When I first started hearing about this show I of course heard about how great it was, how much of an influence it had on later shows, about the Tarazuka performances but one other thing I heard was that even fansubs were apparently hard to find, hence why I never looked around for the show itself. So when Nozomi announced last year that they had licensed the show (a feat that took them literally ten years, holy hell how do you have the dedication to do that?!) and that they were streaming it I figured this was a pretty good sign that I should watch it. Started watching the streams a bit after they started but once I got a few episodes into the show I found that I was enjoying it quite a bit for a show that was over 10 years older than I was, making it by far the oldest bit of anime I've seen and also a rather unique one in some ways.
Rose of Versailles
Summary: When his fifth daughter is born General Jarjayes of France decides that if he and his wife can't seen to conceive a son then he'll just have to raise one of his daughters as one and christens his last child Oscar and raises her as his heir. Her gender is fairly well known, and she seems quite comfortable not having to deal with the petty squabbles of 1700s French court women, although with the French Revolution building that inane life might have been a safer one for you.
The Good: I was a bit worried when the story started with Oscar being just 14, no offense to 14 year olds but you guys just aren't the best main characters for epic stories, so I was pleased to see that this story takes place over years and years with a good sized cast coming in and out of the story. The show is also surprisingly faithful in regards to real history, you can look up just about any of the major events in a book (or wikipedia) and see just how similar it all was. The story takes bigger liberties with it's characters, certainly there was no one like Oscar around and several characters had their backstories changed or expanded upon, although ultimately none of these changes were enough to influence the history which is exactly what I hope for in good historical fiction, a very solid and well-researched setting with characters who are influenced by it but still have their own problems and goals.
The Bad: My biggest gripe here is how hard it is to figure out how much time has passed from episode to episode. As far as I can tell the show starts when Oscar is about 14 and ends sometime in her late 20s/early 30s, if I had really and throughly studied French history I could have picked up more clues in context and figured out her age but I haven't and the voice actors remain the same for all the characters, plus some of the characters look young/old for their age, so it was a bit frustrating to try and keep track of that.
The Audio: The show uses the same voice actors for each character regardless of age (which certainly didn't help me with keep track of Oscar's age but I can see why they did it) and the music didn't change much over the course of the show either. It kept it's opening and ending theme throughout and it's most distinctive themes should be quite familiar to the viewers by the end of the show. Everything sounded fine, the music was a bit overly dramatic at points but that's just a matter of taste and the acting was certainly fine, no problems here!
The Visuals: This is a show that's been around longer than I have so obviously it's not going to look as pretty as a show produced in the last two or three years and very stylistically different from a show produced in the last decade or two. The show uses a lot of still images for dramatic effect (usually with the camera moving out or in to dramatic music) yet at the same time it doesn't shy away from having quite a few sword fights between characters which are fully animated (I'm sure some people who know more about animation than me can say if they're as fluid as fights in more recently shows, they didn't seem quite a fluid to me but regardless my point is that even though the show cut corners in some places they went all out in others). There wasn't as much shaking as I expected (or maybe I just got used to it, in the past shows I've seen from the mid-90s earlier had so much shake it was like they decided to scan in the frames during an earthquake) and again the colors aren't quite as vibrant as something painted digitally but given the setting of the show that's perfectly fine. A lot of the characters look alike (to be perfectly frank, I'm still not 100% sure who a few of the characters in the above image are) and a lot of the, apparently, lavish outfits of the cast look plain to me, probably because the coloring is a bit flat so a peasant's outfit seems to be made out of the same fabric as Marie-Antoinette's (which might sound weird to some people yet after years of cosplaying I can figure out the texture of an outfit in a show from looking at it for just a few minutes, here I really couldn't do that). So yes, the art is dated and animation is limited from a modern viewers perspective but I could just as easily pull out a show from the past few years and show where RoV surpasses it in both departments, whether you can get used to the art or not is going to be a matter of how willing you are to give it a shot and try to overlook or understand it's shortcomings.
So I'm giving the show a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommending it to anyone whose ever been even vaguely curious about it or who really enjoys modern day shojo, it never hurts to see how the genre has progressed over the years and all 40 episodes are streaming for free on Viki (Nozomi will be releasing it in two sets sometime this year). Heck, after seeing this I really want to pull out of my Revolutionary Girl Utena sets and rewatch that show now that I can see where Utena must have gotten a lot of it's influences (I'm told that both of them were influenced by Princess Knight and I'll probably watch that someday too, just with a bit of a ranty write-up based on what I know about it....). Also feel like rewatching Le Chevalier D'Eon for comparison's sake too, which now that I think about it must have been at least partially inspired by RoV. In any case, will I buy this? I don't know, I liked it quite a bit but I just don't know if I want to rewatch it and I only buy stuff that I want to rewatch. Hopefully Nozomi will have the sets for sale for a while so I'll be able to think more about it, I'm sure my wallet will be happier for that too.