Friday, August 23, 2013

The Rose of Versailles

A French nobleman from the 18th century, sick of having daughter after daughter, decides that having one more daughter is the last straw. "I will raise her as a boy!" he announces to the cosmos. That is the beginning of the Japanese anime The Rose of Versailles.

Meet Oscar Francois de Jarjayes, a career woman in a man's world during the 18th century, the personal guard of Marie Antoinette and the royal family. Most know she's a girl, but find her confused sexuality appealing and a little attractive. Both the men and women of the French court fawn over her, but she is mostly interested in her career and serving those under her charge.

Of course, her best friend Andre, not noble and who she grew up with has feelings for her, and this complicates matters. So too does the French revolution.

The Rose of Versailles is the creation of mangaka Riyoko Ikeda. The anime was released in 1979. There are some artifacts of its time. The birds, backgrounds and people are animated poorly in some spots. All the horses in the French guard are the exact same shade of brown. There are issues.

But the story is good. I can't help but think that it would be a major challenge to write a story set in such a turbulent time and make you feel sympathy for some of the French Revolution's most unsavory characters, yet Ikeda manages. The story also takes a few twists that you wouldn't expect. However, Marie Antionette getting a reprieve? Nope, that didn't happen.

If you'd like a chance to see this classic shojo (girl's) anime, Right Stuf has just released a remastered version. It's fairly economical. This is one of those anime that is talked about by most Japanese anime fans, and is considered a cultural referent.

I leave you with a bit of the Takazuka theater the series inspired--all five actresses that have played Oscar over the years.
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