Twelve Moments in Anime No. 2: First and Last Dance of Love
Once again I am getting to this much later than I anticipated, but as it gets closer to Christmas, things grow ever more hectic around here — especially since I had to work today and tomorrow (it’s never officially ‘tomorrow’ for me until I go to sleep and wake up). Alas. I’ll get to the final anime moment in the morning; for now, Moment No. 2. (Or No. 11 — whichever count you prefer is fine by me.)
This year I watched the amazing, beautiful and totally deserving of way more flattering adjectives series Rose of Versailles. Rose packs in more memorable moments within a few moments than many series manage to cobble together within their entire runs, so narrowing this down to one in particular that stuck out to me was a difficult task. (Hell, for a moment, I even considered writing about the show’s wonderful OP sequence!) In the end, I whittled everything down to either Oscar and Marie Antoinette’s final confrontation before the French Revolution comes to a head, or Oscar dancing with Fersen . . . and I decided to follow my heart and go with the latter, although the former is itself an intense, highly emotional moment.
That dance, though . . . it encapsulates just about everything a person needs to know about Oscar’s struggles. Oscar is raised as a man through her teens and is tougher and more GAR than anyone in France. But as she keeps growing during her years as lead protector of Marie Antoinette, and her world expands beyond that of the Court of Versailles, Oscar undergoes many sweeping changes, the most drastic of which is an identity crisis in which she attempts to reconcile her femininity with the role of the strong, cool-headed soldier she has played nearly all her life. Eventually, Oscar decides the clash between these identities is something she cannot handle, and she discards her identity as a woman to embrace her identity as a man — but not before experiencing one night as a “true” woman with the only man she has ever loved up to that point, Hans Axel von Fersen.
Oscar walks into a ball at night dressed like the noblest woman in Versailles, under the assumed identity of a foreign princess. She’s beautiful — stunning — and unrecognizable to all the Versailles regulars, even von Fersen, although he senses something familiar about this woman and is drawn to her, dances with her. Oscar allows herself to get as close to von Fersen as possible without becoming completely intimate with him, and runs away before he can guess her identity, satisfied that she has at least been able to feel what it is like to be in love at least once in her life.
This moment is about many things, but I spent most of it shouting, “NOOOOOOOOO OSCAR YOU CAN HAVE LOVE AND KICK ASS AT THE SAME TIME” because, as has been proven many times throughout my life, I am a sap. For someone who spends most of the series beating the shit out of the glass ceiling, it is distressing how Oscar cannot initially see that she can break through another hardened, time-tested role: The soldier who has no time to be swayed by emotions. Oscar’s brave as hell and willing to take just about any challenge head on, but this is maybe the first thing in her life to truly scare her, because she doesn’t completely grasp her feelings. But for one wonderful night she is at least able to give into them completely.