The Rose of Versailles
Lady Oscar is clipped from the gardens of Versailles, and soon begins to wither.
The French Revolution is inevitable. It was never strength nor superiority that protected the power of the aristocracy, it was the complacency of the people. But the people, strip-mined of their meager wealth by a nobility with no concept of value or humanity, have found death and hunger to be an effective motivator.
Oscar is torn. She swore an oath to protect the royal family; but as The Rose of Versailles enters into its later half, it becomes more and more apparent that the royal family’s greatest enemy is itself. Oscar tries desperately to convince Marie Antoinette to listen to the concerns of the people; knowing that the queen’s continued indifference is fomenting a rage that will soon become unstoppable.
But Marie does not heed the call, not fully, and not in time. But it isn’t malice, or even selfishness that drives her; it is complete ignorance. She, and others like her, have no idea what life is like for people who don’t have unlimited funds. She has lived her life in a world where her every whim is magically answered; asking her to understand the accounting of her kingdom is like asking someone to understand how a microwave works.
At some point, Oscar’s allegiances begin to shift. She doesn’t stop caring about Antoinette; but she becomes so immersed in the suffering of the people of France that she cannot simply stand by and watch it anymore. Again, it isn’t entirely for their sake. She is still devoted to the cause of protecting the royals; but she come to understand that their position, on such a high pedestal, is no longer a safe one. The only way to save the aristocracy to cut it down to size.
The people of France are hardly saints. Though they have a far better claim to just cause, they have become twisted and hateful under the oppression of the nobles, and a revolution that was once aimed at improving the lives of the people becomes one of vengeance against those that harmed them.
Oscar leaves the confines of Versailles, and her life begins to fall apart. She is no longer respected and admired by everyone around her; her health begins to fail, and her hope for the future flickers out. She is, mercifully, granted a brief respite of happiness before the end of the series; but it comes at a terrible price; one that puts the symbolic final nail the coffin of her old life as the Rose of Versailles.
The Rose of Versailles is one of the genuine masterpieces in anime history. Drawing enough from history to ground it in reality, while inventing a sub-genre of shojo anime that would go one to breed another masterpiece, Revolutionary Girl Utena. If you can get past the late ’70s esthetic, you’ll find a show just as, if not more nuanced and developed than most series being produced today.