Victorian Romance Emma Review


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      Update: CMX of DC Comics has licensed the manga Victorian Romance Emma for release on September 20, 2006.

      I do seem to be the master of the unusual don't I? To explain this one, I had just finished reading a book by Jane Austin titled Northanger Abby and was paging through recent fan-sub releases. Somewhere in there I see "Emma" and I think, "No, surely it can't be."

      It wasn't.

      But it was . . . a Victorian romance?!?

      Victorian Romance Emma is a story of love and class division in the England of the mid-to-late 1800's. Emma is a girl in her twenties. She works as a maid of all trades for Mrs. Kelly Stowner. William Jones is the son of an extremely successful merchant and therefore a member of the Gentry. William meets Emma when he stops by Mrs. Stowner house for a visit. It seems she was his nurse and tutor when he was young.

      The level of detail in this series is incredible. I'd guess the translator took it as a dare to look up any unknown mannerisms or activities. In the first episode we see Emma scattering tea leaves on the floor before sweeping. The translator ended up quoting a housekeeping book from the period, "In the absense of tea simply drive the dust from one part of the room to another." Cassells Household Guide, 1880. Later we see servants ironing the newspaper before taking it up stairs to the master. Reason? To set the print so the master wouldn't get ink all over his hands.

      Speaking more from a cultural standpoint, it's interesting that the author chose to make William a member of the gentry instead of the nobility. The gentry were a class of successful businessmen who often had more money than the nobility. They were not of noble birth however, so they were somehow lower than the nobles. What makes this interesting to me is that the only difference between William and Emma is money, there is no heredity involved. Even so, England clung so tightly to classes and layers of society that this is all the difference in the world. For contrast, the rival love interest is a girl of the nobility. These matches were often very desired by both sides. By this point in history, the nobility were finding that their old sources of income no longer supported their lifestyles. A marriage to a family of the gentry would bring in much needed cash. On the other family's side, such a marriage would bring them up the ladder into the circle of the nobility. As William doesn't really care about such things this would be easy to turn away if the girl was in some way unlikable. If she were greedy, snobby, or mean she'd be easy to dismiss, but that's not the case. Eleanor is naive and follows fashion religiously, but really she has a sweet heart. Just to make it worse, without his trying to please her, William instead thoroughly impresses her. It's really hard to turn away a girl who's done nothing to deserve it.

      This is an excellent show, though it only ran long enough to complete half of the original script. I would be curious to know if A&E would be interested in a show like this.

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