Set in the years leading up to the French Revolution, the twenty episodes collected in Nozomi Entertainment’s release of The Rose of Versailles: Part 1 set the stage for the people’s uprising, establishing Marie Antoinette’s naiveté as a ruler and the people’s unrest as the nobility flourished amidst the commoners’ starvation. The series’ final twenty episodes, collected in The Rose of Versailles: Part 2, explore the incidents that immediately preceded and most directly resulted in the Revolution, beginning with the “Diamond Necklace Affair,” and predictably conclude with the Revolution itself, bringing our characters’ tales to their inevitable, harrowing ends.
This collection stands apart from its predecessor in that the action no longer predominantly takes place in the Palace of Versailles, nor does it focus almost exclusively on the affairs of Marie Antoinette. Instead, our fictional heroin, Lady Oscar François de Jarjayes, takes her leave from the palace in order to give us greater access to the strife on the streets of Paris. Doing so, of course, necessarily breeds greater tension as we realize the full depth of the resentment directed toward the Queen, the nobility, and Lady Oscar herself. As if it weren’t tense enough already with the narrator constantly reminding us of the characters’ impending doom!
What’s more, the series had to this point been characterized by an alternating emphasis on romance (it is a shojo series after all) and action, and this collection of episodes takes both of these elements to their extremes. The characters’ passions for one another grow out of control in this set and they react in some wildly unpredictable ways, particularly where Lady Oscar and André’s long-subtextual relationship is concerned. No spoilers, though, I swear. All I have to say is, wow! And where the action is concerned, the series closes with the French Revolution. Let me just say this much about that, though: massive battles, thousands of combatants, and cannons! It is every bit as epic as the events that preceded it promised.
In short, this is The Rose of Versailles at its very best. And given that this is one of the most beloved, well-known, and influential shojo titles, that’s really saying something. My reaction to the series is ultimately one of utter awe. Although I’m rarely one for a historical drama such as this, I was enchanted, entranced throughout. So much was I involved in the series, in fact, that when I at last had the end of the series in sight, I stayed up many hours longer than I should have that night (given that my son is an early riser) in order to see it through, to relieve the unbearable tension. As such, I’d deem this a must-own for anime devotees.
The Rose of Versailles: Part 2 arrives on DVD on July 9, 2013 in a 4-disc Limited Edition collection from Nozomi Entertainment that comes packaged in a beautiful, hardboard art case with a full-color, 48-page booklet. Special features on the set include an interview with director Osamu Dezaki and trailers, but the booklet accounts for the bulk of the bonus content in Part 2. The booklet features bios of the original manga’s author, Riyoko Ikeda, as well as the anime staff; a timeline of the events depicted in The Rose of Versailles; a two-page history of the Diamond Necklace Affair as it differed from its depiction in the series; twelve pages of illustrations by co-character designer Michi Himeno; seventeen pages of character designs and character color settings; as well as background art and line art.