Having first seen this series as a child of nine or ten in Germany, it was an enormous pleasure to revisit Rose of Versailles with an adult mindset. I remember it being one of my favourite childhood anime but was surprised to find that it exceeded even my adult expectations; it isn't for children at all! Told from the perspective of gender-switched Lady Oscar Jarjeyes of the elite Royal Guard, who is subsequently caught between duty and justice, we don't get a simple ‘rich baddies against poor goodies' kind of tale, but an epic and complex weaving of backgrounds and personalities.
Anyone with even a marginal understanding of history will understand that there's a rather important revolution coming at the end, so that in itself cannot be the hook. Instead, what drives the plot are the frenzied actions of the cast as they try to make the best of a stark situation. While the poor live in fear of starvation, the rich live in fear of becoming like the poor and, despite their superficial differences, each group is portrayed as drowning persons flailing against the inevitable. That's not to say everybody is flat and self-explanatory - far from it, the entire cast is a colourful pic'n'mix of personalities, with both good and bad intentions which do not necessarily lead to their predicted consequences. Let's take the aristocracy's treatment of the poor as an example. Just like the ordinary human, the rich aren't one-dimensionally selfish, but rather they make bad decisions or simply suffer from misfortune, or they realise the true nature of the situation too late to rule effectively, or all of the above. The plot is thus far from predictable, twisting and spiralling (mostly downwards) as the relationships and antagonisms develop.
Plenty of subplots are on offer too, from Marie Antoinette's stumble towards ultimate doom to the ambitious Jeanne's cut-throat grab for power; and if that's not good enough, there's always Oscar and her best friend Andre's heart-wrenching romance.
Although dated, Rose is still very watchable. The pretty character designs and bright hues, reminiscent of series like Escaflowne and spoofed in productions like Ouran, make me suspect that Rose is the anime that set the bar for my tastes later in life. Hair is golden, eyes are like lakes, tears sparkle, men are beautiful, and grass has never been greener. On the downside (for those who care about such things) there is much reliance on still shots and repeat frames but, to be fair, the sketch-like still frames are the gaming equivalent of cut scenes - they add more drama to the events and act as visual treats. Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised by the relative competence of the combat sequences, which were detailed in movement and flowed nicely.
The sound quality leaves something to be desired; it occasionally has that shrillness which accompanies old videotape footage. However, when it comes to other things like voice-acting and soundtrack, Rose of Versailles doesn't disappoint. Although the entire cast performed well, Oscar has by far my favourite voice because she achieves a difficult balance between the feminine and masculine, meaning whether in a dress or in a soldier's uniform she is believable as the same person. The soundtrack has plenty to offer for all the different moods and settings, with my favourite being the slow harpsichord version of the opening theme used during touching or harrowing scenes. The OP is suitable, although even now I prefer the German version (hoorah for youtube!) because the Japanese vocals just seem too high and soft to set the tone for the episodes.
Oscar, the centrepiece of it all, who like the opening image in the credits suggests, is a lone rose blossoming in a rather thorny place. Her main driving motivation seems to be protecting the honour of the state of France and the people she loves no matter whom the opponent. My biggest fear with characters like hers is that creators too often fail to deliver on their promise of someone just, heroic, and kick-arse whilst being simultaneously female. Fortunately, Oscar is not one of those cases, managing to match every guy sword for sword and pride for pride.
Also, rather than ignore or destroy Oscar's femininity, the series grapples with it through her inner turmoil. She's not a transvestite or someone who particularly wishes to be sexually a male; her adopted masculinity was initially for convenience. However, later in life, it becomes apparent that she doesn't quite know what to do with the part of her that traditionally should be in a dress. Men still fall in love with her but then so do the women, who see in her the dashing hero so different from the conniving gentlemen of the Court. Watching her frustration through the relationships she develops, for instance with Andre, is a fascinating experience indeed.
