Full Anime Series Review: Rose of Versailles
Rose of Versailles is a historical drama anime that focuses on the life of Marie Antoinette, as seen through the eyes of her fictional female bodyguard, Lady Oscar. Lady Oscar is virtuous and knightly. She was raised as a man because her military lord father had wanted a boy as a successor as captain of the guard.
Other than the addition of a few fictional characters, however, much of the story remains faithful to historical accuracy. The show casts Marie Antoinette in a favorable light, seeing her as a victim of a disaffected mob scapegoating her by blaming her for many problems in France she had no power over. Austrian in origin, things weren't easy in France for Marie Antoinette from the moment she stepped out of her carriage at Versailles. Her husband ignored her, leaving her lonely, and noblewomen preyed upon her, taking advantage of her naivete. Things only get worse when the French Revolution breaks out and the commoners turn into a hateful mob against their royalty, nobility, and clergy, and yeah, you probably know how that all turns out.
In Rose of Versailles, Lady Oscar is essentially Marie Antoinette's only real friend in court she can trust through all of these hardships. However, as public opinion turns against the monarchy, Oscar's heart is conflicted because she knows that the revolutionaries are also right to want to fight for the rule of the people. The show really does a job of capturing this conflict in a moving way.
Rose of Versailles
Historical, Drama, Shoujo
Manga by Riyoko Ikeda
Tokyo Movie Shinsha
OVA, Anime Film, Live Action Film, Stage Musical, Short Stories
I think Rose of Versailles is an excellent anime, and I rate it highly on my personal list of favorite historical dramas. It does a great job of evoking the feelings of the time period. It also does a good job of being balanced. It neither paints all the nobles nor all the commoner revolutionaries as wrong per se, instead showing that both sides had their share of bad apples.
At its core, Rose of Versailles is about Oscar's relationship with Marie Antoinette, and her relationship with the friend Andre. One is, well, queen, and the other is a common soldier, so that allows the show to portray the two sides of the main conflict through two characters who are equally likeable.
It portrays a soft, innocent, deeply human version of Marie Antoinette. This depiction may be idealizing, but it seems consistent enough with historical sources. It's hard to make historical characters come to life when they spoke, ate, danced, bathed, dressed, and so on very differently from us. But Rose of Versailles does an amazingly beautiful job of bridging this gap between the historical time period depicted and modern reality, by evoking the timeless human emotions in the historical characters.