Part 6: Interlude: Riyoko Ikeda and The Rose of Versailles Franchise
Before I get back to The Rose of Versailles, I want to make a quick note that the manga The Window of Orpheus (1975-1981), which also features a girl being raised as a boy for the sake of being an heir, but is very different than Oscar. Julius von Ahrensmeyer is the daughter of her father’s mistress, who later becomes his second wife. Because von Ahrensmeyer’s first wife had two daughters, when Julius was very small, her mother began dressing her in boy’s clothes and passing her off as a boy; when she married von Ahrensmeyer, Julius became his heir. Julius has to keep up the disguise as long as her father lives so she can inherit.
Unlike Oscar, who enjoys her work and her unusual life for the most part, Julius does not. She wants to wear dresses and be allowed to express her romantic interest in her crush Klaus, which she can’t do partially because of her all-boys music school’s strict “no homo” policy and social norms, as well as a desire to be true to herself. Additionally, she has to deal with the doctor who delivered her blackmailing her mother and threatening to out her. It’s a different take on the women-performing-masculinities genre in that, instead of being freeing or transgressive, Julius is unhappy in her role, a predecessor in some ways of the manga that would explore trans identities and social dysmorphia.
While many manga in our discussion had anime versions released, The Rose of Versailles stands out from the crowd with 40 years of continual media adaptations and marketing. In the years after the manga wrapped, The Rose of Versailles became a cultural force unto itself. First, let’s take a brief look at how The Rose of Versailles has become as recognizable and referenced in Japanese culture and media as Star Wars before we delve into the other media the series inspired.
1974-6, 1978-9; 1989-91, 2001, 2005-6, 2008-9, 2013-15. While the 2010s saw more musicals based on anime and manga (Black Jack, Lupin III, Rurouni Kenshin, etc.), the production of The Rose of Versailles by the all-women Takarazuka Revue was one of the first and most famous. The decision to cast an otokoyaku (actor of men’s roles) instead of a musumeyaku (actor of women’s roles) in the role of Oscar is notable in its reflexive nature–both are women assigned a male “role,” so to speak. There are several Rose of Versailles musicals, each of which focuses on a different character or pairing, typically Oscar/Andre or Antoinette/Fersen. See more posters here.
1979-80. There are 40 episodes. The end of the anime suffers because a lot of the material from the manga is compressed (moreso than in the beginning). Excellent ‘70s sound effects and a karaoke-classic theme song.
Live action film “Lady Oscar”
The 1979 film was a multinational production, featuring French and American actors and directed by Jacques Demy. The film suffers from bad acting, everyone being out of character, and a poor script. Frederik Schodt, a scholar of anime, created the first English translation, some of which is reproduced in his book Manga! Manga!
The manga was translated into and the anime dubbed in French and Italian. The English sub of the anime was released by Nozomi Entertainment/Right Stuf in 2013 and the manga translation in 2016.
Parts of the manga and anime were re-animated for the pachinko games. Here we have the manga version of Oscar’s love confession to Andre.
–Berubara Kids: a humorous four-panel comic that rewrites famous scenes of the manga to include punchlines. Fannish and delightful.
–Episodes was released in 2015 and featured four side stories.
The international messaging app LINE lets you express your feelings with Rose of Versailles stamps.
Ikeda collaborated with fashion companies and magazines to make illustrations of her characters wearing their products. Renown’s “Love and Trench” campaign has featured Oscar and Andre “wearing” their products since 2015(-2016).
Ikeda also drew Oscar and Andre’s (weirdly heteronormative) wedding for Zexy magazine as a supplement to illustrate tips for planing your own wedding. Among my favorite responses: http://wixbloom.tumblr.com/post/143328829431/the-puple-cometh-sorry-but-no-thats
Products and Marketing
Stamps, eyeliner (it’s actually not bad), tissues for your shojo tears, dolls, pins: you name it.
The Rose of Versailles is everywhere, especially with the re-release of the soundtrack, new English translations, and 40th anniversary. Now that we’ve seen a fraction of its tie-in products and marketing references, let’s move on to the characters the manga inspired.