Then there is the infamous Marie Antoinette, portrayed here as someone so innocently hedonistic, gullible, and incompetent, that within minutes she pissed me off something rotten; there wasn't one episode that went by with her in it that didn't make me want to pull out my hair in frustration, shouting ‘Baka!' Surprisingly, she is also one of the more complex and well-characterised personalities. In fact it's difficult to judge most of the characters one way or the other because they prove subtle in unexpected ways. I'd argue the legacy of this kind of characterisation exists in series like Nana, where behaviour is painful to watch but which, in the end, is actually a reflection of the nature of life.
Rose of Versailles, where love is tragic, greed is rife, and loyalty is absolute - it's great fun to watch but I certainly wouldn't want to live there. If you're looking for an anime where nobody gets a break and the personal and the political become intertwined in a downward-spiralling path of destruction, then this is it. It really delves into what it means to struggle and fall, providing a twisty plot with great cliff-hangers and superb characterisation.
Rose of Versailles starts strongly. Aside from introducing a likeable set of characters, the show sets the stage in a promising setting: France, in the years leading up to the French Revolution. Unfortunately, some absolutely asinine directing prevents the show from being anything but mediocre.
The major problem with Rose of Versailles is not the general story in and of itself, but the delivery. Over the course of the anime, the show is sure to include several (repetitive) segments that focus on the desperate cries of the underprivileged, the tragic oversights of the ruling class, the hungry children dying in the streets, etc. Given the setting of the show, this is a perfectly fine and probably even expected approach to take. The error, however, is that the show then focuses heavily on the largely trivial activities of Marie Antoinette.
The result is a weirdly hypocritical juxtaposition that can best be compared to some of the material found in mecha and hentai. With certain mecha, the audience must listen to heartfelt anti-war monologues in between bouts of long, drawn out battles. In hentai, many works will firmly state that rape is a Very Bad Thing, but not bad enough to actually stop animating it. Rose of Versailles, on the other hand, shows more and more forcibly that the upper class is ignoring what's REALLY important, all the while making exactly the same mistake.
Some of the most interesting episodes involve the characters on the lower rung of society. Rosalie, a thoroughly unlucky and ultimately endearing peasant, has an unexpectedly poignant quest for revenge. Her extremely ambitious sister is also an immensely interesting character, and her personal story arc is probably the best of the entire series. Unfortunately, the time spent on these stories is minimal when compared to Antoinette's longwinded tales of ballrooms, dinner parties and gossip. When all is said and done, more than half of the show is filled with meaningless shoujo that I cared absolutely nothing about. By the time the second, infinitely superior half finally rolled around, I had already lost most of my personal investment in any of the characters. Interesting things began to happen, but I was no longer interested.
That said, the series is a bit too grandiose in its sheer ambition to completely dismiss. There are moments of excellent drama, and the originality of the entire project definitely boosts its overall merit. However, in the long run, there are better works out there.
Excellent character designs contrast with some occasionally shaky action scenes. Overall, this is a top-notch job given the show's age, and a decidedly below average one when compared to titles made today. Either way, the quality of the animation was largely irrelevant to how much I enjoyed the anime as a whole. The series doesn't depend on the animation to entertain, instead relying primarily on its storyline and characters.
My impression of JPop up until this point was that the farther back on the timeline you went, the more awful the music became. Rose of Versailles' OP, while not necessarily proving this belief wrong, is at the very least a welcome exception. The song is surprisingly catchy, and actually does a nice job of setting the mood of the show.
The rest of the music is largely instrumental, and generally quite well done. While some of the songs become a tad repetitive near the end of the show, for the most part they work well with the story.
Voice acting ranges from good to excellent.
Before this anime, the term “interesting scenario” was still science fiction because all shows that preceded it had a story that could fit in 2 episodes and all the rest was just filler. Not only that, but Rose of Versailles (ROV) happens to be amongst the top (if not the top 1) best historical anime ever made. And just think that it is over 30 years old by now and still not many can get where it did.
So just from the description alone we have a highly interesting historical backdrop; that of the times before and during the French Revolution, when the world was changed forever. You immediately feel that you are watching events that shake the world and that it all happened for real. It is not a fictional story of aliens invading Earth and a huge robot goes to stop them with a magic sword. I mean, Captain Harlock had an equally engaging setting but as I wrote in my review it was too heavily based on technology and the hero could summon a hundred different deus ex machina means to win, which mad the whole thing superficial and highly unreal.
