Rose of Versailles – The Most Beautiful Manga In The World

“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.

Here is the opening song for the anime. I also found the Arabic Version and German Version of this opening song.

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

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  1. What a great post, Novia! It’s certainly a difficult story to explain as it’s spread over so many years. And it’s very heavily romantic and emotional (well, it is shojo manga), but I too first encountered it as an anime when I was living in Bangkok and then managed to borrow the manga from someone. It was my first introduction to Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution (together with Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities) and certainly helped increase my interest in history and I can’t but help feel sympathetic towards Marie Antoinette because of this manga. I had such a crush on Andre! Riyoko Ikeda has also written several other mangas such as Orpheus’ Window about another cross-dressing girl (I think it was trendy then) but this one is set in Germany and the Russian Revolution. She certainly doesn’t shy away from complex history. Also, did you know that in Japan there is an all-female theatrical group called Takarazuka that puts on a Rose of Versailles show every year? I haven’t see it but I think it’s very popular.

    1. Thank you Sakura 🙂
      In my first draft, I wrote ALL the story but it was too long and too many spoilers. I erased the side story and focused on the main characters. Andre is definitely the most interesting male character in this story, he would do anything for Oscar. I also like Jeroder, he was quitr eccentric. For me, Von Fersen is a bit boring.

      Just like you, this manga is also my first knowledge on Antoinette and French revolution,

      I have read the Orpheus’ Window, that one was more dramatic than Rose of Versailles. I have heard of that theater and seen the pictures too…the one I saw, Oscar was not too convincing 😉 not handsome enough.
      I think it would be great if they turned this into movie, but of course using French actors.

  2. I have to agree, what a wonderful review. Very detailed but not giving away too much. I have always been fascinated by Marie Antoinette. I like the idea that she isn’t depicted as totally bad. I don’t know what a “shojo manga” is. I didn’t even know there were different types. This sounds so nice, I will try to get it, I would love to read this story. I grew up with her story, visited Versailles as alittle girl already. It’s fantastic. Thanks for a lovely review.

    1. Thank you Caroline. Ah I forgot to explain what shojo manga is, shojo means girl…therefore shojo manga means Manga for girls. This type of manga talks mostly about love, I don’t usually read shojo manga except for the ones written by Ikeda, Akaishi and Hikawa because those 3 mangaka (manga writer) don’t focus their story merely on love, they have wonderful themes to go with their love story.

      I hope you can find this manga, the first country that translated this manga was Italia…so I think it will be easy to find it in Europe, but then again this is an old manga, it could also be difficult to find.

      None of the characters is depicted as entirely bad, there was always the good and the bad side of each person.

      What has become of Versailles now? was it turn into a museum or something?

      1. Yes, Versailles is a museum with tourists swarming the place at all times. it is very impressive, huge. I was a bit disappointed by the garden. French gardens are absolutely symmetrical (not like English gardens), nothing is allowed to grow wild, the plants are cut into forms, wehn you have a bush and a tree on the left side, the very same bush and tree are on the right as well. I don’t appreciate that so much but the castle is stunning.
        I looked it up, I can find the manga but it is extremely expensive. Each volume would cost at least 15 dollar.

        1. Would love to see it one day…experience the glamour era.
          Too bad for the garden, I guess every country has its way of viewing nature beauty.

          $15 per volume?? wow! that was really expensive (O.o) … $150 in total!! I wonder why it was that expensive. In here, manga is between $1.5 to $2.5

  3. OMG I READ THIS COMIC YEARS AGO! and i thought Oscar is far more masculine than Hans Axel haha.. though of course I love to see Oscar with Andre. 🙂

  4. hey this is also my fave manga when i was in Junior High …. Oscar Francois de Jarjayes and her niece Lulu de Jarjayes ….. she is so funny …..

    Oscar and Andre their story is sweet …..

  5. It’s interesting to see Manga from a historical perspective, or history from a Manga perspective 🙂
    Anime is such a versatile platform. I like it.

    1. I think the second one describes it better 😉
      the anime of this manga was great,I have seen it long time ago…would love to see it again

  6. Yay! When I’ve heard the German version of the opening song, I’ve bekome goose bumbs on my arm, funny feeling;) I did love “Lady Oscar” when I was a child and I’ve watched exactly the German version. I did never read a manga, although I always wanted to – I just did not have the opportunity yet.

    You know, thanks to “Lady Oscar” I’ve started to like French history, as I was 11 or so. Now I’m rather interested in Japan and not France, but I still like the story of Lady Oscar François de Jar Jayes and – with pure pleasure – I watch all films about Marie Antoinette;)

    Best wishes!

    1. I’m glad my review (along with the video) brings back you childhood memory 🙂

      In truth, I never been interested with French history till I watched & Read Rose of Versailles, I only knew the basic history that Antoinette was spending too much money and then executed by the people. Thx to this manga I knew more than that.

      Thank you for stopping by Litera.

