a.k.a. Versailles no Bara
General Jarjayes wants only one thing for his expected child: for it to be male. However, Jarjayes finds himself with a daughter instead. Not letting this get in his way, he names his daughter Oscar François de Jarjayes and raises her as if she were a man. As Oscar grows up, she becomes quite the tomboy and a master swordsman. With enormous skill and pride, is Oscar ready for the challenge of becoming the Captain of the Royal Guards?
summary by Kei
Highs: True to its nature; considered the first shoujo anime
Lows: Predictable; dated animation
The French Revolution changed the lifestyle of France forever. With the outcome of such an event, and the impact it had on the very culture of the country, surely it would make a very interesting anime!
The fact that Rose of Versailles is generally true to the events of the actual revolution is one of its best strong points. OK, so Lady Oscar didn’t really exist, but many of the other characters did during this time. Some of the more important events of the revolution are still left intact, the most important one being, of course, the actual outcome.
That’s where one of the problems comes in. If you’ve taken any European history course, you know the French Revolution doesn’t offer a really happy ending as far as the royalty is concerned. With this in mind, it’s kind of easy to predict the outcome of the different characters. Also, being over twenty years old now, the animation is rather outdated.
Oscar’s character, and the issues it raises (including, but not limited to, women in the military), is more than enough reason to give this series a try. Also, there is not a doubt in my mind that Oscar was an inspiration for creating Utena’s character in Revolutionary Girl Utena. (And possibly the entire rose motif of Utena as well? —Papa-san)
Whether you’re a fan of the French Revolution or not, I think that Rose of Versailles is definitely worth watching. It’s a shame that this series isn’t as well remembered as other anime of the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Highs: Oscar François de Jarjeyes; captures the people, history and style
Lows: Monologue kills the suspense; similar character designs cause confusion
I admit that I sometimes get an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach when I attempt to watch older series. Perhaps it is because the older art styles just do not look very pretty or because I think that the series is going to drag, but if that is the case, why was I immediately pulled into Rose of Versailles?
Part of the reason why I think I liked this series so much was because of the lead female character, Oscar François de Jarjeyes. Much like Caska from Berserk, Oscar is a rare breed of female character in anime: bold, strong and very admirable because of mannerisms and attitude. Although her character is fictitious, she easily blends in with the nonfiction characters that drove the French history during the end of the Bourbon monarchy. The plot of this series starts off being rather simple and quickly becomes more complex but not overwhelming. Starting with just Oscar, the series expands to encompass Marie Antoinette, the Royal Court, and finally all of France. Although some parts of the history shown are questionable, such as the political maneuvering and deceit, they are made very believable. Watching characters slowly evolve helps bolster the reasons for their historical actions, and you will find yourself sympathetic.
However, I have a bit of a problem with the storytelling style that Rose of Versailles uses. There is a monologue that chimes in at certain points of each episode and says exactly how events are going to turn out before they occur. This killed a lot of the suspense and prevented me from being further dragged into the series. Another problem was I want clearly distinct character designs so I am able to distinguish who is who. Perhaps it is because of the older art style used, but I found myself confused quite a few times by the look of characters simply because of similar hair color and style, as well as facial features.
Rose of Versailles stands out for me because it is an older series that I felt comfortable watching, but what will drag other people in are the strong characters and storyline. Forget the out-of-date art and animation styles; this is a series that you must see!
Highs: Builds strong emotional attachment to characters; sweeping storyline
Lows: Beginning is episodic and a little slow
Man’s inhumanity to man is a touchy issue that has been dealt with in many art forms. The line between sappy and touching is thin, and anime is no exception. Thankfully, there is nothing sappy about Rose of Versailles.
Everything feels real, and the elaborate character development successfully transports you into another time and place. The fact that it is almost as old as Kain himself (Edit: Uh… – Kain) has little repercussions on the quality of the artwork and animation, which also have a lot of well thought imagery going for it. Even music, an often degrading factor in older anime, has nothing to envy of recent productions.
Although slightly embroidered, names, dates and situations are taken straight out of history books on an event so significant it marked a new historical era, putting an end to the Renaissance. Knowing beforehand what tragic fate awaited all these people puts things an entirely different perspective and plays an important role in how engrossing Rose of Versailles is. Regardless of what they will unknowingly trigger, characters, with the help of their voice actors, make all the suffering and envy believable. Imagine if you will a soap opera with good actors; this is how pivotal seiyuu work is.
If you have no tolerance for cutesy sentiments, the beginning will probably not be your favorite part. The beauty of Rose of Versailles is in the gradual intensification of character relations, so the introduction deals with more personal issues as the big picture develops slowly. The flow is only interrupted by occasional gaps in the timeline. It also tends to be too episodic with many important, unresolved events not spoken of again after their episodes end. This and awkward themes probably make this series a hit or miss, but it is a sure hit in my book.
Rose of Versailles can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.