Yesterday, Right Stuf announced that they acquired the domestic rights to Rose of Versailles. The company plans to release the series across two sets under its Nozomi label, with the first hitting stores next year. In addition, Right Stuf revealed that they licensed the streaming rights to the series to video provider Viki. Episodes will begin running on the site beginning this December.
Right Stuf’s announcement tore through social media networks, as anime aficionados young and old (though mostly old) buzzed over the almost surreal fact that the show was actually seeing release. This rare classic, which eluded customers for decades, was finally having its day at the market!
“So? It’s just an old show!”
Old as it may be, dear reader, Rose of Versailles is a highly influential title in the world of anime and manga. The series, which was set during the French Revolution, was celebrated for its strong narrative, setting, adult themes, and psychological complexity. It is commonly regarded as a progenitor to Shoujo manga, and introduced a number of genre tropes. The Rose of Versailles manga introduced features like surreal, dreamlike landscapes, a cross-dressing lead, which were imitated and borrowed in titles in years since. The title became notorious in Japan for having the first real sex scene in a manga series which, to this day, prompts a reaction from the Japanese populous. For example, Japanese actress Yukari Fujimoto described the scene fondly, statng that “for us junior and senior high school girls at that time, our concept of sex was fixed by that manga.”
“So it’s an old show… with sex and cross-dressers? Why the reaction?”
Dear reader, let me ask you a question: Whatother show features a cross-dressing female lead that’s handy with a sword? A young woman who traverses a dreamy landscape and confronts the inner demons of herself and others?
Bingo. While they weren’t related, many older fans were able to draw a parallel between the two shows.Even before the days of Utena, though, Rose of Versailles is a title that was immensely popular in the fansub trade.
“But the torrents for this are dead!”
Sigh. Kids and their technology. Dear reader, please. Just listen.
Rose of Versailles was incredibly popular in the days of VHS trading. As in, the days when anime clubs would make copies of copies of shows for their members. Or, going a bit forward in time, when kind souls set up websites, and would send tapes out for the cost of the blank cassette and shipping.
Anyway, this is a title that was asked for, begged for through the VHS era, even through a few of the early DVD days. The show was consistently praised by viewers, who wanted to make the show a part of their collection. Unfortunately, licensing issues – costs, mainly – were prohibitive to such a goal, and led to a noticable absence from the western market. To see it actually released after what feels like an eternity of waiting is truly surreal, to the point where some would even question the announcement as a cruel joke.
The real question now is “will it sell?” While the demand for the product undeniable, it’s difficult to gauge just how many of those who begged for the product over the decades will actually line up, cash in hand. Personally, I’m not too worried about this issue. There are far too many bright spots on the current anime landscape to see the show fail outright. In particular, thanks to efforts by Right Stuf and Discotek, we’re beginning to see a return of the older market. These are the people who grew up on older anime, that left the hobby as the popular shows shifted from grand adventures to shows about cute girls doing cute things. They’re the type who decry newer anime for growing “too Japanese”, to the extent that it actually repels casual viewers. In thes sense, Rose of Versailles is the anti-modern anime. Its distinctly non-Eastern trappings and narrative style appealed to fans around the globe, to the point that the series was translated into over eight languages.
The only real question is why Viki was chosen as they primary streaming outlet. With more popular outlets like Hulu, YouTube, and even Crunchyroll, one can’t help but raise an eyebrow when a newcomer manages to nab such a prized property. I don’t doubt that this will come to light in the near future, though. People will certainly be looking to Viki with an arched eyebrow, as they try to figure out how they ended up in their position.