Thursday, December 27, 2012

:anime: Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month:: The Rose of Versailles

The Rose of Versailles

Official Site: English
Additional Links: ANN Entry, MAL Entry
Video: Viki, YouTube (first ep. only)

There are many great anime titles that one can buy and/or watch in North America. At the same time, there are still plenty more that have yet to see the light of day here, much less have been license-rescued. Older works, despite their quality, tend to have the least-likely chance of being acquired, due to their age. There has been one title, however, that has defied that stigma and has been among the most requested titles--and for good reason.

That anime is the classic The Rose of Versailles, a landmark series from the late '70s that helped propel the shoujo genre and its many distinct peculiarities. As mentioned a few days ago, Right Stuf/Nozomi Ent. will be releasing the series in the near future and it tapped up-and-coming streaming site Viki as the show's exclusive streamer.

As a major Osamu Dezaki fan, seeking out The Rose of Versailles (when it was only available via fansubs) was a no-brainer for me, especially as it was entrenched in history (and looked reminiscent of the later Utena, though its creators deny it…). The story takes place in France during the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and focuses on the fictitious head of the royal guards, Oscar. That name does not belong to a man, however, but to a young woman, raised from birth as a male by her son-less noble father. Her exploits are followed as she contends with her particular gender situation--from matters of perception to those of love--and her relationship with the young, naive Queen of France whom she is tasked to protect. All of it is told against the background of actual historical events and relationships and manages to tote a fine line between fiction and non-fiction.

As a whole, the series is compelling as both drama and history lesson and Oscar makes for one of the most dynamic and memorable heroines around. The production is very solid for its age and those trademark Dezaki-isms are even present (though he actually picks up the baton at Ep. 19--following top director Tadao Nagahama's departure (due to death around the same period?), Nagahama's run is great, as well). Shoujo fans unfamiliar with RoV should certainly find much to love in this pioneering series and in the number of genre trappings that it helped usher in. At the same time, it still remains a worthwhile show for a wider demographic (particularly those that like history, drama, and romance), thanks to its standout execution from all corners of the work. Currently, Viki is up to Ep. 15 (as of this writing), whereas Right Stuf's YouTube channel is hosting a first episode preview.

EDIT [12/28/12]: Correction:: now it is up to Ep. 20 (the day after this was posted)! :)

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