“No matter what, a knight should never act based on feeling…no matter what…But, I am only human.”
Brigadier General Oscar François de Jar Jayes
Rose of Versailles is definitely, by no argument at all, the most beautiful Shojo Manga I have ever read. I don’t mind a bit reading the excessive love story throughout all 10 volumes of this manga. This manga has powerful story and the characters are all well built, it was no surprise to know that a lot of Japanese Kids started asking their history teacher whether Oscar really exist in the history or not. Once I picked up the first volume, it was so difficult to stop till I finish all 10 of them even though this is my third read. I have seen the anime at early 90s, and then read the manga in Indonesian. The 2nd read was in Japanese, but I was lost in translation when they started talking about the history. This 3rd read is Indonesian again.
Rose of Versailles was the first manga with historical fiction as its theme, and it wasn’t Japanese history, it was French history. Just like most Manga in Japan, it was first publish in teenager magazine from 1972 till 1973, and then they republished it as a series Manga. Rose of Versailles was the first manga that become best seller in the history of Japanese Manga…And not only that, it was also published in many countries. When the anime was made, it was played all over the countries that speak French.
Riyoko Ikeda wrote the story after she read “Marie Antoinette” by Schutevon Zubike. She tried to be as true to the history as possible. In the preface, she explained which characters were real and which were made up. The Queen, the king and Hans Axel von Fersen were real and did the people who initiated the revolution such as Robespierre. But de Jar Jayes (this is how Indonesian translator translated the name, but it can also be called as d’Jarje) family were fiction. However, the one that stole everyone’s attention was without a doubt Oscar de Jar Jayes and Andre. Riyoko also admitted that she drew the army suit based on Napoleon era because they looked more beautiful than the time the revolution took place.
The story revolved around 3 people, Oscar François de Jar Jayes, Marie Antoinette and Hans Axel Von Fersen. Three people born in different countries that were brought together by faith in France.
General de Jar Jayes wanted to have a son so bad, he needed a son to continue his position in France Royal Army. When his 6th daughter was born, he decided to treat her as a boy. He named her Oscar François de Jar Jayes. He trained her art of sword and sent her to military academy. Meanwhile, in Austria, to prevent war between Austria and France, Queen Maria Theresia sent her daughter Marie Antoinette to be wed with the future king Louis XIV. General de Jar Jayes prepared Oscar to be Antoinette’s guardian.
At 14 year old, Antoinette was sent to Versailles to marry Louis XIV. When the crisis between Antoinette and Madam Du Vally heated up, Oscar chose to be at Antoinette’s side. Since that day, Oscar became Antoinette personal guard. Along with Oscar came Andre Grandier, Andre worked at de Jar Jayes family and grew up together with Oscar…where there was Oscar, Andre would also be there. Oscar had to accompany Antoinette to all her parties. In one of those parties, they met Hans Axel Von Fersen. That was the beginning of their love triangle. When Louis XV died, Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette were forced to be King and Queen at a very young age (19 and 18 years).
Meanwhile, in Paris where the people lived in poverty, a young girl named Rosalie was left by her older sister, Jean, to take care of their mother. Jane was adopted by a noblewoman. Jane refused to admit the existence of Rosalie even when Rosalie came to tell her that their mother was sick. Out of desperation, she tried to sell herself to any man that willing to pay for her body, and that was how she met Oscar (thinking that Oscar was a man). Oscar gave her money and told her never to sell herself anymore. Rosalie was so pure in heart while Jane was the opposite of Rosalie. To have more power and money, she killed the woman who adopted her.
When the Queen began to spent more money on clothes, jewelry and even gambling, Oscar stood by her side and kept giving her advice to stop, but Oscar’s voice was unheard. She trusted madam de Polignac more than Oscar. Only when Von Fersen told her that she was not to trust Polignac, she finally trusted Oscar again. While Von Fersen was closed to both Antoinette and Oscar in different ways, he loved Antoinette and treated Oscar as his best friend. But for Oscar it was different, she fell in love with Fersen, for the first time in her life she wished she wasn’t brought up like a boy.
The first 5 volumes were about Oscar’s life as one of the Queen’s most trusted person. She was the most famous commander in France Royal Army. She was also famous amongst girls even thought they knew she was a woman. The most interesting part was when Rosalie became part of de Jar Jayes family, Oscar was Rosalie’s 1st love. She knew that Oscar was a female but she couldn’t help it. Honestly…if I was in Rosalie’s position, I would have fallen in love with her too. She was a handsome woman with great personality.
The next 5 volumes were about Oscar’s life as French Army (no longer as Royal Army) and about French revolution. Oscar had her eyes opened by the suffering that the Royal family and the nobles had caused on the people. Oscar wanted to be amongst common soldiers. She had forced herself to forget Fersen, upon doing so, she realized that there was a man who was always by her side. He was her shadow as she was his shadow. He was Andre Grandier, a commoner who was impossible to marry someone from noble family.
These 5 volumes were more exciting than the first, because we got to read more about Oscar than about the Queen. We could read the struggle Oscar had to face in convincing her troop that he was worth to be their commander. We could also see how Oscar changed from a noble to someone who was more concern to commoner. It was also nice to see how Oscar slowly realized that her heart belongs to Andre. This was also the part where she was happy to be raised like she was.
“Papa, if I was raised like my sisters, would you made me go to the dances and made me marry someone by the age of 15?”
“Then, I am grateful you have raised me like this because I can learn much more than those women.”
The history part also became stronger in these last 5 volumes as we could get a glimpse of how the revolution started and the people that initiated it. Oscar turned her back against the royal family and his status as the nobles. She fight alongside the people of French.
I tried not to write the entire story but it was so difficult to do so… I finally able to reduce the full story into 50 % after doing a hard struggle with my mind. If you could get the manga, you will find more story complicated story that what I have shared here.
The things that make this Manga very interesting were the way Riyoko Ikeda crossed the fiction with nonfiction. She gave all the dates of important event in the history and somehow forced the fiction characters to involve in the event in a natural way. She also portrayed the Queen nicely, Antoinette was not merely Corrupt Queen that spent her people’s money in pointless activities and laugh at the agony of her people…She did all that but she wasn’t entirely guilty, she was trapped in her loneliness and unhappiness. In other word, She made her as someone we couldn’t hate 100%.
As I have said it before, Oscar is the main attraction of this Manga, it was impossible to read Rose of Versailles without being in love with Oscar’s character. She looks like a man and act like a man but inside she is just like any woman. Her heart is pure and uncorrupted, when she took the people’s side, she was still admiring her Queen because she knew her suffering.
Because this is a Shojo Manga, we couldn’t escape from the exaggerating girlish way of expressing love and heartbreak, and not to mention lots of tears…Something I usually refuse to read (see the picture on the left). But, Riyoko had made people like me enjoy this kind of shojo manga because of its captivating story and strong characters. I know I will read this manga again someday.
I reread this manga for my participation in Hello Japan! Mini Challenge. This month’s challenge is about Manga. In my last year Manga Challenge for Hello Japan! I wrote about my encounter with manga in Hello Manga!; my photography of the Most Often Cosplayed and my top-5 manga of alltime in Subarashii Manga. I want to share all my favorite shojo manga for this month’s challenge. I also share this as my first manga for Manga Reading Challenge 2011.
There are the pictures I captured from the back cover of Rose of Versailles, I really like her artwork