Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Rose of Versailles
Sub.DVD - Part 2 [Limited Edition]
As the French economy fails and the people suffer, resentment grows among the commoners towards the nobility. For Oscar, encounters with the common people become eye-opening, and her point of view slowly begins to change. Meanwhile the return of Fersen to France combined with the death of her first son begins to drive Marie-Antoinette in an opposite direction. As the peoples' rumblings turn to angry shouts, love and death will co-mingle in the streets of Paris as the Revolution finally begins.
While we all may have different ideas of what a “classic” is when it comes to anime, The Rose of Versailles almost certainly fits the definition. Full of pathos, drama, romance, and of course tragedy, it pulls at your heart and mind, making it difficult to look away from the screen, even when the narrator is telling you that so-and-so has only episodes to live. Part of this is the incredible draw of Oscar and Andre as characters, part of it is the compelling nature of the story; no matter what the components that make it up, the second half of The Rose of Versailles is captivating.
The story picks up with the infamous Affair of the Diamond Necklace that part one left us with. Rosalie's scheming sister Jeanne de la Motte (a real life French adventuress) conspires with others to gain a stunning(ly expensive) diamond necklace intended for Madame du Barry, a mistress of the former king. Nearly all of the details of this affair as presented in the anime are historically accurate, right down to Jeanne's appearance, with only her death standing out notably as fictionalized. For Oscar, this sequence of events serves to help her see Marie-Antoinette's faults in a clearer light, as well as to begin questioning the social system. Through Jeanne's machinations we start to see how the revolution begins, and this paired with Marie-Antoinette's retreat to a manor house on the grounds of Versailles, le petit Trianon, really marks a turning point in the overall plot.
Of the characters who most contribute to both our and Oscar's growing awareness of the condition of the Third Estate are Rosalie, Jeanne's fictitious sister (Rosalie was a real person, just not related to Jeanne), and Alain, a soldier in the French Guard. Alain helps Andre to deal with his increasing difficulties both pertaining to an injury obtained in this set of episodes and those of the heart. Ultimately he serves as the voice of the people for Oscar, which guides her actions in the second half. As for Rosalie, she acts as a predictor of Oscar's choices as well as a catalyst for her friend's decisions – it is through Rosalie that Oscar comes to understand that life with the nobility is not always the best choice and Rosalie's actions allow her to look at events in a different way. Between Rosalie and Alain, Oscar's thinking evolves in a way that it could not have had she continued to associate only with Marie-Antoinette and Fersen.
The romance of Andre and Oscar contributes heavily to the emotional plot of this second half, and it mirrors the changing tides of French society. A speech by Oscar's father to Andre before the latter accompanies Oscar into Paris is particularly telling – he says that had Andre been a noble, he would have been happy to give him Oscar's hand in marriage. This crystalizes the main issue both for our heroes and the story itself, and perhaps we can read what follows as an inevitability in a society that is not yet fully stable and as yet ruled by Madame la Guillotine. That said, the journey Andre and Oscar's relationship undergoes is both tragic and beautiful, mirroring the world that the two have lived in for most of their lives and its attempts at changing.
Artistically, there are some changes from the first half of the series, at least one of which is attributable to the change in director from Tadao Nagahama to Osamu Dezaki with episode twenty. Dezaki was very fond of pastel stills at dramatic moments, and these notably increase once he takes the helm, sometimes cropping up as often as three times an episode. Animation is mostly fairly basic without any particular highlights, and crowd scenes tend to feature the same group of ten or so people repeated over and over again. There are small moments that stand out in important or romantic moments, generally a fluttering bit of cloth or hair, but generally speaking there is not much here that will stand out to the contemporary viewer. Two interesting touches are the way riot scenes have an emphasis on the color red and that when characters look at themselves in a mirror their reflections are drawn without black outlines, giving them a very striking appearance. Background music mostly fits with the scenes and the generally serious nature of the show with two notable exceptions – the Black Knight episodes, easily the most romanticized part of the entire show, and anytime Cardinal Rohan is onscreen feature a goofy, circus-y music that really detracts from the rest of the production. The opening and ending themes remain unchanged.
Even when you know what is coming, it still hurts. There is very little that is surprising about the end of The Rose of Versailles, whether that is because you've read the manga, know your history, or simply read spoilers online, but that does not stop the final episodes of this 1979 – 1980 shoujo anime from being utterly devastating. The last two discs of Nozomi's release of Riyoko Ikeda's classic are like watching a train wreck in slow motion – every tragedy is horribly clear and utterly unavoidable. Granted, some of this inevitability is projected by the show's penchant for narrating what is about to happen, but ultimately that does not lessen the blow. So viewers be warned – there are no happy endings here...but there is hope. Perhaps this is best embodied in the ongoing appearance of the peg-legged man with an accordion. We see him throughout these episodes until at last he is gone – but then someone else takes up his instrument. This is at the heart of The Rose of Versailles' finale, indicated by a manga sequel that continues the journey of three of the characters into Napoleonic times: people may die and politics may change, but always, someone will be there to pick up the mantle and carry on.
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : C+
Art : B+
Music : B-
+ Compelling narrative keeps you watching, some interesting animation and artistic touches. Oscar is a fascinating character. Mostly sticks close to history. Interview with Dezaki is interesting; very nice booklet included with LE.
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