  7. I thought all mangas were about Japanese people! Your post is very interesting. It’s a great idea to place this in a different time and place.

    The music reminds me strongly of the European Song Festival type of songs. Funny!

    1. Manga is very wide! they could cover the entire world within any times. I once read a manga of a little Dinosaurs adventure.

      Maybe because the story is about French,so they tried to make the song sounds like European songs 😉

  8. I had heard of this series before, but never really read or watched it. You certainly wrote a detailed explanation of it, now I want to read it! I think I never got round to it, because of the drawing style. It is reminiscent of the manga/anime of that particular time (70s/80s?) I think.

    1. It was the 70s. But I like this style that her drawing style when she write/draw Eroica, she tried to change her style but it wasn’t good, at least for me.

      Fortunately drawing style never bothered me much as long as the story is really good.

  9. Thanks for sharing your review of Rose of Versailles. I’ve never read it, or seen the anime, but it’s such a famous one! People here still refer to it. And like Sakura said I have sometimes seen posters advertising the musical version here. I think it’s great that manga could get you interested in French history. 😉

    1. You should try to read it, Nat 😉
      I know how famous it is, this manga is the first manga that became a best seller in Japan.

      That’s why I like this Manga, it’s not only about love, it also shares some knowledge.

  10. Hi, I’m a Japanese woman but living in the Netherlands. In Japan we have popular masterpieces that are public standard and are beloved many generations. Rose of Versailles is one of them. I love this manga very much since I was a little girl. I want to get English manga version but pity, seems not available. Foreign publishers take importance to launch current manga. But they must actively introduce evergreen masterpieces like Rose of Versailles. Anyway thanks for your good article.

    1. I missed your comment somehow … so sorry.
      My friend, Caroline, told me that she found the English version of Rose of Versailles, but it is very expensive.
      Compare to current female manga…the old manga is much much better. I don’t read new female manga anymore, I only read the old ones. The new ones focus more on the romance rather than the story.
      Thank you for commenting Noriko.

  11. Hey, thank you for writing this review, I really like it, especially the title “the most beautiful manga in the world” really describes this series in my opinion. This series needs more attention these days. I’m only 17 but fell in love with the anime when I was just a child and watched it again some time ago and now I just can’t get enough of it. Sometimes people tend to judge series by their age and drawing style, which is a shame! I really prefer older anime to the anime of today. It’s too bad the manga has not been translated into English, and like Noriko said, publishers these days seem to concentrate on current series… I want to read this manga and it motivates me to learn Japanese. A very good review!! 🙂

    1. Thank you for reading it, Cosmos 🙂
      Glad you like this Manga/anime … I would love to see the anime once again. I think the drawing style of old anime/manga stood the test of time. There are so many old manga/anime with better drawing than nowadays anime/manga. It’s nice to know you have discovered such art value in a very young age 😉 hope more teenagers are like you.

      A friend told me that she has found the English version, but it is very expensive (see the second comment from above).

  12. “the most beautiful manga in the world”, that really made my day! It doesn’t matter how many years pass, this manga will always take a place in the manga world, will never be forgotten. People from different times have different tastes, but real art will always be treasured.
    Unfortunately I really don’t think there’s an official English version of the manga; though I heard that there’re 2 vols haave been translated into Englis, but just only 2…

    1. Hi Mia…it’s always nice to meet another fan 🙂
      I have seen your blog, wow you really like Rose of Versailles. This manga is really amazing, I am a shounen manga fans but Rose of Versailles can make me like shoujo too.

      There is English version according to my friend Caroline (see comment above) but it’s too expensive.

  13. I did not find the comment about buying the manga online , can you give the website? Because i want as a birthday present

    1. So sorry…I read the comments too and Caroline didn’t mention where she saw it being sold on line.
      I can’t help you either because I never buy anything on line. Try Amazon or book depository

  14. This story always made me full of love. I love her both with Andre and I couldn’t stop reading this manga many times, either the anime. When my sister buy this manga, I was only 7 years old.
    I cried a lot when Andre die and when Oscar call his name after he’s gone. Too bad (because I love Ikeda sensei manga so much) all the heroin in Ikeda sensei ended with a death. One of my fave Ikeda sensei’s work is orpheus no mado. It’s about Russia history. They all ended with death too 😀 but now I have all the collections of sensei work. But did you know that Indonesia publisher had cut off many pages about RoV in this manga? I hate it, but maybe when this manga published, our country didn’t allow about kiss scene. So I went to reading online manga and downloading all the mangas 😀 and now I can see all the pages that had a beauty scene about Oscar and Andre. They both had steal my heart 🙂 ❤

    1. I have read jendela Orpheus, I like Rose of Versailles more.
      I know they always have bad faith but that feels more realistic for me than a forced happy ending

  15. I Love Rose of Versailles, Oscar is the one reason why I’m reading it she’s so awesome. I’ve watched all 40 episodes but haven’t read the manga yet. I did wish I read the manga first before watching the anime. One day I will own all 10 volumes 🙂

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