Before you read this I will ask of you to not judge it solely on the high ratings. I feel like I have explained the reasons for giving them quite well. Please in your rating, let me know the way to improve on it and I will promptly do so. The high animation rating is based on what could be accomplished at the time the anime was made as I realise that it would be sub-standard if it were made nowadays.
This anime is one of my favourite and I have seen many in 15 years but only a couple have managed to come close in delivering like this one does.
The animation is not the best nowadays but I am giving it a high mark because for its time, it is a remarkable achievement. I am sure that many people will agree with me on this, some of the budget episodes of Sailor Moon or Pokemon and Naruto look worse. This is because Rose of Versailles is not a show that takes shortcuts in its presentation. Unlike Naruto and Sailor Moon, the same high standard is kept through its entire run.
For its time, this anime was very ambitious and it does accomplish what it sets out to do. A scene that reflects the animation capacity (in its iconic form) of this series can be seen in the last episode. It is just stills of pencil drawings and the symbolism and emotion is so strong, one can't help but be moved.
Just that scene reflects what you have seen in emotion and intensity for 40 episodes and blows you away. The drawing style is also another one of its strengths as the characters look very elegant and royal, which fits the bill here perfectly. The character design is also great as it allows the character to grow within a time period, and slowly changes and matures them in their drawing style over time.
The sound is excellent in this series as it helps to show the range of emotion characters express. The theme song is atmospheric and also very fitting with the emotive notes and the beautiful music. The theme music is used quite often within the episodes and it is surprisingly efficient to portray the rainbow of human emotion. The best part of it is obviously the seiyuus' work here.
Main characters like Oscar, Andre and Marie Antoinette and minor ones like Mme DuBarry and Charlotte are brought to life extremely well. Even though these characters are on conflicting sides of the social spectrum, one understands their motives and sentiments to a touching degree.
The story is still one of the most engrossing I have seen in anime since I first watched it. Taking real historical figures and some fictive ones, this anime tells the story so well that you can understand why the characters acted the way they did, and the drama is strongly expressed.
Some historical events are also used as plot devices here (the affair of the necklace, the bastille, the revolution) and the result is brilliant. These are given enough detail for us to fully appreciate the situation, while letting characters shine through as the driving force. There are also plenty of heartfelt moments of yearning, loss, love, obedience and death that are so well-executed - they move you to tears.
As mentioned above the characters are amazing as were it not for them, the story would not be nearly as successful. To fully enjoy this experience one has to connect with the characters and this cast makes it extremely easy.
I felt a lot of emotions when the romantic story between Marie Antoinette and Fersen was explored and was moved to tears to see its conclusion. Same goes with the Oscar and Andre story. There are rarely animes that make you feel the way this one does and this is very much due to its affecting cast. The reason the characters seem so great overall is because their feelings are explored very convincingly and unlike other shoujos, they are not overplayed for emphasis.
The value of this anime is just excellent as I frequently revisit it for some great entertainment and it still delivers. It also paved the way for other great shows like Utena and Princess Tutu (Utena more obviously than Tutu with its theme but the detailed backgrounds of Tutu are definitely influenced by some settings here.)
I still enjoy this anime immensely even though it is 25 years old and have seen it many times over as it really aims for the heart. My guess is you will feel the same way.