Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Anime Review: Rose of Versailles episodes 21-40

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-
Art: B
Overall: 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.)


Sheldor said...

Oh goodie part 2! If I could, would you let me ask you a few questions? And forgive me but I don’t know anyone who’s seen RoV, nor anyone who could tackle these questions from a yuri fan perspective, so I might get carried away. I’ll do my best to reel myself in.

I’m sorry but I could not watch RoV without comparing Oscar and Utena as characters. One of the questions I have for you - and if I could use some Utena terminology - is whether you thought Oscar lost any of her Princelyhood in marrying Andre? Those few lines like “Do what my husband wishes” and her somewhat submissive attitude towards the end of the series - did they bother you at all? Is submissive too harsh a word? Were these slight imperfections ironed out in Revolutionary Girl Utena? I have to say I was shipping Oscar and Andre so hard, I really did love them as a couple and was so vehemently against Farsen because he could never love Oscar as a Prince the way Andre could. I was very happy when they got married!

Another thing I really wanted to ask is about the translation of the honorific’s in RoV. In the sub I watched they translated Oscar-sama to ‘Lady Oscar’ - we know why this is problematic. So in your opinion how would you have preferred the honorific’s to be translated/omitted or am I just being pedantic?

I ended up enjoying RoV so much more than I anticipated. I loved every scene you mentioned in the review, I also really enjoyed the scenes involving Oscar and her father towards the end too. It was a brilliant anime and one I’d recommend, especially to Utena fans! Thanks for reviewing such an awesome series!

Katherine said...

I'm glad you liked the review! ^__^ It was a lot of fun to re-watch.

Easy question first- seeing "Oscar-sama" translated as "Lady Oscar" didn't really bother me. At least, no more than seeing "Bonjour" when the characters said "Konnichi wa." To me, the translation should depend on the context. If it's Andre's grandma saying "Oscar-sama", "Lady Oscar" or "Mademoiselle Oscar" makes perfect sense. If it's, say, Fersen (who only saw Oscar as one of his bros even after knowing that she was the "Countess" he danced with at the ball), I guess something like "Lord Oscar" or "Monsieur Oscar" would make more sense. I'm no translator, but that's my amateur take. ^^;; (It would be tricky to translate for the characters who don't completely see Oscar as masculine or feminine.) But I wouldn't leave the Japanese honorifics untranslated, for the setting RoV is in. (Another example: I didn't like how the subtitles in Funimation's release of the Fullmetal Alchemist movie left in the honorifics because it doesn't make any sense for people in Weimar Germany to call each other "-san", "-sama", etc.) *light bulb goes off* *checks Lililicious's translation* Yup. Context.

And for the second question- those few lines definitely aren't ideal, but they didn't really bug me in the larger context of Oscar and Andre's relationship (esp given their time period)- Andre let himself go half-blind to save Oscar (although I love how Ikeda showed that she really didn't need it, with her ceiling-ambush) and got the crap beaten out of him by Company B just just for being associated with Oscar- not to mention the other times that he put his life on the line for her. Episode 28 was what really distressed me, but Ikeda didn't push that scene any farther (thankfully) or portray it as titillating (unlike Kaishaku) or romantic, and the later content compensated for it. (Including Oscar's general bad-assery and Andre repeatedly going through hell for her.) I was happy when they got married also. ^__^ Even though RoV influenced Utena, I wouldn't compare them to that extent.... Too much trouble for me to measure Oscar by Utena's measuring stick, or vice-versa. Outside of their superficial similarities, I just enjoy each series on its own terms.

But like you said- brilliant series (with very well-developed, multi-faceted characters), and one that I wish every anime fan would at least try.

Sheldor said...

Thanks heaps for responding to my questions. I happen to agree with you on both accounts! (surprise surprise)

It’s really true, in the context of their entire relationship those lines are hardly insignificant and nothing compared to episode 28. Episode 28 was just really hard to watch. I must be really cynical because I was expecting something like that to pop up eventually. Though to be fair, just as quickly as it was brought up it was also cast aside, so that’s good hehe.

Yeah I agree, I shouldn’t compare RoV and Utena too closely but my whole mindset going in to watch the series was that I was doing some Utena homework, so where there were similarities to be made my mind naturally did so. Like who’s cuter in drag for example? *torn* But I was please that my enjoying of RoV really evolved beyond that original mindset.

It was just so excellent!

Thanks again for taking the time!