Queen Emeraldas (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, November 23, 1999
Anyone who frequents the forum on a regular basis has come across, at one time or another, my moaning at Dan Rockwell about the delays in even announcing a date for this title. If you've seen those posts, you know that ADV's announcement of this disk back in November is the reason I bought a DVD player in the first place. Here it is almost a year to the day later. Was it worth the wait?
As Chris has said in his review, there are three audio tracks. The English dub is up to ADV's usual standards. In other words, if you don't like ADV's dubs, this one won't make you switch to the English language track. However, if you like ADV's dubs (as I do, I think they and Pioneer consistently produce the best English-language versions on the market), you won't be disappointed. I don't know whether it was one of those coincidences that makes the universe interesting, or if whoever cast the dub had actually listened to Viz's Galaxy Express 999 dubs, but both Emeraldas and Tochiro's voices are remarkably similar to the English-language actors used in the older movies. If this was planned, kudos to ADV for trying to inject a bit of continuity where it would normally be problematic, at best (now if only they had done the same for Lina Inverse... but that's for another review).
Which brings us to the problem. As Chris mentioned, the Japanese track switches to French (and vice-versa) for all of chapter 5 (even though the DVD player says it's still Japanese). By chapter 6, everything is back to normal. Glaring? Heck yeah. Annoying? Yup. Should ADV repress it and issue a recall? Absolutely. Did it detract from my enjoyment of the movie when I watched the Japanese version? Nope. A couple of button pushes and everything was rolling along nicely again (unlike the wrestling match I have to go through to turn BGC's subtitles back on in episode 2, or the "reversed stereo" of the Ninja Scroll Japanese track, or any number of far more detracting errors on other companies' titles).
The audio itself (both languages) is crisp and clear, and had nice stereo separation. The bass thundered wonderfully as the Queen Emeraldas passed in the beginning of each episode. Near reference-quality for a 2.0 track, if only that annoying chapter 5 thing wasn't there...
Video is also clear, though I could've done without some of the CGI. Where it worked, it worked, like when Emeraldas is viewing her tactical display, or when the cloaked Queen Emeraldas first appears. When it doesn't work, it's jarring. As for the more traditionally animated passages, you'll just have to watch the climactic duel for yourself!
On to the content. Chris mentions "a die hard legion of fans out there that just love anything Harlock related." I'm one of them. However, even if you aren't a die-hard Matsumoto fan, this would be quite an enjoyable story. Despite it being part of the overall Harlock/Galaxy Express "multiverse," this story stands solidly on its own, aside from an appearance of a member of the new villain race from the recent Galaxy Express manga series. If you haven't read any of Viz's translated manga, the reference will probably be lost.
While Emeraldas is the title and central character, I feel that this story is mainly Hiroshi and his journey into manhood (a reoccurring theme in Matsumoto's work). To reveal more would be heading into spoiler territory, so I'll just say that if you liked Tetsuro from Galaxy Express 999, you'll warm up to Hiroshi almost immediately.
About all that's left to mention is the space battles. Two phrases ran through my mind on the first watch. The first was "wow," and the second, "that was way too short!" Matsumoto has always delivered grand, epic space battles, and the battles here are certainly that. However, they're too short! I know that he and his staff only had two half-hour episodes to pack them, character development, a couple of Galaxy Express references, and an appearance by Captain Harlock in, so the (lack of) length of the battles is understandable. Personally, after being a Matsumoto fan for so long, I'd rather be able to catch a glimpse into what makes Emeraldas' tick than a gratuitously long combat sequence. I will say that the Queen Emeraldas itself is stacked with a lot more weaponry than it's ever been.
And the actual story? It doesn't feel complete, not by a long shot. It feels like a setup for something much bigger. And since there are more volumes on the way in Japan, I hope that ADV snaps them up quickly. I also hope those future volumes will be able to strike the balance between action and character development, as in the Arcadia and Galaxy Express movies, and take us further into the workings of the mind of one of Matsumoto's best characters. One who has always seemed to take a "second banana" status to her mirror-image, Harlock.
If you're a fan of Matsumoto's work, this is a no-brainer. If you're into grand, sweeping space opera complete with epic space battles, you'll be able to sink your teeth right into this one. If you dug Giant Robo's seamless integration of old style character and mecha design with modern animation techniques, this one will be right up your alley. And if you have fond memories of the anime that was broadcast on TV in the late 70's (much of which was Matsumoto's), you'll definitely want to check this one out.
Which brings me back to the original question - was it worth the wait? Despite the minor, yet glaring, problem of the language track switch, I say yes.
Sony 23" Trinitron TV, Panasonic A110 DVD player, "jury-rigger special" audio set-up, KLH speakers.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: All Region DVD
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Queen Emeraldas