Riyoko Ikeda's THE ROSE OF VERSAILLES (BERUSAIYU NO BARA) is one of the most influential manga ever written. Originally serialized in the weekly magazine MARGARET from 1972 to 1973 (it consists of more than 1,700 pages, 9 volumes in all), it recounted a romanticized version of Queen Marie-Antoinette's life (Ikeda is a master of this style of manga, having also done HEROICA, recounting Napoleon's life, and ORUFEUSU NO MADO, a 3,000 pages saga on the Russian revolution) and met with incredible popularity, influencing a wide range of future mangaka, from Narumi Kakinouchi (VAMPIRE PRINCESS MIYU) to Mamoru Nagano (FIVE STAR STORIES). It also became a play by the all-female Takarazuka theater group (1974) and a live-action movie (1978). However, the most popular adaptation and, in a lot of people's opinion, the best, is the 1979, 40 episodes-long animated TV series by Tokyo Movie Shinsha.

Vienna, 1755. Marie-Antoinette of Austria, daughter of Empress Marie-Therese, is born. The same year, in Versailles, Oscar Francois De Jarjayes, the sixth daughter of General De Jarjayes, is born. The General, desperate about never having a son, decides to raise her as a boy. Fourteen years later, Oscar becomes captain of the Royal Guards, her main duty being the protection of the new Crown Princess, Marie-Antoinette. The two will quickly become friends and their lives will be closely entwined for nearly twenty years, especially because of Marie-Antoinette's passionate love affair with Hans Axel Von Fersen. At the same time, the love between Oscar and her friend Andre will develop, giving more depth to the story. Aside from her duties to Marie-Antoinette and her own complicated love life, Oscar will also have to face the first winds of the French revolution and make her choice between her duty to an obsolete Royalty or the survival of France. Although it pains her, she will choose the latter and die, along with Andre, for her ideals. As for Marie-Antoinette, she will face her destiny on her own and be decapitated on October 16, 1793...

The first thing any viewer will notice about the ROSE OF VERSAILLES animation is its overall quality, which is much greater than the vast majority of animated TV series, even the most recent. This is not a surprise, considering the team who worked on it. The director, Osamu Dezaki, had already worked on COBRA and GOLGO 13 (he recently directed the BLACK JACK OVA series) and brought a very cinematic approach to the serie, while Shingo Araki (SAINT SEIYA, original CUTEY HONEY TV series, BABEL) was the animation director. He was also co-character designer, but much of the credit for the truly incredible character designs goes to Akio Sugino and, especially, Michi Himeno (SAINT SEIYA), whose vision of Oscar, while slightly different from the manga, have made of this character an icon nearly as popular today as she was in 1979 (Oscar was in the ANIMAGE top 50 character list as recently as 1992). As for the soundtrack, by Koji Makaino (who did the BGM for BUBBLEGUM CRISIS!), it perfectly reflected the atmosphere of the manga.

As for the story, people who will have had the chance to both read the manga and viewed the animation will definitely see minute differences in some of the events. For example, in the manga, the Duke De Germain provokes Oscar in Duel, but nothing happens, while in the animation, the duel does take place. The plot to kidnapp Marie-Antoinette is not in the manga, etc, etc. However, there are a lot of scenes that are present in the manga, but absent in the animation, such as when Andre tries to poison Oscar or the numerous fist fights between Oscar and her men of the French Guards.

Some people will probably find this series a little sappy. However, the vast majority of anime fans should be enthralled by its blend of romance, action and history. Whatever your tastes, THE ROSE OF VERSAILLES is a definite must see, especially since the whole series was re-released on LD a few years ago...

It would be unfair to finish this overview without mentionning the truly fantastic job that was done for the French dubbing. The casting was perfect, especially Oscar, by Caroline Guicheux, and Andre, by Eric Legrand. This author (being French Canadian) saw this dubbing on TV in 1986 and considers it, along with ROBOTECH and MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM, responsible for what he does as a living today!

Tokyo Movie Shinsha, 40 episodes, Director: Osamu Dezaki, Animation Director: Shingo Araki, Character Designs: Michi Himeno, Akio Sugino, Shingo Araki, Soundtrack: Koji Makaino.


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