It is an interesting topic of how anime were never meant to be historically accurate and that they are to the most part a form of escapism where we expect to see unrealistic situations, simplistic stories and superficial characters we can identify with. But that does not mean there can’t be an attempt to marry the real with the unreal and still be entertaining, as with the case of this anime. In fact, having a historical backdrop makes the drama of the story all the more powerful as nobody can reject it as far fetched. Or that even someone who already knows how things turned out to be like, will still find the inevitable fate of the characters to be highly tragic. All that without the need for the author to even foreshadow anything; it is all there from the beginning.
The thing with this anime is that it is not the first historical but the first historical with a very interesting setting. All previous works were mostly about a generic situation in some rural area, where the heroes were kids, usually poor and orphan, trying to live a happy life with friends and romance and the likes. A favorite of mine from a previous entry is Candy Candy, which encompasses everything a good historical story should be about. But as cute as all that may have been, the setting still remained overly simplistic and devoid of action or anxiety. No wonder the genres were divided in a way to have super robots with brain dead action and simplistic stories to be aimed at boys, while historical based ones with lots of everyday lives of normal people were aimed at girls.
So then ROV comes along and somewhat merges these two polar genres. The setting is now more exciting, there is some action, there is some romance, and there are tragic historical personalities. And if you so much want some poor peasant girl in a very dramatic story, well here you go, it has one in quite the grim situation. It also has many nobles and aristocrats, in full glamour and selfishness, blind to the needs of their people. Plus it has a gender bender.
Yup, as I foretold in my Ribbon no Kishi review, this anime took the next step at the topic with the case of Oscar, a woman raised to behave as a rather feminine looking young man because of social demands once again. As fun as it was back in the time Osamu Tezuka had his hero being a boy in a girl’s body doing something similar, after awhile the whole thing felt flat out silly and too heavy on unrealistic magic. Oscar is a far more down to earth character, striving to be a good swordsman in order to protect his/her noble friend/superior, as well as the peasants from the greed of the nobles and the ruthlessness of the military.
It is very graphical from time to time, showing murder and death and lies to frame someone, even cases of rape and pedophilia. The animators were not too scared to show the inhumane side of the nobles and of the dark side of humanity in general. Again, although Captain Harlock had done something similar with its setting, mankind there always ended up being conquered by aliens and then begging the hero to save them with his ship alone. Highly unrealistic before this setting where villains and victims are all normal people living in the same country and where the solution is public uproar and not super energy beams and indestructible spaceships. It makes the whole thing feel a lot more familiar and easier to identify with.
Another very good feature is how the story is not entirely focused on one character alone. Although Oscar is the main hero/ine, in reality the story continually shifts to numerous others and allows us to see things from various different perspectives. And I don’t mean filler scenes with the villains plotting their next move or a side character doing nonsense; I mean essential stuff to help you grasp the situation of the world. In fact, the first half of the show is mostly about Maria Antoinette rather than Oscar, as we see her gradually turning from a scared girl amidst the intrigues of the royal court into a snobby woman, indulged in the riches and the coldness towards the very emotions she once cared about. Frankly speaking, this was never done before in such an extent.
But it is not like I consider this anime to be perfect. Its animation has several problems around proportions and many characters do seem to be similar looking. Also, the pacing of the show seems to be terribly slow in the middle and terribly rushed in the ending, with the finale being nothing but narration to fill in all of the stuff the animators failed to show properly. But it still is quite the feat for its time and worthy to belong in the top ten best retro anime of all time, as well as the top five historical.
And it’s not like its themes were never exploited in the future, like in the case of time traveler Go Nagai’s works. Many later anime had great touches of royalty and French Revolution feeling to them, such as in the cases of Legend of Galactic Heroes, Revolutionary Girl Utena, The Count of Monte Christo, and Chevalier D’Eon. There are also some other child oriented anime around the three musketeers, such as Wanwan Sanjushi and Anime Sanjushi.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (interesting)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (French beauty)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (artsy)
SOUND SECTION: 8/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 4/4 (catchy songs)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 9/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 2/2 (goes back and forth in many ways)
Plausibility 2/2 (I don’t remember any internal logic problems)
Conclusion 2/2 (solid)
CHARACTER SECTION: 10/10
Presence 2/2 (extravagant)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 2/2 (it’s there)
Development 2/2 (you betcha!)
