After years of western fans being denied both, after thousands of requests at conventions, finally, both the original manga and the classic anime adaptation of The Rose Of Versailles have been officially translated and released in English.
While unfortunately, we doubt a nearly 50-year-old franchise will capture everyone’s hearts, those interested in the history of manga as well as queer and historical comics and shows should absolutely do their homework this time around. Riyoko Ikeda’s The Rose of Versailles, a manga about the french revolution, left a permanent mark on everything that came after it.
Riyoko Ikeda Broke Unbelievable Ground With Her Manga
Selling 15 million volumes in time where collecting manga was only just starting to become a regular thing, Riyoko Ikeda’s The Rose Of Versailles was a huge hit in the 70s. To this day it remains the 14th best selling shoujo manga ever and considering its nearly 50 years old, debuting in 1972, that’s still quite the accomplishment.
Having clawed its way out of the immediate post-war period, bringing in western influence, and fostering a growing economy, the 60s onwards saw a new period of creativity in all Japanese media. Both because of and in spite of that wave Ikeda set out to create something the likes of manga had yet to see; A period piece taking place during the french revolution that combated gender and class issues openly.
The Rose Of Versailles follows Oscar, a young woman raised by her father as a boy who eventually becomes a knight. She becomes the personal friend, and a guard, of Marie Antoinette herself; Something she’s initially proud of but as the series goes on she realizes how French royalty treats the poor.
Things get hairier from there. We don’t want to spoil the series anymore but the manga covered a lot of conceptual and narrative ground that even by today’s standards would probably be seen as daring. Considering 2019 saw the manga published in English for the first time, we can safely say people still regard the work in very high regard as one of the all-time classics of the medium.
Legends Of Yesteryear Brought The Rose of Versailles Anime To Life
Luckily The Rose of Versailles anime is also a classic.
Adapting a classic genre-defying series, how couldn’t it be but still. It features the works of two of anime’s earliest greats. The show’s first half was directed by Tadao Nagahama who was previously most known for directing the ‘Robot Romance Trilogy’; A series of Super Robot shows that tried to bring new drama and emotion into the genre, going on to influence the first Mobile Suit Gundam. Known for his human touch, Nagahama did a great job making the source material feel real.
Then the series fell under the hands of the legendary Osamu Dezaki, one of the most prolific animators out there for works like Aim For The Ace and Space Adventure Cobra under his belt. Known for pioneering the technique where a single frame of animation fades into a more detailed illustration of said frame, he left his touch on anime forever and you could see his visual innovation all over Versailles.
The Multi-faceted Legacy of The Rose of Versailles.
So much in the anime and manga culture would be different if Riyoko Ikeda decided not to pen her historical masterpiece. The Rose of Versailles influence can’t be summarized in just a few sentences, although we’re going to try, with it not just influencing manga came after but how manga would be read.
While possibly not the only factor, fellow shoujo godmother Moto Hagio has gone on record saying that The Rose of Versailles strongly persuaded publishers to start collecting their various series in volume format after running in manga magazines.
That huge innovation changed the way manga would be considered and consumed forever, to the point that even though series originally ran in magazines many would be envisioned in volume format.
Of course the contents of The Rose Of Versailles were equally revolutionary, literally in its case. As stated before, the manga didn’t just play with gender roles but gender itself in its lead with Oscar in a time where LGBT visibility in Japan was about non-existent. Although we have to give some credit to its direct predecessor Osamu Tezuka’s Princess Knight also treading that line.
Taking place during an actual revolution, you also had themes of nobility versus the poor as well as examining certain cultural differences that came along with that. These qualities went on to directly influence Revolutionary Girl Utena, which isn’t a stretch, but also Kentaro Miura’s Berserk.
If Griffith looking just like Oscar wasn’t enough of a hint, Miura’s plainly stated Ikeda’s manga’s influence on his own