In the last week I’ve had to make a lot of doctors’ appointments, which of course means a lot of time in the waiting rooms. We’re talking serious waiting time. As such I have had more than enough time to read the Rose of Versailles manga series. Yes, I actually had the time to read all 10 volumes.
Whilst this is not the first manga series I have read it is most certainly the oldest by about 20 years. It tells a fictionalised account of the life of Marie Antoinette and the key figures in her life. It clear that when this started she was meant to be the absolute main character, but as time wore on the focus shifted more and more to another character.
This character is Oscar, a fictional character who served as the captain of the Royal Guard. I can see why Oscar became such a the character… since she is a woman who has been raised, and as such dresses, as a man. It’s one of those archetypes that you find in Japanese comics and anime – apparently it is one of those things that you find in a manga aimed at girls. Oscar is a very interesting character since they could make her do whatever they wanted and so is probably the mouthpiece of the writer.
Since this is a Japanese take on French history it is highly romanticised. The character of Marie Antoinette is painted as being whiter than white. She is someone who only wanted to be an ordinary woman and seek her own love and happiness. Also, all the intentions are pure and done for the good of the nation (at least that’s how she interprets how her actions will be received). Whilst I do not doubt she was heavily manipulated by the members of the French court this manga made light of her gambling and excesses.
You also have highly romanticised versions of Napoleon and Robespierre. We get a short epilogue after the conclusion of the story had no mention is made of the “reign of terror”. In fact, it plays down a lot of the bloody aspect of the French revolution. Then again, this is aimed at girls from a country that has a recognized psychological phenomenon related to the disappointment of meeting real life Parisians.
Whilst it was a bit fluffy in places I have to say that I enjoyed the intrigue, romance and murder. I think that reading this critically acclaimed (and somewhat early example) of shojo (manga aimed at a young female audience) has been education. Sure, I don’t understand why the moment someone appeared attractive entire page filled with roses I’m guessing that is something stylistic I will be seeing when we get around to reading the likes of Fruits Basket and Sailor Moon.