The Rose of Versailles, Vol. 1

By Riyoko Ikeda. Released in Japan as “Versailles no Bara” by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Margaret. Released in North America by Udon Entertainment. Translated by Mari Morimoto.

At last, one of the most iconic manga ever has reached the shores of North America. It’s been a long wait since the license was first announced, and I’m sure there are some asking whether it was worth it. I am here to tell you that yes, it was. The volume of Rose of Versailles I am holding in my hands (both hands, it’s quite heavy) is gorgeous, a hardcover with high-quality paper, the first of five omnibus volumes (the “Complete Edition” from Japan). The art is breathtaking – I normally read manga fairly quickly, but it took me days to get through this book, as I kept stopping every panel to look at some fresh new detail. The characters are all compelling and drive the story well, although I admit that I like some of them more than others. The dialogue is also fantastic and will make you go back and reread when you aren’t going back to reread because of the art. It’s just… really amazing, folks.

The story frames itself as being about three people born the same year: Hans Axel von Fersen, a Swedish prince; Oscar Francois de Jarjayes, a noblewoman raised as a man; and Marie Antoinette Josephe Jeanne de Lorraine D’Autriche, better known as just Marie Antoinette, future Queen of France. The first half of the volume is very much about Marie Antoinette in its entirety; Oscar is there, but as a mere supporting player, popping up to snark at the other nobles and then getting back to her job with the Royal Guards. We see Marie as a well-meaning but naive and gullible teenager, thrust into the spotlight far too soon, and later in the book this gets even worse when Louis XV dies and she becomes Queen. Oscar is there at timees to try to guide her towards being more mature, but is not very successful at it, mostly as there are any number of hangers-on who are trying to manipulate a lonely and innocent Queen. And then there’s Fersen, who arrives at court and falls deeply in love with Marie Antoinette.

This is soap opera, of course, but of the best kind – if you’re going to go big and overdramatic, the court of Louis XV and XVI is the place to do it. Marie Antoinette is both sympathetic and frustrating, and you can see how difficult it can be to do the right thing when you have so many people who are standing besides you “giving helpful advice”. There’s also a subplot involving a pair of poor sisters, Jeanne and Rosalie; one manipulates men to move up into nobility, the other ends up attached to Oscar after her mother is killed by a mysterious noblewoman. I was, I admit, less enamored of these two; Rosalie, in particular, can grate. And then there’s the art. Rose of Versailles is most familiar for its iconic shoujo poses, and those do look beautiful and dramatic, but there’s also lots of silliness as well, and much of the humor in the volume comes from over the top comedy reactions to everyone’s antics. (Oscar, in particular, gets some magnificent funny faces.)

I hope I don’t need to tell everyone that this is worth reading immediately. If you were beginning to despair worrying it would never come out, fear not; it’s here, and it’s magnificent. Immerse yourself in it.

The Rose of Versailles Debuts On Viki Today!

So normally I don’t talk about anime much, but am making an exception for this. Everyone should watch it. Yes, even you. Here’s the initial press release that came out before NYCC.

Viki Signs Exclusive Deal to Stream Revolutionary Anime Series The Rose of Versailles for the First Time in North America

Ground-Breaking Title by TMS Entertainment LTD to Premiere at New York Comic Con 2012, Streamed on Starting December

Viki, Inc., the global TV site powered by avid fans, today announced an exclusive deal with Right Stuf, Inc. to stream The Rose of Versailles, a legendary anime title produced over 30 years ago by TMS Entertainment LTD, based on the manga comic created by Riyoko Ikeda, one of the most well-known manga artists in the world, partly for her progressive characters. A sneak peek of the first episode, subtitled in English, will premiere at the New York Comic Con on October 13 with Anime News Network and anime expert and Tufts University Professor Susan Napier.

This is the first time TMS Entertainment LTD has allowed the series to be released outside of Japan, Asia and Europe and made available for English-speaking audiences in the U.S. and Canada. The 40-episode series will begin streaming on Viki in December with English subtitles. Viki launched its anime channel in March and now has over 100 anime titles from Japan’s largest licensors.

“Many companies have tried unsuccessfully for years to bring The Rose of Versailles to North America,” said Razmig Hovaghimian, Viki CEO and Co-Founder. “We’re honored TMS has entrusted Right Stuf and Viki to bring a true Japanese treasure to our fans.”

The screening will be hosted by Professor Napier, a specialist in modern anime literature and Professor of the Japanese Program at Tufts University. She is author of the groundbreaking book “Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle,” which analyzes sexuality, transgender protagonists, and femininity and masculinity in manga and anime characters.

“When Rose of Versailles burst on the scene in 1972, it was a revolutionary work in many ways,” said Professor Napier. “First of all, it really WAS a work about revolution — the French Revolution of 1789, to be exact — and its historical setting, psychological complexity and adult themes all signaled a new direction in the genre of manga for young girls, known as ‘shojo manga.’”

Even more “revolutionary,” however, was the introduction of a major cross-dressing character, the young woman named Oscar, who befriends and guides the hapless Marie Antoinette as the world churns around her. While much of “Versailles” is historically accurate, Oscar is Ikeda’s own invention, a passionate young woman who dresses and often behaves like a man. Oscar quickly became the series’ most popular protagonist and her gender-bending role not only gave young female readers a new approach to gender and sexuality but also paved the way for the many other gender-ambiguous characters who continue to populate the world of anime today.

“I’m excited that we can work with an innovator like Viki for the online premiere of our production of The Rose of Versailles,” said Shawne Kleckner, President and CEO, Right Stuf, Inc. “Viki’s audience is a great fit for this property, and we look forward to the upcoming broadcast.”

About Viki
Viki is a global TV site with over 12 million monthly viewers who come to watch their favorite TV shows, movies and other premium content, translated into more than 150 languages by a community of avid fans. With over 1 billion videos viewed and nearly 250 million words translated, Viki uniquely brings global prime-time entertainment to new audiences and unlocks new markets and revenue opportunities for content owners. In 2011, Viki announced $20M in Series B funding from strategic investors include BBC Worldwide and SK Planet, a subsidiary of SK Telecom; as well as from existing investors Greylock Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Charles River Ventures and Neoteny Labs, among others.

Currently celebrating its 25th year in business, Right Stuf, Inc. was one of the first players in the U.S. Japanese Animation (“anime”) industry, as both an anime producer/distributor and a retailer. Right Stuf works to promote knowledge of its own products, as well as the anime and manga industry, in general, through its online storefront at and a variety of media including podcasts and special publications. Its video and print publishing division includes the Nozomi Entertainment, Lucky Penny, and 5 Points Pictures studio-labels. Right Stuf plans to begin releasing The Rose of Versailles on DVD in Spring 2013.

TMS Entertainment, Ltd. (better known as TMS), one of the world’s largest and most distinguished animation studios, has rapidly won recognition from the international filmmaking community for its highly acclaimed animation, pioneering techniques and proud commitment to quality. With its headquarters situated in Tokyo under the supervision of the world’s dedicated team of top development, production and design executives, TMS’s growing reputation is reflected by the versatility, artistry and originality of the remarkable volume of programs the company has produced for the international markets worldwide. Established in the year 1964, TMS has produced more than 100 features, and over 100 TV programming series, in total of 8,000 half hours, for global distribution. TMS also proceeds restoration projects of the titles to keep its highest quality for next generation. TMS is proud to uphold our tradition of presenting to you unforgettable images from the finest animation produced anywhere in the world. TMS’s programs have attained the worldwide recognition and we continue to strive for excellence and lead the animation world throughout the century.