Are There Lesbians?
With six daughters, General Jarjeyes decides to raise his youngest as a man, naming her Oscar. Oscar is given the command of the Royal Guard and becomes responsible for the young Marie Antoinette. The fates of the two women become entwined with one another and the future of France.
I had heard so much about this classic anime, but for all that, before I started watching I didn’t really know what it was about. I knew that it was a precursor to anime like Revolutionary Girl Utena and that it was super bishie and that’s about it. Because of the mental correlation between Rose and Utena, I assumed there would also be some yuri moments. While there were a few longing glances towards Oscar, and quite a number of women are portrayed as being in love with her, Oscar herself is only shown to be interested in men. So unfortunately I didn’t get any good lesbian content and the over-the-top bishounen anime I had signed up for quickly
devolved into a pretty accurate day-by-day account of the events leading up to the French Revolution. In short, I came for the gays, and stayed for the history lesson. And what a fantastic history lesson it was.
The highlights have to be the early stand-offs between Marie Antoinette and Madame du Barry, culminating in what is quite possibly the most dramatic moment in anything ever – Antoinette’s reaction to her own comment to du Barry that “there are many people at Versailles today.” I don’t know about anyone else, but I, too, often wish to dramatically run away after saying something I regret. After these events the plot focuses a lot more on Oscar herself, which I enjoyed a lot more, even if the anime did become more serious. Watching Oscar grow from an idealistic teen to a person quietly confident in her abilities and who uses her privilege in an attempt to affect change was an extremely powerful thing. One thing is for sure – Rose of Versailles might have been written in the 80s but a lot of the messages it sends are still relevant today. I haven’t used the word “timeless” in any of my reviews so far, but Rose of Versailles is just that.
Unfortunately there isn’t anything explicitly stated about Oscars sexuality. I think it would be an interesting exploration given her preference for being treated as a man, particularly towards the end of the series when she says that she wants to always live as a man. Nonetheless however, as mentioned previously, while she seems comfortable being the focus of attention of many women, her own love interests are all men and she doesn’t seem interested in pursuing women. I did find it frustrating that Oscar spends so much time arguing against marriage because she wants freedom, only to later agree to be led in her decisions by her husband (it’s an old anime but I’m going to try and avoid outright spoilers). Of course, by this point she has not only chosen her own husband and exercised the freedom she sought in doing so, but also retained that freedom by marrying someone who respects her.
There are a few trigger warnings for this anime: Suicide and attempted sexual assault. Personally I don’t think the latter is necessary to the plot and only makes me dislike a character I loved, especially as the assault is supposed to “correct” Oscar’s desire to become a man. If anything I think it pushes Oscar to try and become even more independent, and places a lot of focus on the man. Despite this, for the most part I feel like this plot point was handled reasonably well and, as in all things she does, Oscar overcame it with grace and style.
Oscar has become one of my favourite anime characters and I can’t wait to get my lazy arse into gear and cosplay her. If you can get past many of the anime tropes of dramatic statements, hair blowing in the wind, and discordant sound effects, or if you just want to check out a classic anime with fantastic art and a great plot (and no panty shots!) then Rose of Versailles is for you.