Requiem of the Rose King Vol. 1 (Viz)


CREDIT: Viz Media

Rating: 5/5 – Shakespeare’s Greatest Plays Without All the Iambic Pentameter
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.

The problem with William Shakespeare is that we’re not treated to the really good stuff when we read him in high school. Sure, Romeo & Juliet, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and if you’re lucky, MacBeth, are all great works of literature, but we’re denied exposure to those great histories – Henry V, the three plays that comprise Henry VI, and the absolute standard by which all other villainous tales are told, Richard III – because school curriculums probably think young minds can’t handle them. So for many of us, Shakespeare is something we have to get through en route to other things in our academic career.

Thank goodness Aya Kanno was not like many of us. The creator of the popular shoujo title Otomen, she’s now set her sights on giving her slant to the Wars of the Roses, with a nod toward the Bard’s contribution, in particular the character of Richard, Duke of Gloucester. While not the misshapen hunchback of Shakespeare’s play, Kanno’s Richard is still born “different”. Loved by his namesake father, he is hated by his mother, to the point where she tried to abandon him in the woods. He has sunken eyes and dark hair in stark contrast to his blond-haired and beautiful brothers Edward and George. There’s a third difference, but that’s one best left for you to discover on your own should you decide to pick this book up. In any event, Richard is the sympathetic character here, despite his known history (or at least the history the plays will allow us to believe). This is his story, and if you’ve any knowledge of English history, you know it’s going to be a good one.

Of course this is a shoujo tale, and it sometimes ventures into Boys’ Love territory – at the very least hinting at it – but there are elements of romance as young Richard meets a young girl named Anne, no doubt Anne Neville, his future wife and future Queen of England during his brief reign. She sees Richard as “not like other people”, and while she means that as a term of endearment, the young king-to-be is not yet sure how to take such affection. He longs to be a fighter, and to serve at his father’s side as he attempts to wrest the throne away from Henry VI, a young king who simply wants peace at any price, even his own abdication. And so we have our manga retelling of the end of the Middle Ages.

It’s one of the bloodier shoujo manga stories I’ve read, but not surprising given the source material. Whether it follows the true historical records, Shakespeare’s biased viewpoint, or Kanno’s own ideas, Requiem of the Rose King is a blend of action, romance, the supernatural, fantasy, and history all at once. The story of the fall of the Plantagenet dynasty is one well-recorded, but as recent history has shown, there is still much to be learned about it. As Richard’s bones were recently unearthed (under a parking lot) there has been renewed interest in his story, and in particular finding the truth of it. It’s doubtful you’ll find that truth here, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find another interesting viewpoint on an already fascinating real-world epic.

Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
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