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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Emma - A Victorian Romance Season 1
Emma - A Victorian Romance Season 1
Other // PG // June 24, 2008
List Price: $49.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted July 10, 2008 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Show:

One thing you have to love about RightStuf's licensed anime is the fact that they certainly pick titles we typically wouldn't see from the larger publishers. Show's like Shingu, Lost Universe, and Captain Tyler are all series that quite frankly would have been ignored by the likes of FUNimation, Bandai, and ADV. It's not that these are bad shows but they are typically labors of love for the anime community and therefore a niche market within a niche market. Their latest release Emma: A Victorian Romance is much the same; a great show that we probably wouldn't have seen if RightStuf didn't grab the rights.

Set in Victorian London at the end of the 19th century, Emma is pretty much unlike any anime you have seen. Sure the trapping has been used in other shows but this series doesn't feature a lick of science fiction or fantasy. It's a slowly developing character drama set in the specific time period and it's definitely a trip off the beaten path. If you appreciate anime with its own town and sense of style then this is undoubtedly a series that you will latch on to. It's unique right from the get-go and it's the era and characters that bring it to life.

Two seasons of Emma were released in Japan and RightStuf has just packaged up the first with twelve episodes in a nifty boxed set. Since this is the first release of the show we naturally don't get closure by the end per say. Instead prepare to be sucked in with the fantastic atmosphere and great amount of charm.

The show begins with the arrival of William Jones at the doorstep of his former governess, Kelly Stowner. A young woman with glasses opens the door and bops him in the face accidentally. This isn't the greatest of first impressions but things happen for a reason and with the tone of this series it's almost as if it were love smacking Jones upside the head. He falls for this maid, Emma, due to her striking beauty and proper charms. Emma: A Victorian Romance follows the budding relationship between the two characters and all of the pitfalls that come with their places in society. The upper crust simply don't associate "that way" with servants but the young have a way of snubbing their nose at what is accepted.

William has returned to London in order to take over the Jones business but his desire to work for his father has diminished greatly. He has been raised in proper society and taught just about every form of etiquette and manner though he can't quite muster up the desire to do his father's work. Instead he spends his time passing off chores to his underlings and attempting to woo Emma. It starts off subtle with William forgetting his gloves at Kelly's place and picks up as he attempts to "casually" bump into Emma while she's shopping.

Given William's upbringing and wealth he constantly tries to buy Emma gifts that upper class ladies usually appreciate. Unfortunately for our love-struck puppy Emma isn't a girl with upper class tastes and she rejects most of his efforts. We learn that she is really just a down to earth girl who cares about the essentials and doesn't need anything too fancy to be happy. All she winds up asking him for is a lace handkerchief and quite honestly I think that's part of the allure for William; Emma's simply not like the other girls.

The mystique of Emma not only captivates William but his friend from India, Hakim, as well. When Hakim comes to London to pay his buddy a visit and conduct some business he goes to see Emma with William and is speechless. This prompts him to visit her on his own time and propose to her. Naturally Emma doesn't accept but that's more of a look at her personality than her feelings towards William. Despite this Hakim brings an interesting dynamic to the otherwise stuffy English society. He's rather whimsical and enjoys doing things to get a reaction out of people so it's not surprising that he would do such a brash thing as proposition Emma to be his wife.

Not only does Hakim attempt to stand in between Emma and William but one Eleanor Campbell is introduced as another potential love interest for William. Eleanor is technically William's ideal woman. She's pretty, proper, and of the same upper class system as he is. Many members of the Jones family attempt to push those two together but while William is with Eleanor he's thinking about Emma. There are some very complex components being explored in this anime that simply aren't touched upon in many others. The difficulties of love and emotion take the center stage and watching as these characters grow closer to each other is simply fascinating.

As the story in the first season of Emma: A Victorian Romance progresses there are some twists that change the dynamic of the show. Most of these changes center on Emma's character but William experiences growth as well. Throughout it all the focus remains almost entirely on the two characters and their feelings towards one another. If you appreciate slow developing romance stories then you will undoubtedly fall in love yourself. This series captures every detail of the era and features some very richly developed characters. Emma may not be for everyone but if you're looking for a unique anime with some real heart then definitely give this one a shot.

The DVD:

Video:

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.

Audio:

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. The show is listed as being presented in 2.0 stereo but after the first episode the rest of the series felt very flat, almost as if it had received a mono output. Aside from the limited range on the soundstage and flat appearance the quality was clean and suitable for the material.

Extras:

The extra features for Emma: A Victoria Romance are kind of light when you get right down to it. Character bios, clean animations, trailers, and well, more trailers are all you're going to see on the discs themselves. Packed in with the four DVDs is a 96 page Victorian Gazette booklet which easily outclasses the material on the discs. Full of information about the series, characters, and setting this inclusion is quite the labor of love. In addition to the great amount of information is a series of production sketches and comparisons between real life locations and the animated ones. If you are endeared towards the series then this booklet serves as a nice companion piece.

Final Thoughts:

Emma: A Victoria Romance is a romance story that takes its sweet time getting from point a to point b. The series has two major draws: the setting and the characters. With regards to the setting the anime presents a flawless interpretation of Victorian London and it's almost eerie how much detail was captured in the process. In terms of the characters their relationships are what drives the story here and there is an impressive amount of development. Unlike other animated programs you will grow to love these characters by the end and crave more from them. All around this is a solid program from start to finish and with the second season on the way there is plenty more to entice you to go back to the Victorian era.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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