Catharsis 2/2 (full house)
VALUE SECTION: 9/10
Historical Value 3/3 (all-known)
Rewatchability 2/3 (high if you skip the boring parts)
Memorability 4/4 (too good to be forgotten)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 7/10
Some parts are boring and slow but overall it is a great work.
This is an anime that I was not sure about watching before I finally gave it a chance. I came across it a few times here on Anime-planet when I was looking for a new anime to watch, but I kept looking right past it for a while. All I knew about it at the time was that that it was made in the 70s and what the cover image looked like, which gave me a glipse of what the art style was like. I originally did not give the anime a fair chance just because it was about thirty-nine years old. After I have seen it I wish I saw it sooner. This is actually the kind of anime that is right up my ally because it is a historical drama, which I did not even know for a while because I was juding it by its cover. Versailles no Bara may be an older anime, but that does no change how good it actually is.
The story of Versailles no Bara is heavily influenced by the French Revolution, and the events in Versailles and Marie Antoinette's life leading up to that point. Some of the characters, like Marie Antoinette and Robespierre, were actual key figures at the time and I thought it was cool to see that and to get a different look at these people than how they are portrayed in the history books. Or at least I find historical shows to be fascinating and honestly do enjoy seeing historical figures portrayed in different ways in media.With anime like this it is also interesting to look at the story and wonder what parts of it really did happen and what parts of it are made up ti make people more interested in the story.
This anime includes many timeskips since the story takes place in the time frame of about twenty years. Since there were probably many things that happened in those twenty so years leading up to the French Revolution, they only include the more important parts of that time period in the story. The events chosen to be included in the story seem to be good choices as they do their purpose of showing the audience what the characters are like as much as they can until the end. The story does a good job of preparing the audience for the events at the end of the anime. This anime does a great job of foreshadowing with a who appears a few times and when he does appear he is usually talking about that inevitable downfall of Versailles and of France as they currently know it as. After the revolution has started, this character is seen to be dead. I thought this was an excellent example of foreshadowing because this guy who is always shown talking about this inevitable downfall dies at the very time what he was foreshadowing had just begun. The narrator of the story also does a bit of foreshadowing with a few a the things she says mainly about how a character did not know what was to come.
Now, a majority of this story is based off real events, but Versailles no Bara knows how to take these events and make it into a story of its own. Mainly with the interesting characters it adds and how it makes the audience so interested in seeing what happens in certain scenes. I absolutely love historical stories like this and I think Versailles no Bara does an amazing job of presenting it.
The art style of this anime is actually kind of beautiful. I especially like how the character designs look. I like seeing when a character is made to sparkle or how the light may reflect around them. It is nice how the art style will slightly change for a little bit to highlight an important or dramatic moment. The actual animation of this anime is not very good. As what to expect from a 70s anime, the animation quality is poorly done and there are many scenes that could have been animated better. For what this anime lacks in animation, it makes up for in its beautiful art style.
Music: Versailles no Bara's soundtrack is just beautiful. A lot of the songs on the soundtrack are sad but beautiful at the same time to perfectly fit the tone of this anime. I could just listen to this soundtrack for hours on end and have. During the anime, the music fits the mood very well. When there is a fight or battle going on the music fits that mood and makes the audience more pumped for the fight and more into wanting to see what happens. When there is an ominous mood the music gives the audience a reason to feel that way and let them know that something bad is going to happen. The music is well chosen and placed to fit the scenes it is in perfectly.
The opening song, Bara wa utsukushiku chiru, is a beautiful song to start off this anime with. Hiroko Suzuki’s voice is just beautiful and was a great choice to sing this opening song. I like how the instrumentation of this song is softer in some parts and louder in others. The parts that are louder are more important and I think fit the anime well with the fighting and war aspects. The softer parts of this song better fit the calmer and sweeter moments in this anime. Together it sounds like a beautifully made song that well fits the anime.
