I’m a little late on the pick-up, but there’s a new drama in town for all you ベルばら/Rose of Versailles fans: 派遣のオスカル： 少女マンガの愛をこめて, or Lady Oscar, Temp Worker: With Love for Shoujo Manga. (Here, 派遣 refers to a temp agency’s dispatched temporary workers.)
The main character, Misawa Katsuko, is a woman in her 20s who works as a temp in a beauty-product company. Her new boss, Igarashi, is intent on cutting jobs and stealing her bike-parking spot. Misawa finds him irritating and downright rude–and completely out of line with her world view. What’s Misawa’s world view? The moral spirit of Oscar Francois de Jarjayes, the main character of Ikeda Riyoko’s manga series and anime Berusaiyu no Bara, or The Rose of Versailles, commonly referred to as BeruBara.
BeruBara is set during the reign of Marie Antoinette. Marie Antoinette is, of course, one of the main characters, but the real star of the series is the fictitious Oscar Francois de Jarjayes. Oscar is General Jarjayes’s sixth and youngest daughter, and, having no male heir, the General decides to raise her as a boy. She eventually joins the palace guard and becomes one of Marie Antoinette’s friends and confidants. The series was incredibly popular in the 1970s and remains popular even today because of the story’s action, romance, and most definitely because of Oscar’s cool factor.
Misawa’s everyday experiences are colored by her love of BeruBara. She runs a fan website and has a shrine to Oscar in her apartment, which is furnished with European-style furniture. She frequently compares events in her life to events in the manga. For example, when she sees Igarashi surrounded by his new lackeys and eating all sorts of meat dishes like a king, then leaving half the meal behind and disrespecting the janitor, Misawa imagines him as a selfish nobleman and imagines herself and the other temp workers as the poor of Paris. When she is feeling nervous or sad, she picks herself up by imagining herself as Oscar. Her imagination and her real life tend to overlap in awkward ways–when a guy asks her out, she accidentally calls him “Andre,” the name of Oscar’s lover. The show is also visually interesting–there are a lot of cut scenes to Misawa’s imagining herself in BeruBara and still frames of famous scenes from the original manga. It’s somehow exciting to see something you just read on your TV screen!
The show began on 28 August, so you might need to do a little catching up via d-addicts.com or Veoh. I am not aware of a website that has the show with English subtitles yet, but think of it as a way to really practice your listening skills!
Haken no Oscar airs on Friday nights from 10 pm to 10:45 pm on NHK.
Will Misawa’s obsession with BeruBara get in the way of real life? Will she be able to live up to Oscar’s example? Let’s watch and find out!
Thanks to Elisabel Vega for the tip-off!
Bonus feature! Leah’s Notes:
For readers who are not familiar with BeruBara, I’d like to briefly discuss gender in the work for a moment. Misawa loves Oscar for the same reason many fans do—Oscar is not only beautiful, but also smart, confident, strong, and courageous in a way that transcends sex and gender.* Although she is bound by class as a nobleperson and by duty as a soldier of the queen, Oscar represents a freedom from gender and sex roles that is highly desirable to female readers. (And male readers. I know you’re out there.) Long story short, Oscar is, in many ways, more free to live a life that is her own rather than a life that is bound up in conforming to expectations about the role and position of women in society, both in the 1770s and two hundred years later. In addition, the love that emerges between Oscar and her childhood friend Andre is a love based on equality and mutual respect. This, as well, is incredibly appealing to fans, because Oscar and Andre’s similar gender expressions completely break down the stereotypes associated with heterosexual romantic couples. On a personal note, that kind of romance is probably the most appealing point of the manga for me.
The manga and anime may be a little “girly” and a little too 1970s for some tastes—there are lots of sparkles, big eyes, and tears—but I seriously recommend it. Action, love, intrigue, gender benders, and the French Revolution–what more could you ask for?
Leah Zoller is a first-year CIR in Anamizu and had a focus in gender studies in her BA and MA work. Oscar is her hero.
*The term sex refers to the biological expression of sex—that is, male or female in terms of chromosomes and/or primary and secondary sex characteristics. Gender refers to the societal expectations and expressions of sex – the judgment of whether something is masculine or feminine, and the expectation that one’s gender expression will conform somewhat to one’s sex. For example, when someone assumes that a man hates sweets precisely because he is a man, that is making assumptions about gender expression based on sex. (Societal gender expressions rarely account for individual preferences. A man can most certainly like or dislike sweets because of his personal tastes, not the fact that he has a Y-chromosome.) In BeruBara, Oscar and Andre’s expression of gender is very similar, but their sex is different.