Every once in a while an anime comes along that instantly stands out from the rest. Whether it's because of a unique premise, an interesting art style, stellar story, or outstanding character development, these types of shows are a rarity. Rightstuf! found such a show when they licensed Emma: A Victoria Romance. The kicker is that Emma doesn't just have one of the aforementioned traits, it has them all.
The first season of Emma came out in July of 2008 and it proved to be an instant success. There series was unlike anything I had seen before and by the time the final episode rolled around I was anxiously waiting the second season. The show crafted such a unique world for its characters and told a rich romance story set within Victoria London. Not only that, but I found the art style and atmosphere of the show to be incredibly surreal. Emma is such a detailed series that it instantly separates itself from the rest of the anime market. Show's simply do not look like this, and when combined with the story it all came together to create something special.
In case you missed it the first time around, Emma: A Victoria Romance is all about a love story between a woman named Emma and a guy known as William. As it turns out Emma is a servant with a tragic past, but through the graces of Kelly Stowner she learns quite a few things about high society and receives a proper education. It's through Miss Stowner that she meets William Jones, who comes to visit his former governess one day. Emma and William hit it off right from the start, and there's just something about the girl that William infatuating.
Throughout the first season we saw as the two played around with the notion of love. The plot was set to the pace of a slow simmer and it took the entire season to get to a certain boiling point. In between major events William's friend Hakim took interest in Emma and a girl named Eleanor played for William's favor. The fact that William was part of societies upper crust and Emma was simply a servant also came into play. Without spoiling too much about the ending, the first season came to a close with Emma moving away from William.
In this second season we pick up with Emma as she ventures to the countryside and manages to land a job in the village of Haworth. The Molder household is significantly different than what she was accustomed to with attending to Miss Stowner. Rather than a single elderly woman, Emma has to deal with a whole house and several other servants. It's a new environment for her, but in the way that only Emma can she soldiers on and makes quite a name for herself with the new mistress. She manages to win several favors and gains the attention of her bosses, to the point that she's even invited to accompany them on social outings and whatnot.
Meanwhile, back in London William is still pining for Emma and longs to be with her. This makes life a little awkward for him and his family, as their fellow aristocrats spread rumors about him loving a servant. With Emma away William as to buckle down and focus on business, but with Eleanor being pushed his way that makes things a little difficult. She is essentially forced upon him, and though Eleanor has plenty of strengths to call her own, William can't help but think of Emma. Imagine the turmoil he goes through as an engagement is more or less thrust upon him.
Right up until a little beyond the midpoint of this season you'll get the feelings that both Emma and William are being driven together despite the great distance between them. It's something that is heartfelt as we get glimpses at each of them and how they are handling being separated. They were only together for a short time, but it seems that a connection formed that draws them closer together. I won't divulge the details about the finale here, but let's just say that it's wholly satisfying, emotional, and inevitable.
The second season of Emma: A Victoria Romance is powerful stuff. It's every bit as endearing as the first season was, and stands as a shining example of how there is still fresh and unique anime out there. If you missed the first season you simply have to check it out. This is one of the better shows in Rightstuf!'s catalog and it's a series you won't soon forget when you're finished watching it. Highly Recommended
Emma: A Victoria Romance is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a show that will immediately draw you in thanks to its fantastic and incredibly accurate designs of the Victoria era. Such painstaking detail was put into this show that it's a stunning and unique work of art. The picture quality of this DVD is very good with an overall clean presentation that only suffers from some soft areas and light grain. Otherwise the colors are appropriate and there is no aliasing or compression to complain about. Even though the production houses changed for the second season I'm pleased to say that the show didn't lose any of its luster or charm.
One thing that may be off-putting for some with this release is the fact that it only comes with the original Japanese dub. There is no English language available here and you'll have to read subtitles. This is perfectly fine in my book but not everyone appreciates original Japanese soundtracks. Technically speaking the quality of this DVD is fine for what it is. With the 2.0 stereo output there isn't much depth on the soundstage, but then again there doesn't really have to be. This is a series that's all about the dialogue so there's no need for a bombastic soundtrack to accompany it.
The second season of Emma includes another fantastic booklet full of information about the show, interviews, and sketches. Rather than be called Victoria Gazette Vol. 2 this one is simply entitled Victoria Picture Book, probably due to the fact that there's more artwork in it. As far as features on the four discs are concerned there are some trailers for other Nozomi shows, a thank you list with fan credits, a pair of Japanese commercials for the show, and clean opening and closing animations. There is also an addition episode entitled "Intermission", which more or less serves as a refresher of the first season to catch you up to speed.
Emma: A Victoria Romance once again takes its romantic tale to some painfully elongated extremes. The second season of the show is in no hurry to bring its lead characters together and the journey to that point is every bit as fascinating and charming as you'd expect after experiencing the first season. In case you missed out on the original release by Rightstuf! go check it out. This is simply one of the most unique shows out there and it's a charming from start to finish. Thankfully the follow up season for Emma was everything I hoped it would be. Highly Recommended
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