The ending song, Ai no Hikari to Kage, is also sung by Hiroko Suzuki, so similarly to the opening this song is beautiful in every way. It feels like this song appeals more to the more tragic aspects of Versailles no Bara and is another way the anime prepares the audience for some tragic events at the end. The beautifully sad atmosphere this song gives off fits the anime perfectly and is why it is the perfect ending.
The rest of the music from the anime is mainly insturmental. Many of the songs sound very similar, which can get a bit repetitive. Some of the insert songs are very cliche for anime from this time period, especially during dramatic moments. Even so, these songs work well in their scenes and do help to bring out the mood in a particular scene.
The voice acting is alright. By alright I mean it is not bad, but it is also not great. Some of the voice acting could have been better in a few scenes or for a few characters. In some of these cases it could be the Fault of that particular voice actor, but there are other times where it just sounds like the equipment they used for recording was not very good. Sometimes in scenes with action some of the sounds the characters make (like screams or grunts in a sword fight) sound a bit off. There are also good aspects of the voice acting like when a character's voice sounds a bit dramatic when they speak as a way to get the audience to pay attention to this part. I think the scenes in this anime where some of the characters sound a bit dramatic in the way they speak are the most interesting.
The characters of Versailles no Bara are very well rounded and have good character development. I could probably name a few good and bad qualities about all of the main characters. I like how some of the characters were presented in a way that I ended up both loving and hating that character. The characters in this anime really do add to the story and pull it along and make it more entertaining. There are some characters who help bring out some of the different aspects of the story: like how Rosalie helps to bring out the tragic atmosphere of France at the time, Jeanne Becu du Barry shows how low some people would go at the time to move up in status, and Charlotte de Polignac shows some ideas and customs of the time can push people to extremes and lose their mind. There are many characters from this anime that I could talk about, but I just chose four that I thought were most important.
Oscar François de Jarjayes:
The main character of this anime is Oscar François de Jarjayes. Oscar is a young woman who was raised as a man because her father could not have any sons and he wanted someone to follow in his footsteps, so when Oscar was born he decided she was going to be his son (I know this sounds really weird. This is the beginning of the first episode and I thought it was really weird when I watched it at first). At the beginning of the anime, Oscar is a general of the French Royal Guards (I say in the beginning because her rank changes multiple times in the anime). She is an interesting character who adds things to this historical story to make it more interesting than just the events that happened. She is a very strong individual and all the fight and action scenes she has are great. I like that we also see an internal struggle within Oscar with being raised to be her father’s son, but underneath everything she is still a woman. This is nice because it is shown in episode 1 and then is shown in a few later episodes as well after many things changed, so it is nice to see that this one thing had not yet changed about her. She grows so much throughout this anime, but this one thing sticks with her throughout as a result of her upbringing.
Oscar does work for Marie Antoinette for a majority of the anime and the two of them sort of become like friends, but at some point Oscar starts to question the way Marie Antoinette rules France. It is shown that Oscar starts to question her rule, but she mainly keeps this to herself and does not try to comfort Marie Antoinette about this, which I assume is because Oscar understands that Marie Antoinette does not have bad intentions and she can see both sides. Oscar feels for the French citizens who are starving and suffering, but she also can see that Marie Antoinette is not causing this on purpose, so she mainly stays silent on the matter. I would have loved to see her do more to help the people who were suffering than she did or to do it sooner. For multiple episodes I could tell that she wanted to do something, but it is not until the last few episodes that she does.
Oscar has to be my favorite character from Versailles no Bara because of how much depth there is to her and her internal struggles: being a man even though she was born a woman and choosing between one’s duty and what is right.
