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.