I obviously haven’t seen all of the anime that are out there, and this especially goes for the series that were made in the sixties and seventies, so the following statement should be taken with a grain of salt. But I’d actually wager that at the time that it aired (1979/1980), the Rose of Versailles was better than any other anime that had aired so far. Heck, it would probably take until the premiere of the Legend of Galactic Heroes for this series to leave the top 3 of best anime ever made. This statement is just based on my opinion and the stories that I’ve heard about LoGH, so this obviously shouldn’t be taken as a fact. But damn: this series really blew my mind.
The Rose of Versailles is another product from Osamu Dezaki. It’s perhaps not the series where his direction is the strongest. Instead, what sets this series apart is its plot, characters and setting as it chronicles the events leading up to the French Revolution. There are a ton of things to praise about this series.
Imagine this: most series only take place during a few years, at most. The Rose of Versailles takes place over twenty four years, starting at the point where Marie Antoinette arrives in France to become the future queen. There’s so much character development in this series because of this: you can really see the entire cast grow up and gradually change over time; the amount of character development in this series is really unbelievable. On top of that, the creators actually succeeded in making a great character out of Marie Antoinette: she’s one of the most important characters in the series and the creators did really well in making her sympathetic, yet still retaining her as the wildly irresponsible queen that she was. On top of that, we also have the main protagonist of this series, Oscar. Oscar was… amazing. Charismatic, ridiculously strong, independent and charismatic, and yet with plenty of flaws most notably her pride and with pretty much the best development out of the entire series. I’m not sure what it is with anime, France and cross-dressers, but this series explores every inch of her character.
The characters aren’t the only ones with top notch development. Just about the entire series is the same. It actually starts of like your typical shoujo series, full of sparkles, court politics, nobles, frills and pretty character designs, and only subtly gets darker and darker as the series goes on and the French Revolution draws nearer, up to the point where you really can’t call it shoujo anymore and it transcends genres.
The one criticism is that it has dated a bit, and it does tend to get a bit overdramatic at times: it’s a very theatrical series that has the characters overacting on purpose to get an as big emotional response, sometimes accompanied by those cheesy shoujo sound effects. Still, it’s not like the acting is bad here: the voice actors have an amazing range here, from wonderfully restraint to powerful and over the top. It works for the most parts really well, but there are times where it goes a bit too far in this.
Overall, if you’ve never seen any series from before 1985, the series that I’d recommend the most are the Rose of Versailles for a dark shoujo, Ie Naki Ko for its drama, The Mysterious Cities of Gold for a more innocent adventure. Most of the top series of those days are tests to your patience: Gundam is an endless string of battles and fights, Perrine Monogatari takes a really long time to set up its characters, and Votoms also takes a while to really get going and develop. The series of those days just didn’t have to worry about time constraints and there was much less competition, allowing to spend a lot more time to careful build-up. The three series above however are amazing, right from the start, and they continue to be so through their entire run. Even during the shoujo-esque start of the Rose of Versailles, there’s plenty to like and it only gets better as time goes on.
|Storytelling:||9/10 – Amazing plot progression, excellent direction, excellent pacing, wonderful told.|
|Characters:||10/10 – 24 years worth of development. Just about every character develops significantly and memorably.|
|Production-Values:||8/10 – Obviously dated, but comparing it to other anime of it time and it starts to look really good and refined.|
|Setting:||9/10 – An amazing look at the events leading up to the french revolution. It’s not 100% accurate, but it definitely does try to be true to history.|