Victorian Romance Emma is a show that's simply a hard sell in even a good anime market, never mind one like it is now. The first of two seasons aired in the spring of 2005 and garnered a lot of acclaim from critical fans as a show that's unlike others because of its nature, setting and the almost quaint approach to the romance. In a time when everything seems to only get brasher and more outlandish, something we see every few years, this is a very quiet and subtle romantic series that doesn't hit you over the head with things and allows the characters to really shine through some beautifully quiet scenes.
My introduction to Victorian Romance Emma actually came from the CMX manga releases and I have to admit that I dropped it after two volumes. CMX did a great job with the book but the material simply didn't captivate me in the slightest. It had such a following that I wanted to give it a shot since I like the genre in general and I wanted to see something that was "sweet" and different. The anime incarnation breathes in just the right amount of life to make it all worthwhile however. The first episode has been showing up on the final disc from NewType USA but we managed to snag a screener disc that has the show in its full anamorphic glory. Visually, Victorian Romance Emma is a rarity since it pays very close attention to the details of the time period which in turn gives it a very rich feeling. There are backgrounds that you pause to take an extra look at in order to admire just how well done it all is.
A show like this can't survive on that alone though and it's the characters and the romance that is key. The series revolves around two characters who really do seem to fall in love at first sight. William Jones has come to visit his former teacher, Kelly Stowner, and is smacked right in the forehead by the front door when her maid, Emma, comes to check who is there. When he finally sees her for the first time, he's smitten in a very restrained way and you can see similar with her. Even Kelly realizes it when a simple bit of forgetfulness has Emma thinking of running after him when he left. This chance meeting sets the stage for William to begin his pursuit of her in proper Victorian fashion for a young man whose family is trying to move up to the gentry.
With only one episode, there really isn't a whole lot to say about the plot, but the feeling that it puts out there is so touching and tender that it's almost addictive. What really surprised me with it was just how mellow and thoughtful it can be. Emma has a few scenes by herself where she's thinking of her past and how Kelly had gotten her first pair of glasses and how that opened up her world. There is a beautiful sequence where she's undoing her hair and it falls around her. She takes off her glasses and there is certainly a beauty to the design, but not a standout overdone kind of beauty. What makes it all the better though is that she's quietly reflective of what's transpiring in her life now, and it's all told with just her eyes and a small subtle piece of instrumental music.
It's simply charming. It's the kind of show that you really sit down and want to know exactly what's going to happen next. It's a romance where you become quickly invested in seeing how these two get along, what challenges they'll face and hoping that they can buck the odds. I watched this with my wife and my eight year old daughter and both were quite interested in it. I was far more surprised that my daughter was into it, but the layout of the show knew exactly how to capture things. The opening scene with the door has a cat that's toying with Williams hat while the adults are apologizing and straightening things out. That little bit of humor disarmed her and got her to keep going along with it to see what other cute moments there were. Before you know it, the episode is over and she wants to know why we don't have more of it right now. Emma can certainly cross boundaries and appeal to a wide range of people. I was certainly unsure of how I would like this based off of my problems with the manga, but this is a case where the anime is likely to surpass the manga in a lot of ways simply because of how it comes to life. June cannot come fast enough for this release.
Visit the official site from Nozomi Entertainment to see the trailer