated; also, the music sounds more like a ren faire than Victorian England (the end credits music would be very much at home on the soundtrack to Spice and Wolf). But overall I’m down with Miss Emma (what can I say, I’m a sucker for a glasses-wearin’ brunette female protagonist) and William is adorable in his clumsy courtship. If you like subtle romance like I do, definitely check out Emma: A Victorian Romance. This is a series that I’ll certainly be glued to the computer to watch more of.

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