We are going back to late 18th century France where the country’s politics was on the brink of exploding. This is the (fictional, of course) tale of Lady Oscar Francois de Jarjayes and her life being raised as a man. This is the story of The Rose of Versailles.
The Rose of Versailles was a very influential story in the history of shojo manga. Ryoko Ikeda, the author, took liberties with how historical figures such as Marie Antoinette, Axel von Fersen, and Louis XVI are portrayed in the story. Marie Antoinette seems to have received the biggest change of all as she is depicted to be innocent, flighty, and sweet in contrast to the real historical figure.
Lady Oscar’s father decided to raise her as a man because he wanted a son to continue his military lineage as the palace guards. He had six daughters and upon the birth of Oscar decided Oscar would be trained in combat and military skills. After completing her training and gaining military status, Oscar is tasked with ensuring the safety of Marie Antoinette.
Lady Oscar is open about being female and being able to use her position and masculinity to gain freedom a lady wouldn’t have had at the time. Oscar receives romantic attention from both the ladies and gentlemen but always stays true to her sexual orientation. In the story, Oscar falls in love with Axel von Fersen, the Swedish count, and, later, Andre Grandier, her childhood friend and a commoner.
This play of gender and social identity as well as the idea of going against social norms are some aspects that have made the story so successful.
The manga has spawned an anime adaptation, films, and a live musical adaptation by the famous troupe, Takarazuka Revue. The character Lady Oscar is said to have been inspired by the musical troupe, so with Takarazuka Revue acting out the story, it all comes full circle.
Fairly recently, a new The Rose of Versailles manga volume came out in Japan. It is not a continuation of the story, but a compilation of side stories that took place in the same timeline as the manga. Also, a couple of weeks ago, Anime News Network reported that Udon Entertainment will be bringing The Rose of Versailles manga to the US. This will be the first official English translation of the shojo manga. Additionally for you anime DVD collectors or if you are interested in watching the series, Nozomi Entertainment has started distributing Part 1 and Part 2 in the States. So please ready your bank accounts.
Bara wa Utsukushiku Chiru (The Rose Scatters Beautifully) represents the story of Oscar and is arguably the most memorable opening of the series. The song has been covered by different musicians and bands such as Lareine (a visual kei band), Animetal (a metal band that specializes in anime openings), and Nana Kitade (who sang the ending song, Kesenai Tsumi for the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist anime). Unfortunately it is rather hard to find more information about the original singer, Hiroko Suzuki.
I hope I have piqued your interest enough to check out the manga/anime. See you next Thursday!