Attention all anime-loving teachers and librarians! Are you tired of fielding complaints from concerned citizens about the library peddling filth and smut disguised as wholesome comic books to unwitting children? Do you grow weary having to explain to angry parents that not every anime involves short-skirted school-girls and naughty tentacles? Do you fear for the day that you might, in the words of H. L. Mencken, “spit on (your) hands, hoist the Jolly Roger, and begin to slit throats” if you ever hear another ignorant rube proclaim all anime and manga to be pornographic in nature?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then have I got an anime for you! An anime that is as clean as the sterling waters of a mountain stream! An anime one could easily watch with one’s grandparents or clergy leader without fear of a stern lecture! An anime as wholesome and pure as a Little House on the Prairie marathon! I speak, dear readers, of Emma: A Victorian Romance.
Our story is set in Victorian London, where a young woman named Emma works as a maid for Mistress Stownar — a retired governess. Emma is content with her life, having been saved from the streets by Mistress Stownar, and has never thought much about a husband, children, or any life outside of being a servant. That changes the day Mistress Stownar is paid a visit by William Jones, a young gentleman she cared for several years earlier.
The shy Emma falls head-over-heels in love with the excitable and honest William and he is similarly smitten by the hard-working maid. But this is 19th century London and the lines of class are all but impossible to cross. And the Joneses, while common, are quite wealthy, thanks to the canny business sense of William’s father. More, the elder Jones has it in mind for his family to marry into the nobility and William, as the eldest son, is his best bet to make that happen. Can love truly conquer all or will William be trapped in a loveless marriage to a debutante while Emma dies a spinster?
To be quite honest, I was bored senseless by most of this series, but I am not its target audience. This is an anime for fans of Regency Romances and other stories where the drama is built around glances held for far too long. I believe Emma will appeal greatly to those who enjoy Jane Austen novels, Downton Abbey, or the classic series Upstairs Downstairs. Emma and William are both likeable heroes and, despite the classist attitudes seeming a bit silly to my modern American sensibilities, the drama of this series never descends into melodrama.
The series is rated 7+ by Nozomi Entertainment and I consider that to be a safe, conservative and accurate rating. This is a Victorian Romance, after all, which means No Sex Please (We’re British) and no violence beyond a caddish sort being slapped in the face.
Emma: A Victorian Romance, season 1
Nozomi Entertainment, 2005
directed by Tsuneo Kobayashi
300 minutes, Number of Discs: 4, Season Box set
Company Age Rating: 7+
Related to: Emma by Kaoru Mori [Editor’s note: Mori’s manga series has some nudity in later volumes]