Earlier this month, we reported to you about how a new volume of the popular girls’ manga The Rose of Versailles was coming out, after more than 40 years since the last volume was published in May of 1974. Now, that’s certainly a long time to wait for a comic, and just as promised at the end of our previous article, we were at the front of the line to get our hands on the new volume when it was released this Monday. We didn’t want to be kept waiting any longer than necessary, after all, to take a look at the newest addition to the series. And how was the new volume? See our impressions and pictures below to find out. Oh, and we’ll also take a look at a collaboration between the manga and a fashion magazine as well!
The classic shojo manga, or girls’ comic, which was serialized in the comic magazine Margaret from 1972 to 73, is an epic drama of love and political struggle set against the backdrop of the French Revolution that features an attractive cast of both fictional and historical figures.
The main character, Oscar François de Jarjayes, is a young woman born into the French aristocracy and raised as a man, who comes of age in a time of social unrest and eventual violent revolution. Her beauty, courage and conviction captured the hearts of readers across Japan, and loyal fans still to this day affectionately call the series “Berubara“, short for the Japanese title which is pronounced “Berusaiyu no bara“. The Rose of Versailles became so popular, in fact, that the manga is singularly responsible for a considerable percentage of women over a certain age being unusually knowledgeable about the history of the French Revolution era, and many fans still feel compelled to refer to Oscar as “Oscar-sama” using the special honorific “sama”, which is much more respectful than the “san” that is used as the standard honorific in everyday conversation.
So, let’s take a look at the actual book that we’ve been waiting for in anticipation.
▼Here’s the cover of the new volume. As there were 10 volumes of the manga’s original Margaret Comics version published, this new installment is officially volume number 11. The attached narrow blue promotional sheet wrapped around the book advertises that this is the first new volume to come out in 40 years.
▼And here’s the cover in full, without the promotional sheet.
▼And also a close-up of the cover, featuring the lovely Oscar-sama.
The volume consists of four individual episodes, each featuring a male character from the manga. They are not a continuation of the original manga, but rather four completely separate side stories which take place apart from the events of the original series. The episodes were actually published in Margaret last year and have just now been compiled into a single volume.
▼Each episode starts with a beautiful cover page in full color. Episode one is a bittersweet story from the childhood of André Grandier, devoted companion and servant to Oscar.
▼Episode 2 tells a story from the past of Count Girodelle, who later comes to worship Oscar as a woman, despite her dressing and acting as a man.
▼Episode 3 takes place some years after the revolution and involves Hans Axel von Fersen (although he isn’t pictured in the cover), an actual historical figure who was known as the love interest of the French Queen Marie Antoinette.
▼Episode 4 features Alain de Soissons, who served under Oscar in the National Guard, and survived the storming of the Bastille which marked the beginning of the French Revolution.
▼The comic also contains several pages featuring information on some of the characters, such as Marie Antoinette on the right here, and Hans Axel von Fersen on the left.
▼The new volume also includes a four-page interview with Riyoko Ikeda, the creator of the original manga series, in which she reveals that back in the 70s, people around her were quite strongly opposed to the idea of a historical manga. If Rose of Versailles had not quickly become a hit, she says the series would have been cancelled very swiftly.
As for our impressions after reading the comic, while we were very excited about getting some new stories for the first time in four decades, each episode is a tidy little short story which we thought didn’t quite have the dynamic drama of the original manga. That said, the four episodes do offer a glimpse into the lives of the four characters which had never been presented to us before, so it should provide old-time fans with a sense of nostalgic satisfaction, but you do have to be well acquainted with the characters to enjoy the stories. Personally, I enjoyed getting to know more about the four characters, but I also thought the stories could use a little bit more excitement. The bonus pages with extra information on the main characters were good fun to read, though.
We also got our hands on the October edition of the fashion magazine SPUR featuring Oscar on the cover, which came out two days before the new manga, and of course, we have some pictures of this to share with you as well.
▼Oscar graces the cover of SPUR wearing a beautiful forest-themed print dress and luxurious fur hood by Dolce & Gabanna. SPUR is published in 2 sizes, one a standard magazine size and the other a smaller, compact size, and only the compact-sized edition features Oscar on the cover.
▼There are also pictures of Oscar modeling stunning couture from Dior (right) and Lanvin (left). And yes, these are real haute couture pieces that can be purchased, and they’re gorgeous, but trust us, you really don’t want to know how much they cost.
▼The magazine also came with a separate bonus gift, a beautifully decorated folder …
▼ … that contains a selection of six illustrated post-its.
▼Here’s a closer look at the post-its. You can write a message in the balloons and make it look like the characters are speaking!
So, although the new episodes weren’t exactly high on drama, we were certainly pleased to reacquaint ourselves with the familiar characters that we’ve known for so many years, since in our opinion, a manga that’s loved over such a long period of time is a gem that deserves to be treasured. We hope you enjoyed taking a peak at parts of the new volume, and we have to say, it would make us very happy if Ms. Ikeda can give us more Berubara stories, because for some of us, Oscar-sama will always be an ideal to look up to!
▼We’ll leave you with a video of the opening theme from the anime version of The Rose of Versailles, which was also a huge hit in Japan in the 70s, just to give you a feel of what the anime was like.