Of course for an anime taking place in and around Versailles one of the most important characters to the plot is no other than Marie Antoinette. She was born the princess of Austria and became the Queen of France through marriage. The Marie Antoinette in the anime Versailles no Bara is based on the real historical figure. The way she is presented in this anime is like how she was, but it is also different than I remember hearing about in history class. I remember learning in history class that she was this selfish person who was a terrible ruler because she cared more about having the finer things in life than the happiness and well-being of her people. This is clearly shown in the anime, but it is shown in a way of just not knowing the best way to rule because she was so young when she became queen instead of in a way of that she did not care about her people at all. She was presented in a way that I actually cared about her a little bit and did not entirely think of her as a bad person. She is first presented as a selfish, young girl who has always had an easy life. She later uses money that France does not have to feed her extravagant lifestyle without thinking about how it might affect her people. There are a few times in the anime that she shows what I think is genuine concern for her people. In the way she is portrayed in the anime, she does care for her people and does wish them the best, but she does nothing to help them and is usually the source of their suffering. One thing I can definitely applaud this anime for is how it presents its characters because this anime made me both hate and love Marie Antoinette at the same time. There were sometimes where I felt like i wanted to strangle her and others where I actually felt a little sorry for her. Her character is very well presented in this anime.
Robespierre is another major historical figure who is also in this anime. He does not have much of an impact until the second half of the anime, closer to when the revolution happens. I wanted to talk about him in here because of he influences some of the main characters in what they later think and do about the state of things. As one of the main voices of the French Revolution, both in real life and Versailles no Bara, what he had to say had influenced many people, this includes our main characters Oscar and André. André was always interested in what Robespierre had to say and Oscar took a little while longer to decide, but also agreed with him. What I find cool about Robespierre is not what he does directly, but what happened indirectly because of his influence on people.
André is Oscar’s childhood friend who is the son of a servant at the Jarjayes house. André and Oscar are very close and in the anime they are often fencing partners or will just talk when one of them is going through something. André is always there for Oscar and cares for her a lot. Something I find interesting about André is that he seems to not be accepted in either world of nobility or of the commoners. He is not accepted in the world of nobility because he is seen on the level of a servant and does not get treated like a nobleman. He is also no accepted in the world of commoners because even though he may be a servant, compared to other commoners he has had it easy like a nobleman would. I remember a scene where a character said something like this to André and he seemed surprised because there is a huge difference between him and a noble, so he never thought of his life that way. The way André supports Oscar is interesting. He is of a lower class than her, so he often tries to stay quiet about views he has that she may not agree with, but if it is something he thinks is best for her he will make his ideas vocalized. The conclusion Oscar came to about the state of things André came to much earlier and I think him thinking that way did influence Oscar to do so as well. He seems like a very smart character who adds a lot too the story.
Versailles no Bara does not just focus on one main character, but instead wants the audience to get to know many different characters. This anime also very rarely shows the characters in one way, but will instead show at least two sides to each character so the audience can get a more well-rounded understanding of the characters. Being able to see all the characters in this way helps to show the themes of this anime such as morality, which in this anime is shown to be very blurred. The characters is the aspect of this anime that is the strongest because the way they are presented and develop aids in presenting the themes of this anime in a very nice way and it also makes it easier for the audience to because attached to some characters and to be interested in what happens to them. How the characters are written in this story is a key part as to why it is just as good nearly fourty years after it was released.
Watching this anime has probably made me more open to watching more kinds of anime. What I mean by that is mainly with older anime. Before watching Versailles no Bara I did not really watch any older anime (only a few from the 90s). I mainly did not like watching older anime because of the style of the animation. I loved the animation in Versailles no Bara though, so after watching this I think I could watch more anime made around the same time. This anime made me think differently about older anime and to not strictly judge them on the animation itself.
This is an anime that I would definitely recommend to all kinds of people. The story is set in the eighteenth century France, so I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves history, especially European history. I myself thought the historical aspect was fascinating. I loved seeing these different historical figures and how this anime portrayed them. It is also nice for shoujo or romance fans because there are some moments that seem a bit girly. It is also great for fans of action. From episode one the fight scenes are great from the sword fights, to the gun fights, and full on battles and wars. The action scenes are always interesting to watch. This anime has so much in it, so I think it is something that so many different people can enjoy.
I absolutely love this anime. It has a few flaws here and there, but overall it is an amazing anime, especially for something made in the 70s. I did not think I would enjoy this anime as much as I did because of its age and I have not seen many older anime, but I really enjoyed this one. This may be the anime that can get me into older anime. This was such a good anime that I think is very close to being a masterpiece, which I do not say about many anime. I watched for the first time a few weeks ago and I already want to rewatch to relive all of this. The Rose of Versailles is an amazing anime that I am so happy to have seen because of how much I now love it.
