Set in late 19th Century Victorian London, Emma A Victorian Romance relays the tale of a pair of people from very different social casts who meet as if by fate and who have to try to deal with the feelings each has for the other while coping with a societal structure that has them fighting against the tide of the expectations placed on them by family and friends as they are expected to act in certain ways reflective of their stations in life. The main female protagonists is the 20 year old Emma, a woman of very humble means who spends her days in the employ of Kelly Stowner, an elderly woman who had spent her life as a governess and who meets the young woman on the street and takes her in giving her both a job and an education which would be rare for her class in the day.
Events start when Mrs. Stowner’s former student William Jones (the main male protagonist) comes to pay a call on his former teacher and finds himself falling head over heels for the young woman he finds in her employ who possesses a classical type beauty and he comes to desire to spend all his free time- and even some of his not so free- with her. But young Jones’ family is one that is very wealthy and newly moving up the social stratus and is just starting to be accepted in the upper echelons of society and having a member do something as extreme as buck social conventions, particularly when the youth will be blowing off a very pretty young woman from a family with a title who has taken an interest in Mr. Jones in order to pursue a relationship that most around them simply can’t comprehend, creates a fear in William’s family that he will undo all the hard work put into getting to that new social area and adds familial pressure to the mix as well. With practically their whole world against them will the two find that love conquers all or will they be pulled apart by forces far more powerful then they can fight?
One of the strengths of anime as a medium is its ability to often seamlessly travel to far off worlds and create environments that barely seem imaginable while also being able to travel to far more established times and to peel away the layers of situations of the past both to find the human aspects within as well as to examine how the echoes of the times that people think society has moved past in fact can still be seen reflected in some societal pressures that exist today in certain areas and beliefs. In addition to this, Emma additionally takes a dramatic step away from not just most anime romances but also many popular romance stories in more mainstream storytelling by taking a path far less traveled as instead of highlighting a lot of comedic or dramatic moments to sell its leads falling in love with each other (and also to help the viewer to fall in love with the pair at the same time) Emma allowing its two leads to have the “love at first sight” encounter but to then build upon that through more quiet moments of the pair just spending rather ordinary time together. In addition some depth is added to the relationship through the presenting of the lengths that a smitten Mr. Jones goes to in order to spend time with the woman he has fallen for which speak of a realistic charm that one can easily believe and which may also resonate with many who have been in love and who have experienced similar desires. While the series does have a couple of moments of absurd humor these largely exist to provide a bit of an extreme break that allows the viewer a chance to laugh and help process some of the deeper emotions being stirred and don’t exist as the centerpiece of any given episode or to draw away attention from the romance.
It isn’t all perfect here though as one of the series draw backs in its attempt to be as realistic in most instances as possible demonstrates one of the flaws inherent in anime as a good deal of the characters in the series are blue eyed and blond and in certain situations it can be hard to differentiate some of the more minor and incidental cast at a quick glance and it helps demonstrates why having such varied hair colors and some occasionally wild styles tend to propagate in the medium in order to help set individual characters apart easier. On top of that the series at times feels like it rides quite heavily on the charms of its setting and cast in order to cast its spell and coast over some gaps that feel like are created when so much of the “love at first sight” mechanism comes into play and the series wants to also flesh out some of the supporting cast and environment which can leave one feeling like the attachment to the leads as well some of the surrounding cast may be tenuous, hanging very strongly on one’s connection to the premise and the moments that do endear members to them in order to keep some of the scenes and events moving. In some ways the series feels like one that is aiming to be of the style of anime that leaves one feeling better than when they came in and it does manage this even with its flaws as time seems to just vanish the viewer becomes enraptured in its tale, though the impact may be one that is a bit more limited to the immediate time that one is watching and may have less carry over post viewing than some other series but it doesn’t undercut the emotions created in the moment and when combined with its rather unique setting and pace it will certainly charm far more people than it alienates.