The everlasting dilemma when you choose a historical setting for your story; is it more beneficial to aim for historical accuracy or inaccuracy? Pretentious historians would most likely point at "accuracy" and label it obvious while I personally think that a tone of creative liberty allows the narrative to soar into more admirable levels of grandeur. Rose of Versailles is not only famous for being among the first titles ever produced in the Shoujo genre and its strong female lead but also for the fact that it takes place before, during and after the French revolution using non-fictional characters like Marie Antoinette and Maximilien Robespierre as key figures. The inevitable ending is thus spoiled by one's standard knowledge of history, but the ride itself and the terrific characterization is more than enough to still make the 40 episodes an entertaining ride.
The story takes a closer look on Oscar Francois de Jarjeyes, a tragic character born as a woman but raised as a man in an environment of fencing, horseback riding and responsibilities. I'd never dream of calling Rose of Versailles story driven in comparison to the amazingly portrayed characters, but the narrative still boasts a pretty impressive combination of twists, melodrama and dialogue. Many historical events like the infamous diamond necklace affair are used as plot devices, though in slightly altered ways, ranging from heavily changed to slightly modified.
My interest for history aside, the excellent transitions between accuracy and inaccuracy are one of the reasons that I derived so much entertainment from this watch. You could argue that the show dwells a little on its melodrama, or that a few repetitive scenarios (like Rosalie crying in front of Oscar while stuttering her name) turns the task of watching it into a tedious one, but if you look for a somewhat educational, though not entirely trustworthy, story about the tragic life of a woman pursuing honor and the fundamental facts about the revolution, then this might be right for you.
Compared to its temporary opponents like Galaxy Express 999, Rose of Versailles radiates extremely high production values for its time. It has since then faded into insignificance, but the relatively detailed character designs as well as a few decent moments of action are definitely impressive. Keep in mind though that this is more than thirty years old, and that you cannot expect the same quality as it's natural to do in modern times. Most moments of a more swifter haste tend to be slowed down to the point of abnormality in attempts to lower expenses so it takes several seconds for the apple Andre throws to Oscar to reach her hands and whenever someone jumps a longer distance the same phenomena can be found.
Another aspect of the visual frontier that I relished was the creative and occasionally beautiful art direction. Chocking revelations are followed by equally dramatic facial expressions complimented by metaphorical cracking mirrors that burst onscreen. In each episode there are at least more than two dramatic close-ups (though likely many more) and while this reaches serious depths of annoyance on a few occasions, you'll get used to it.
The opening theme was designed to be used in the show as well in a variety of instruments and works equally well in all cases. Worth to bring up though is that the show usually makes sure to decapitate the melody right before the chorus is about to make its entrance which seriously ruins the mood it has been so eager to establish. The soundtrack in itself is also good though nothing that deserves to be praised. What does deserve an endless amount of compliments, on the other hand, is the voice acting of Reiko Tajima who portrayed the protagonist Oscar. Her voice radiates the kind of authority and dignity that will have women and men alike experience delight and appreciate the powerful potential in her character. Other voice actors are competent in most cases, but nobody is near the most impressing vocal performance of Reiko.
In the initiating paragraph of this statement, allow me to emphasize that I'm by no means a feminist. Not only has feminism reached the state in my nation where it's associated with the bizarre will to place women on pedestals and oppress men, but I also doubt that the female gender has as much to complain about as it does. No offense intended, but that's how it is.
However, if there's one thing that gets to me in Anime it's when female characterization is successfully made. Shows like Kino's Journey, Haibane Renmei and Rose of Versailles where female protagonists exist for purposes that do not include fanservice or anything alike. And that's why I heavily enjoyed watching Oscar develop throughout this show. She struggles to live her life in honor and masculinity, confronts her womanhood and attempts to oppress it in favor for her military and patriotic way of life and ultimately ends up falling in love. Likewise, the rest of the show is heavily influenced by powerful, yet usually malicious, ladies who yearn for nothing more but power and wealth. Rose of Versailles explores corruption in its most unpleasant form and does so through a large variety of characters. Not to mention its infamous portrayal of queen Antoinette who's luxurious and wasteful ways attracted public hate which made the bloody revolution possible.
Historically significant and a prime example of strong female characterization, Rose of Versailles entertained me while simultaneously making me realize that I should watch more shows from this era. It enjoys spending its time observing flowers, sparkles and beautiful dresses, but fulfills its grander ambitions by exploring the many obstacles of royalty, the struggle of sexual identification and most fundamentally; love. On its way it throws in characters who long for democracy and glory, only to end with the inevitably grisly revolution followed by the executions that we all know lie in the future. A most pleasant watch!
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