Critic’s Log – July 14, 2015. Review #95: The Rose of Versailles
When it comes to World History, The French Revolution was always a fascinating subject to me. There happens to be one anime that is a portrayal of French History and even the French Revolution, even if the whole thing is a build-up to the French Revolution. The anime I am referring to is… THE ROSE OF VERSAILLES
Oscar Francois de Jarjayes was raised as if she was a boy, she would later command the palace guards at Versailles in the years before the French Revolution. Her beauty as well as her strong noble spirit makes her a shining figure in the eyes of both men and women but she is torn between her chosen life of service and duty to class and country and her own heart and desires. She lives in nobility amidst the luxuriousness of Versailles but her keen senses and compassion are not blinded to the poverty of the French people.
The Rose of Versailles is a TMS Entertainment production and ran from 1979 to 1980. This anime may be old but do not let its age fool you because this series is what I would consider a “vintage anime”. The animation may look awkward at times but this was made in 1979 till 1980, of course the aesthetics are going to be older than what we have now. I actually never had an issue with the animation although there are a couple visual effects that never really aged well. The one thing that made The Rose of Versailles age extremely well is the overall design. The hairstyles, the clothing, and the Palace of Versailles all look marvelous in this anime. I did some research and saw pictures of French art, sculptures and even the architecture of the Palace of Versailles and I have no reason to doubt that the French are known for their exquisite taste in art because of how well detailed French art often is. It is no surprise why France is one of the most visited countries in the world. The exquisiteness of France is translated well in The Rose of Versailles. Not only is the artwork marvelous, the character designs also stand out for the time it came out. Like I said, there are some visual effects that don’t age well but that is only the bare minimum of the entire animation aspect of this anime. There are some animation quirks but even after 30 years, it still looks remarkable.
The music by Kouji Makaino is an interesting case. There are some stringed instruments used, a harpsicord, and even violin. In other words, considering the historical account and how dramatized and romanticized it is... this soundtrack is very fitting even if some tracks are a little overused. This was made in 1979 till 1980 so it’s excused. I will say that as much as I liked the opening to Neon Genesis Evangelion even though it is considered one of the most iconic and beloved anime openings, The Rose of Versailles has a wonderful opening. I never skipped it when I was watching the show and I really liked the opening a lot with each passing episode.It is sung by Hiroko Suzuki and she also sang the closing theme which is also is a nice closing theme to the show. I however recommend skipping the closing theme for this show in its first half because for some unknown reason, there is a quote that is spoken in the closing theme that SPOILS a big plot point that happens near THE END OF THE SHOW. Good thing the quote is omitted in the second half of the series. Like I said, the music is fitting in the show.
Now since The Rose of Versailles was never licensed till 2012, it would be very odd to have a recent dub on an old series. For those that often watch English Dubbed anime, I am sorry to say this but this series is only available SUBTITLED. That should not be an excuse to pass on a series with great storytelling such as this one. Reiko Tajima was excellent as Oscar, Taro Shigaki is fine as Andre. Miyuki Ueda is not too bad as Marie Antoinette, and the late Nachi Nozawa is fine as Fersen. The main lead seiyus may have not done too much since (with the exception of Nachi Nozawa) they did excellently in The Rose of Versailles.
