Emma (Or: "Japan rewrites Tess of the D’Urbervilles")

Taking a break from painting to post (and eat dinner) is for winners.

Think back to high school English class. For many of us, it was mostly about English/UK literature. And unless your teacher was a rebel and traded the Cantebury Tales for Harry Potter or some shenanigans, you eventually had a run-in with gems along the lines of Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Oh yeah.

Emma: A Victorian Romance is what happens when Japan gets its hands on Tess and works its magic. Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how it came to be; actually, the manga artist is an Anglophile (and very obviously Did the Research, she hired a historical consultant to help keep things on the rails in terms of accuracy) and there’s nothing really indicating that the aforementioned novel had any kind of influence, but both are Victorian period pieces, so there’s going to be some parallels here and there.

If you are expecting something like Hetalia or, to lesser extremes, Fullmetal Alchemist or even Chrono Crusade (in that all 3 invoke real-world history as part of its background), do not look for it here, as there are no fight scenes or magic powers or much flashy effects of any kind. This is hardcore period piece material! Inversely, BECAUSE of that, the animation staff clearly had the extra budget to blow on minutiae like a five-second cutaway of, say, people walking down city streets, or a cat walking around a corner, or birds flying high in the sky at dawn. It sounds simplistic but it’s definitely delicious scenery eye candy. :D

Another thing of note: Emma is strangely a sub-only release. That’s right, an anime set in 1895 Victorian England is… Japanese with English subtitles. I guess for such a small-fry title it was deemed unworthy of being dubbed, even though this is something you would EXPECT to hear in English! (There IS a dub, but it was for south Asia/India and apparently that doesn’t count.)
Give it a spin, though: you can watch the first two episodes on YouTube. The whole “English doods speaking Japanese in Victorian England” stops being off-putting after the first 5 minutes. I think the entire series used to be on Netflix streaming but has since dropped off (boo), but can still be looted on DVD last I checked. Maybe someday it will get a BluRay release with a proper dub, one can only hope.

Obligatory VA nerdery: the titular character, Emma, is played by Yumi Touma. You might remember her as Sylphiel (Slayers) and Helba (.hack). As Emma, she veers more towards the Sylphiel end of the scale.

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