I've been a fan of RightStuf since I stumbled upon a VHS
tape of anime that they released in the mid-to-late 1990's. I've been following their releases (and their
store... I dropped a bundle last month during their "13 Days of Christmas
sale." I can resist everything except
discounted 80%) ever since. One show
that they released that I never got around to watching however was Emma: A Victorian Romance. It
had heard good things about it, but there
are only so many anime-watching hours in a day, and that title just
through the cracks. I'm said it did,
because the show is excellent. Previously
released in a limited edition with an attractive artbox, the first
being re-released in a single case at a reduced price.
If you haven't had a chance to check out this
wonderful show, now's the perfect chance.
Set in Victorian London, Emma is the sole maid in a modest
house belonging to Mrs. Stowner, a retired governess.
Emma is attractive and smart, but she's turns
down all of the suitors that come knocking at Mrs. Stowner's door. None one has caught her interest... until
William Jones came to the door.
Mr. Jones was one of the children Mrs. Stowner took care of
before she retired. Now grown, the
handsome young man is the eldest son of a wealthy merchant is being
take over his father's vast holdings.
When coming to pay a visit to his old teacher however, he
falls in love with Emma, and the feeling is definitely mutual.
William is afraid to let the servant know how he feels, so
instead he arranges to 'accidently' bump into her every day while she's
the shopping. He walks her home,
carrying the produce that she's purchased, and they talk.
The problem is that Emma and William are from two different
worlds. Not only is he wealthy while
she's a domestic, but the Jones family are newly rich.
It has been hard for the family to be
accepted into polite society since they aren't of noble birth, but
has, reluctantly, managed to open doors.
Now they are invited to the best balls and dinner galas, but a
like the eldest marrying one of the help would not only make them
stocks and ostracized by the rest of the society people, but it would
their business holdings. A lot of deals
are made while the men are talking together after a lavish dinner.
As his father sternly tells William, as the heir he has a
responsibility to the rest the family, the business, and the 100+
they employ. Some things are just not
done and he can't buck convention. But
the heart wants what the heart wants.
This is a show that's very different from any other manga
I've read or anime I've seen. Set in the
past, there aren't any fantasy or SF elements.
No dragons, wizards, time travelers, or invading armadas. This is a charming show about what it was
like to live over a hundred years ago. That's it, but it's more than
The first thing that will strike viewers are the
backgrounds. The author of the manga
that this anime is based upon, Kaoru Mori, has done his research and
recreated 19th Century London wonderfully.
The public transportation (horse drawn
carriages) have ads for contemporary products (in English no less) and
details of making tea or shopping in the market are quite authentic
looking. This attention to detail really
draws you into the story.
The characters are very likable too. William
is a somewhat shy young man who has a
stubborn streak. Even though he can
understand his father's point, he doesn't see why he has to abide by it. One of my favorites in the show is Hakim
Atawari, William's best friend from boarding school who also happens to
prince from India. Hakim, who arrives riding an elephant with
scantily clad women throwing rose petals in his path, is much more of a
spirit than William, and he also takes a fancy to Emma spurning his
The background to the simple love story is what really makes
this a superb anime. Not only William's
problems with his father, but also how he lives and what he and his
for fun. When Emma's story is told
towards the end of the season it's heartbreaking but all too believable. The fact that the show doesn't go for any
easy answers at the end to tie things up is also very welcome.
This release collects the entire 12-episode series into one
compact single-width DVD case. Inside
you'll find four discs with three episodes each. In
these days where most anime companies are
cutting corners wherever they can, it's nice to see this wonderful
out across four discs.
The show comes with the original Japanese audio track in
stereo and optional English subtitles, and it sounds fine.
It is a rather sedate show, with no mecha,
space battles, or fight scenes, so there not much going on aurally. The audio suits the show, with a clean and
clear dialog and some exceptionally nice piano music for atmosphere
comes through nicely.
The anamorphic 1.77:1 image looks very good. As
one would suspect with only three episodes
per DVD, there isn't any compression artifacts.
Aliasing, a defect that often plagues animated shows and films,
absent and the same can be said of other flaws that creep in with the
encoding. The show uses a warm color
palate and that comes through nicely.
This is a great looking set.
The bonus material includes character biographies, a clean
opening and closing, Japanese TV spots and promos as well as a R1
This show is very different than the other anime I've seen
(and that's a LOT) but don't let the setting and the lack of SF/Fantasy
turn you off. Emma is a
wonderful, touching series that will surprise you.
It is highly