With the potential young couple now separated by distance, each tries to work through their lives as they deny what they really want.
What They Say:
In the faraway village of Haworth, a new chapter in Emma’s life has begun. Now employed by the wealthy Mölders family, Emma has resolved to put the past behind her. She’ll have to adjust to a new house, a charming (but eccentric) new mistress, and a host of fellow servants, some with buried pasts of their own. Meanwhile, back in London, William is doing his best to uphold his father’s wishes as the Jones family heir, but try as he might, he can’t forget Emma. Yet, whenever he feels at his worst, Eleanor is always there to comfort him with a warm, shy smile. Could the answer to his broken heart be right before his eyes? Contains the complete 12-episode second season (a.k.a. “Second Act”), plus “Episode 0: Intermission,” a recap/preview released prior to the start of the Season 2 telecast in Japan.
Victorian Romance Emma is a monolingual release from Nozomi Entertainment which is really the only disappointing aspect of this release, though an understandable one at least. The Japanese language track that’s included is a decent stereo mix encoded at 192kbps which fits the material as it’s mostly just dialogue outside of a few bits of incidental music and effects here and there. The opening and closing sequences are the “loudest” parts of it in general, so a really powerful mix it isn’t nor does it require a lot of space either. While it doesn’t overly impress, it is a solid track through and through and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twelve episode TV series and recap episode is spread across four discs in a 4/3/3/3 format and that allows it to be a bit freer with space but it’s hard to say if it was really needed. The transfer in general looks really great here, and it benefits from there not being a lot of actual action to the show. Victorian Romance Emma has something of a soft look to it at times which is a bit off putting but so much of it is about designing the proper atmosphere that it fits perfectly. Colors are soft and very appealing and the detail visible in so many scenes looks wonderful. Outside of some very minor aliasing in a couple of scenes and a similar amount of noise in a background piece here or there, Victorian Romance Emma is a very good looking show and a very pleasing transfer.
The second season of Victorian Romance Emma has been given a full box set release similar to the first season as it’s a solid heavy chipboard box which holds the four thinpak cases. The box has a very classic and elegant feel as it utilizes manga style artwork as opposed to pieces from the show. One main panel features Emma and other maids from the Molders household as they have their own little break. The other panel features the same cast of characters in their full maid outfits but outside setting p for a party with a lot of expressiveness in their faces. The side panel is very elegant as it has a minimal design where there’s just the series logo in the center with the season one marking as well as the oval shaped image of Emma. Inside the box, the four keepcases use a similar kind of border design as the box itself and it has three very different anime images of Emma as well as one cover with just William and Eleanor. The artwork used for the covers is spot on, though fairly spoilerish admittedly, but I avoided looking at the covers until I finished watching the show, so I can appreciate them a bit better this way. The back covers are all similar in design and layout with a brief summary in the center and four shots from the show. The individual volume’s episodes are listed along with titles and the special features to be found on that volume. The technical grid covers the basics for each in a very clean and clear fashion. While we do get clear keepcases, there are no reverse side pieces of artwork used.
The first season set contained a really strong and fantastic gazette book that covered what this period was like in character. This set shifts gears to give us a “Victorian Picture Book” in which we get some forty odd pages of character designs for just about all the main characters along with translated notes about their clothes. There are some really neat little bits of detail in there that’s worth checking out. The original Japanese DVD cover artwork is included as well as a look at the box sides. The best for me however was the inclusion of a brand new interview with the manga author talking about the series both in manga and anime form. New interviews as time goes on and exclusive interviews with a fairly reclusive author are always very welcome..
Simplicity and elegance is the key to the menu design here as the menus features the layout and design elements that are seen throughout the packaging. Adding to it is some nicely understated and elegant pieces of artwork of the characters on the individual volumes combined with music from the show and it’s all quite good. These aren’t top of the line standout menus that totally dazzle you, but they’re top of the line menus in that they fit with the show perfectly and enhance everything, putting you in the right frame of mind for the show. Due to this being a monolingual presentation though, our player presets are a non issue and Nozomi doesn’t even offer a language setup menu thankfully.
The extras for this release are pretty minimal which is to be expected, though I admit to wishing once again that they were all on one volume instead of spread out. The extras are straightforward in that we get the clean opening and closing sequences and a couple of commercials. The fan credits are also spread out across all of the volumes by first name so you can find your name in there. Also included in the extras is the “bonus episode zero” intermission episode, which also plays when you do the play all function on the first volume. It’s definitely an extra, but one that Nozomi has set to play automatically when you start the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Victorian Romance Emma ended its first season in a cruelly expected way with Emma leaving on the train and poor William racing after her along the track. The separation that the two now must endure is profound, even if they’ve both only really just begun to know each other. Yet for many, some very lucky ones indeed, finding someone that you have this connection with this hard and quickly can be intoxicating and thrilling. Putting it into the Victorian era however, it comes across as restrained as it should. And that’s where a lot of the fun is.