Some of the characters are fictional but there are portrayals of Marie Antoinette, Hans Axel von Fersen, Rosalie Lamorlière, Madame du Barry, Louis XVI and so forth that are in The Rose of Versailles. Marie Antoinette is romanticized in this series but her actions are dramatized in a way that I would feel somewhat sorry for her even though she was an infamous figure in French history. Now I may sound like I’m spoiling The Rose of Versailles but I don’t think I am because this anime is based off historical events leading up to the French Revolution. Hans Axel von Fersen makes the series interesting but I would not rather go in much detail on that since he does interact with some fictional characters… Rosalie had the most liberty taken with the historical portrayal since not much is known about her except she was the last servant to Marie Antoinette. Most of the things that happen with her are mostly fictional, but she is a nice supporting character in The Rose of Versailles. Now there’s Oscar François de Jarjayes. Oscar’s father wanted a male heir but it turned out that the child was a girl. So Oscar’s father decides to raise his newborn daughter as if she were a boy. Oscar is admired by both men and women because of her demeanor and elegance. Now looks aren’t everything because Oscar Francois de Jarjayes is a well-developed character in this show and she is one of my favorite female characters. Lady Oscar was not the first “of her kind”… you know, the lady taking on a typical male role. Osamu Tezuka’s Princess Sapphire had this similar concept where Princess Sapphire pretends to be a male knight for a specific cause. Also, Revolutionary Girl Utena is also another series with a similar concept. Even though Oscar is physically female, she is identified as Gender-fluid. There is no Identity crises addressed in this series and Oscar is a very believable and she develops extremely well in this series. Not only is Oscar well-developed, but so is André Grandier. I won’t say much about Andre because he is not as much of a special case than Oscar. I will say that Andre’s purpose in the plot is rewarding to watch. All the characters make The Rose of Versailles intriguing to watch.
Another fascinating aspect of The Rose of Versailles is the story, I did state early in the review that it is based on historical accounts leading up to The French Revolution and for those that are into French history should not miss out on this series. It may be romanticized in some areas but the historical aspect is still kept true to the turbulent spirit of the events that are portrayed in this fictional telling of French history. The show may be slow at first but the slow pacing is excused since it fleshes out the characters. The first half of the series does focus more on Marie Antoinette and this is fine since Oscar served for Marie Antoinette, the focus did later turn more to Oscar in the second half of the series. Even though the focus is different in two points, I have no problems with this because Oscar was still treated as the main character throughout the entire anime’s runtime. There is also another thing that I should note is that the first 18 episodes were directed by the late Tadao Nagahama, he passed away during the airing of The Rose of Versailles and the remainder of the show was passed down to the late Osamu Dezaki who was known for his distinct visual techniques at his time and the pastel freeze frames are a good example because they are used in this show. I remembered the Berserk TV series had the pastel freeze frames which was kind of hit and miss except for an end of an episode. The pastel freeze frame technique however works well in The Rose of Versailles and I am glad this isn’t used a whole lot but I like how it is used in this series.
Now as excellent as this show was, I had a couple issues with the story. First off, the finale had some odd pacing in the last 10 minutes and even though it ends with a nice touch… the second thing that bothered me was one scene that the narrator of The Rose of Versailles is to blame for. The narrator did hint events such as The Affair of the Diamond Necklace and the French Revolution and this is acceptable since they did happen, but near the very end of the series, the narrator blurts out something that will happen before it even happens. The Rose of Versailles is not all sparkles, sunshines, and rainbows. This is no surprise since The French Revolution is involved but I must ask myself this… Why the hell would someone think that a narrator telling the viewer things in advance sound like a good idea? I am so glad this only occurs once, but this also took place in the final stages. For a series that was so good for the heavy majority, this only narration-spoiler felt out of place. I will look on the bright side, at least it wasn’t as annoyingly infuriating as the Narrator from LEGEND OF THE GALACTIC HEROES. I also found the last 10 minutes underwhelming thanks to the odd pacing but I am not saying the conclusion is bad, it is just had some things left to be desired. Even though I have a couple issues with it, it was still a truly excellent series overall.
The Rose of Versailles is available by Nozomi Entertainment, The movie “The Rose of Versailles: I’ll Love You As Long as I Live” was never licensed and I don’t see the point in watching it because it is a 90 minute compilation. The iconic shojo manga of the same name by Riyoko Ikeda was just recently licensed by Udon Entertainment and will at last have an official English Translation.
And now…My final verdict! The Rose of Versailles has a compelling story with believable characters as well as taking liberties of historical French figures without taking too much of what is recorded in history. This masterpiece also has a great soundtrack for its time and the animation has aged extremely well. This anime has not withered in time, it has an aroma of excellence.
That being said, I give The Rose of Versailles a 9.7 out of 10.
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