18/06/2024 3:40 PM


Adorn your Feelings

Requiem of the Rose King’s Visual Style Enhances Its Story

4 min read

The controversial art style of ‘Requiem of the Rose King’ subverts its own inspirations to tell a dark, disturbing tale of vengeance and ambition

Drawing from the Shakespearean History Plays Henry VI and Richard III, the ongoing adaptation of Aya Kanno’s shojo Requiem of the Rose King follows the story of young Richard Plantaganet throughout the War of the Roses. Mirroring its Shakespearean influences and their own historical sources, Aya Kanno’s story takes bold creative liberties with the established history; the most striking of which being the depiction of Richard Plantagenet as intersex.

However, Requiem of the Rose King offers a more psychologically-nuanced and problematic account of this identity by focusing on the alienation Richard experiences and internalizes. From its introductory episodes, the adaptation lays this groundwork through a maze of visual and atmospheric effects which distort the narrative, entangling history within Richard’s own increasingly chaotic interiority. Reminiscent of films like Vertigo and Rashomon, the visual style of Requiem of the Rose King breaks violently with its literary and historical predecessors, instead offering its own darker story of alienation, ambition, and inner turmoil.

RELATED: A New Shojo Series Adds LGBTQ+ Representation to Classic Shakespeare

Visual Revisionism

In externalizing Richard’s problematic interiority, Requiem of the Rose King adopts a visual style that is both haunting and frustrating.  Heavily stylized profiles align important characters with their houses; hallucinations, visions, and dreams redraw characters’ memories at will. In this, the most prominent object of this “revisionist” visual style is its protagonist, Richard Plantaganet, which is illustrated in three scenes.

The first is a tender moment in which Richard encourages his father, the Duke of York to persevere in his quest for the crown. This is followed by a moment of private anxiety which cascades into a bizarre dream sequence, in which Richard is tormented about his “secret” by a fae vision of Joan of Arc. Later, when captured by the Lancasters, Richard’s mother blames him, literally re-casting the prior scene in a new “demonic” light. Though important for Richard’s development, the effect on this kind of re-visionist art style – – effectively undermining and re-drawing the narrative in real-time – – inevitably drags on the story.

RELATED: Romeo × Juliet: The Shakespeare Anime That Predates Requiem of the Rose King

Subversive Identities

requiem of the rose king richard and joan of arc

By so often subverting its own narrative progress, the art style persuades its viewers to no longer trust what they see. Ironically, however, it is this effect that highlights the biased and stilted quality of Requiem of the Rose King’s theatrical and historical source material. Specifically, both Ayo Kanno’s manga and the series take their inspiration from the tension of Shakespeare’s plays, – – which of course took their own liberties with history for theatrical and moralistic value. Yet, in Requiem of the Rose King, the sympathetic depiction of an intersex Richard Plantaganet departs from Shakespeare’s pattern in favor of its own more problematic, internal territory, but with mixed results.

Mixed Reactions

requiem of the rose king henry silhouette

While Richard Plantaganet is the center of this project, the difficulty of Requiem of the Rose King is that its focus is not its protagonist’s intersex body, but instead a problematic conception of the character’s resultant interiority – – that is, the negative superstition in which Richard “sees” himself. Beginning visually, this negativity takes root in Richard’s psyche, eventually forming a host of disembodied voices, ghosts, and spirits. These become for Richard, a malign “conscience,” which drives him towards more ambiguous and ultimately monstrous acts of vengeful ambition. This progression illustrates how Requiem of the Rose King borrows from but effectively inverts the perspective of Shakespeare’s plays, tracking Richard’s rise to power through his psychological and moral decline.

This perspective illuminates the chief task and liability of Requiem of the Rose King in both its manga and anime versions – – not to relate historical facts or reality, but instead to describe how interiority erodes these for its own obscure purposes. For this reason alone, despite its struggles and shortcomings, the bold artistic choices and atmospheric range of Requiem of the Rose King allows it to speak beyond the reach of any of its peers or predecessors.

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