On Feb. 5, 2013 the Nozomi Entertainment branch of Right Stuf, Inc. released the first season of “Emma: A Victorian Romance” in a DVD litebox edition, and they were kind enough to provide us with the opportunity to review this historical romance series based on the manga by Kaoru Mori.
“Emma: A Victorian Romance” is set during the 19th century in Victorian Era London and follows the story of Emma, a young maid who falls in love with someone from the gentry, high society. When Emma was 15 she was taken in by Mrs. Stowner, a former governess, who educates Emma and gives her a home.
It is through Mrs. Stowner that Emma meets William Jones, the eldest of the Jones family children and the heir to the wealthy merchant family’s business, who falls for Emma instantly, likewise for Emma. No love story would be complete without some hardships however and the series definitely delivers on struggles for the young couple, the main issue being the division between the classes and William’s father, who opposes the relationship wholeheartedly, constantly trying to set William up with Eleanor, the daughter of a viscount, so that the merchant family can finally receive a title, effectively moving up in class.
Stuck up family members aren’t the only issue that Emma and William face though, William finds competition for Emma’s heart in the form of Prince Hakim, an Indian prince who while visiting William is taken with Emma and threatens to steal her away if William isn’t more aggressive and honest in his pursuit of her. Eleanor also proves a challenge as she falls for William and he is unable to tell her how he really feels, often leading her on unintentionally.
Despite all of the drama that the series has, the relationships take time to develop and because of this the story can move a little slowly. Emma is also a reserved character and she can seem bland at times, but as things progress you learn more about her and she starts to open up a little, making it much easier to like her. Her docile nature does seem to fit with the rest of the cast though; Prince Hakim and the Jones siblings are much more vocal and eccentric so it provides a nice contrast.
Visually the anime looks good, the picture quality is smooth and everything is colorful. One thing that the studio managed to do a nice job of was capture a lot of the detail and quality that you expect to see from Kaoru Mori’s manga, which is pretty impressive, and the character designs all seem to fit nicely with everyone as well.
The Japanese voice cast fit almost perfectly with their characters and they manage to capture the emotions well. From the condescending tones of the gentry to the peculiar personality of Prince Hakim and even Emma’s timid demeanor, all of the voices sounded pretty close to what they needed to be. It would have been nice to have the option of English dubs, but not having them doesn’t really hurt the viewing experience since the subtitles all read well, had good flow and remained on screen for a fair amount of time.
The four DVD set comes in a standard DVD case, featuring a nice image of Emma in her maid uniform, with slots on both sides that hold all four discs neatly. Included as on-disc features were trailers for the anime and other Nozomi Entertainment releases, the textless opening and closing, promos, commercials and TV spots, as well as character bios.
All-in-all “Emma: A Victorian Romance” is a great romance series filled with plenty of drama that can feel bittersweet. Though it is a more serious anime it does also offer a bit of comedy, which helps to break things up a little, and since it isn’t over the top and doesn’t happen very often you never feel like it is unnecessary or out of place.
While the story can feel like it develops too slow, once things do get going it can be hard to stop watching. Emma and William make an interesting match but many of the other characters are also likeable so it can be difficult to really root for one couple to get what they want over someone else. The way that the first season ends however will make the wait for season two just a bit harder, if you choose to wait for the litebox version that is.
If you’re looking for a good serious romantic anime or you just need a Kaoru Mori fix then you should definitely look into “Emma: A Victorian Romance”. The price tag for the first season is pretty reasonable, though currently set at $39.99 it shouldn’t be too difficult to find the collection for $29.99.
Emma: A Victorian Romance - Season One
Publisher: Nozomi Entertainment
Runtime: 300 minutes
Number of Discs: 4 DVDs
Number of Episodes: 12
Languages: Japanese with English subtitles
Age Rating: 7+
Release Date: Feb. 5, 2013
(A review copy of “Emma: A Victorian Romance” season one on DVD was provided by Nozomi Entertainment.)