Tuesday, August 24, 2010
The story in Rose of Versailles spans over the course of 34 years, from Oscar's birth and, 14 years later, her appointment as Commander of the Imperial Guard, through her inevitable death 20 years later in as poignant a finale as one will ever see in a historical drama. As the saying goes, "It hurts so good."
The second half of the story begins on an ominous note, with Jeanne orchestrating the Affair of the Diamond Necklace that played a major role in ruining the public's opinion of Marie-Antoinette, even though historians have determined that the Affair was one blunder that Antoinette was probably innocent in. The story takes a breather with the Black Knight arc, in which a masked thief begins stealing from the rich to give to the poor- right when Oscar's servant André has been disappearing at night. Hmmm....
Oscar's father tries to marry her off and she thwarts his efforts brilliantly. (Admittedly, it was a little weird that after so many episodes of the noblemen treating Oscar like part of the boys' club, she was suddenly the hot tamale.) Painfully aware of how she isn't completely free of the restrictions placed on women, Oscar leaves her relatively sheltered position as Commander of the Imperial Guard (where her status as daughter of the Jarjayes family gives her automatic respect among her subordinates, who are also nobles- although a great later scene shows that they respected her for more than her last name) and becomes Commander of Company B in the French Guard, which is composed of working class men who hate nobles and won't listen to a female commander, whatever her background. Revolutionary fervor boils over and all hell breaks loose after the royal family fails to negotiate with its citizens and turns guns on them instead. As a good person serving the royal cause (and leading men who cooperate with the revolutionary cause), Oscar is caught between a rock and a hard place.
Still excellent. There are so many wonderful, bittersweet, uplifting, heart-wrenching moments. Oscar winning the loyalty of Company B (and for the first time, we really get to know the men under her command), Oscar's actions at the ball her father set up for her to pick a suitor, Oscar and Antoinette's farewell scene, Oscar having her portrait painted for the first time (and later, the sad scene where André tries to describe what the portrait looks like even though he can't see it), what Antoinette does on the balcony after her family is captured, Antoinette's last request to Rosalie, Oscar's refusal to fire on the delegates representing the citizens at the Etats-Generaux, Company B's refusal to take orders from anyone besides Oscar ("We'll only take orders from our Commander!"), etc. I also especially liked seeing St. Just, who is as nutty (but not quite as much fun to watch) as his namesake in Oniisama E. (It made me smile to see him throwing daggers at a wall.) The one real negative is the hoary, unwelcome shoujo/romance novel cliché that wriggled into episode 28. It really bothered me, but the remaining episodes were powerful enough to compensate.
Whether you like them or not, you can never accuse Ikeda Riyoko's characters of being one-dimensional. Oscar is noble- like Oniisama E's Kaoru-no-Kimi, the sort of person who you would want as a friend- but not overly simple or a goody-goody. She deserves every bit of her iconic status. Antoinette is a terrible ruler but not really a bad person, and a good mother- it's interesting and a little freaky to see her change from a naïve, spoiled, but well-meaning 14 year old to a deluded queen who fanatically believes in the infallibility of the royal family- although her feelings of friendship towards Oscar are true to the end. I could go on.... Even the conflict between the nobles and the working class isn't painted in black and white. Since I love history, seeing the events of the revolution unfold was a treat.
There is comparatively little yuri in these episodes. (Unless you count Jeanne's assertion that Marie-Antoinette was getting it on with the ladies at court.) That isn't the point, anyway. This is a must-watch series.
Story: Points off for episode 28. A-
You know you've seen something special when the grainy trailer for its movie re-boot alone sends a shiver down your spine. (I wonder what ever happened to that movie. If it were released, I'm sure it would be successful.)