The anime “Emma: A Victorian Romance” is a real-life maid series, that counteracts the current trend in Japan of the oversexualized maid cafes. However, from what I saw in the first DVD, the series just isn’t exciting enough to catch my interest.
The plot is very simple. Set in 19th century England, Emma is a maid for her mistress, Kelly Stowner. Kelly used to be a governess to William Jones, a gentleman who works with his father to trade with India. William falls in love with Emma and buys her flowers and lace gloves.
However, at a ball, a 19-year-old named Elanor Campbell falls in love with William in episode 2. Although there’s some confusion when Emma spots him shopping for a gift with Elanor nearby, William showed up at Emma’s house later to give her the gift, a lace umbrella.
The story throws a curve ball in the third episode when William’s friend in India, Hakim, arrives with his lady friends and his elephants. And William rides with Hakim on an elephant to Emma’s, Hakim falls in love too. Hakim immediately tells her that he loves her, and buys her an expensive gift. However, Emma is not really fond of expensive attire.
While all this Japanese gift-giving etiquette in 19th century England is fine for a few episodes, it almost consumes what could have been a great Jane Austen-style romance. The characters spend so much time thinking about what gifts are best that they forget to develop strong, emotional relationships. The anime integrates visuals very well, with crazy elephant rides and beautiful outfits. However, Emma lacks the memorable dialogue to back it up. Supposedly, there’s a conflict in which Emma cannot marry William because she’s a common maid, but I haven’t seen it yet.
See Anime News Network’s review of the “Emma” box set.
Image courtesy of anime.mikomi.org and batrock.net