After seeing the couple get so close so many times in actually being more than what they were, having them split apart for a duration is only natural. The test of the bond comes in how they’ll deal with each other while separated by distance. But the test isn’t only just for them but also for their friends and family who have to watch them go through this. Some offer help, some condemn the entire thing while the more casual use it as fodder for the gossip mill. All of these things have varying impacts on both Emma and William as they sort out their own feelings and how they truly want their lives to go. So much of it is wrapped up in expectations of class and social position that going after what they truly want almost seems like an alien idea.
For Emma, she’s certainly taken a tough road to travel. Luck is on her side however as she manages to land a temporary job that eventually turns more permanent when she comes across Mrs. Molders at the train platform. That chance meeting has led her to being part of her household staff in Haworth where she’s able to do her magic. Emma’s skills as a maid are quite strong, something we’ve seen during her time with Kelly Stownar, but that was a single elderly woman in a lone residence. In the larger household, Emma truly does shine as she’s very fast but highly meticulous in her work. It doesn’t earn the ire of her fellow maids at least, but when she does get called off to other duties it makes the impact of her work all the more apparent.
Where Emma truly lucks out is in that she befriends a fair number of people in the household and gets along rather well with Mrs. Molders herself. So much so that she’s brought along as an attendant for several functions but also as a companion. This has her dressing up in some finery to be presented properly and this takes Emma into a world she never thought she’d venture. And just like her chance meeting with Mrs. Molders, she comes across another woman of who is somewhat of a recluse out in Haworth named Mrs. Trollope. It’s these small chance meetings, obvious ones at that, which push Emma more on the path to discovering what she really wants. In her very restrained way, she fights against her desires because she doesn’t want to hurt anyone or put anyone out. And she’s simply aware that what she wants is indelicate at best in polite society and would cause immense problems for many should it be actually pursued. Watching her trying to survive in the Haworth environment, and then in London again, is surprisingly engaging.
William’s story is a bit more interesting in a way as he’s involved with some very difficult choices. While Emma has to deal with what her life choice has become, and the potential of a new romance, William has to deal with Emma leaving him in order to protect him, dealing with the business and all the problems that start to crop up because of it, as well as his relationship with Eleanor. With his relationship with Emma, he’s ended up with a fair amount of grief from some of his siblings as well as his father. Even worse is that the simple rumor of a relationship with Emma is enough to cause problems among the gentry, particularly where the Jones’ are part of the new rich and not exactly respected. With everything that his father has worked and built, it’s little surprise to William that he’s being pushed into marrying Eleanor even more now in order to solidify things and to ease some of the rumors and speculation.
Unfortunately, there are some real issues going on here that cause problems. Eleanor is such a pleasant and earnest young woman that she has really fallen hard for William. With his mind elsewhere, he’s not able to give her what she wants, but he feels guilty enough to simply try to give it to her. That makes everything far worse, especially when she does have so many opportunities out there. But once such deals are even whispered about, backing out of them can be an even bigger issue for all those involved. William and Eleanor’s relationship is almost painful to watch at times. William is so distracted at first and then feels so guilty that you want to smack him so he does what he should have done at the start of the season. And Eleanor is simply too naïve and too well taken care of by her family to really know what to do for herself.
Thankfully, the cast of Victorian Romance Emma is pretty wide, even if somewhat shallow. This season brings back a few of the stalwarts from the first, such as Hakim who is never without his smokes. His laid back style and look is simply perfect since it’s what you’d imagine William would be like if he let his hair down. What proved the most amusing with Hakim is that he ended up apparently really winning over Eleanor’s sister Monica. The implication of some sort of dalliance there is quite interesting and something that I really wanted to see explored more, even in theory. The household staffs are all the same and we do get some nice nods towards Kelly and Al as well when Emma returns to London. Add in the sprawling staff that the Molders maintain and you have a good sized living cast.
If there’s an area of the series I wanted to see more, it’s the portion that dealt with the past. William’s father and his mother are given most of an episode to tell their back story which goes a long way towards explaining things. At the same time, it felt like it was only giving us the briefest of ideas of what was really going on there. This is unfortunate because it does play a role in how the relationship between Emma and William may turn out if they manage to get things together. The story of Richard Jones and how he tried to move into the gentry as one of the new rich is something that could support a series on its own. There’s a lot of really nice little nuggets here, many of which get touched upon in the present as well, and it all left me wanting much more of this particular time and place to see what else happened.
With the final episode of this set, Victorian Romance Emma draws to a most definite conclusion. The second season is a bit rougher than the first because it’s far more about the trials and tribulations that these characters face. The first season was more hopeful as it explored the two leads and the lives that they have before really painting the picture of just how difficult it is. It dealt more with the loss of someone important and the potential that may exist for something else out there. This season deals more with the realities of the situation and how it must be worked with and a certain amount of growing up, not only for William but for many others. For Emma, it’s about truly giving in to what she wants out of life and accepting that she can achieve it. The closing scenes of the series are simply wonderful and have made the entire experience entirely worthwhile. Very recommended, especially among the jaded who think there’s nothing worth watching out there.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subittles, Episode 0: Intermission, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Original Japanese Commercials, 48 page Victorian Gazette Book
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.