Rose of Versailles

Rose of Versailles is an anime series
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In 18th-century France, revolution is in the air, but for Oscar François de Jarjayes, the ties of tradition are all-powerful. Sole heir of an ancient family, she is given a man's name at birth and becomes the son her father wants. She succeeds so completely that she is soon one of the best fencers in France, promoted to Captain of the Guard of Marie Antoinette, Austrian child-wife of the Crown Prince. Both Oscar and Antoinette are women alone, forced into roles they did not choose and barred from love by duty. The Crown Princess of France loves a foreign nobleman, while the Captain of the Guard loves a childhood friend who is also a servant of her family. Both loves seem doomed, but both women must continue to live artificial public lives concealing real private agonies. A tangle of fascinating subplots and well-developed supporting characters, some historical and some invented, make this one of the most powerful and credible of anime TV series. As in Riyoko Ikeda's original 1972 manga, the sublime tale of love and loss ends with Antoinette going to the scaffold and Oscar leaving her life behind to share the struggle for freedom with her beloved André, dying in the assault on the Bastille.

Yet the two deaths are very different. Oscar's is a triumph of the human spirit, Antoinette's a failure. By stealing private happiness while supporting the feudal system that imprisons her as surely as the peasants, the proud, brave Antoinette has colluded in the lies and injustices that have made revolution inevitable. She dies because of her public role as a glittering cog in an increasingly useless machine, but in finally rejecting a system that separates people with artificial barriers of rank and property, Oscar asserts her own right to be fully human, regardless of gender or status. She dies, not because of, but rather for who and what she is. This cleverly subverts the familiar format of forbidden love between beautiful men (which would give birth to the shonen ai manga genre) by making one of the pair a woman, but one so gifted in traditionally "masculine" skills that the idea of a truly equal relationship, with no element of dependency or weakness, can still be maintained.

The renowned Araki/Himeno team transformed Ikeda's black-and-white manga art into a colorful fantasy, and while the action is played strong, the romance is played with delicacy and pathos, keeping melodrama in check. Its roots are clearly in Tezuka's magical Princess Knight, and its influence is still strong in the 1990s TV hit Utena. It is so popular in France that it is still screened occasionally on French TV and was also adapted as a live-action film, Lady Oscar (1979), directed by Jacques Demy. A live-action musical version is the jewel in the crown of Japan's Takarazuka theater troupe. Rose of Versailles deserves its classic rank. Despite its age and technical deficiencies, it still delivers powerful entertainment.

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Original US Poster Art

General Information Edit
Name Rose of Versailles
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Romaji: Versailles no Bara
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Start Year 1979
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Aliases Lady Oscar
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