Well, this was quite the little ride. Another horror manga too. Maybe I should post about Versailles of the dead during my countdown to Halloween. I already have all my posts written up for October but I could squeeze one more. This is going to be quite the countdown!
Maybe it’s just me but I find that there is a lot more Horror manga than horror anime. I’m guessing something in the genre scares off studios and investors when it comes to adapting it but doesn’t affect the paper versions as much. Maybe it doesn’t sell as well. I remember when a tag was going around where you had to list your least favourite genre of anime, Horror and Sports were by far the most common least favourites.
Too bad. Horror is a pretty wide-reaching genre with a lot of potentials. For now, we can explore it in Versaillesof the Dead.
I think the manga was translated into French first cause all the images I could find are in French. At least you get to see the art…
Why I Picked up Versailles of the Dead
Although officially it’s listed as a historical horror drama, the summary convinced me it was a historical horror-comedy. And I really like horror comedies!
The French Revolution with zombies?! A slick, gender-bending twist on history! While en route to marry Louis XVI and become the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette’s carriage is intercepted by bloodthirsty zombies. The sole survivor of the attack is Marie’s twin brother, Albert. He heads for Versailles in his sister’s gown–and instead of continuing life as himself, decides to take his sister’s place. Now at the heart of the French royal court, Albert must face the undead horrors as the man who would be queen.
My First Impression
Oh cool, it’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but in the French court and in manga form. Turns out I needed this.
What I liked
I was right, it’s a horror comedy. Don’t fall for it! Maybe it gets more dramatic later on but there isn’t a drop of drama in the first volume. Buckets of blood, sure, but no drama. And it’s quite funny in a cheesy campy way. Exactly what you need for a classic horror comedy.
The trappings of Louis XVI’s court make for wonderful images. All those elaborate fashions, ridiculous hairstyles and lavish settings. The settings are a bit sparse but still, it’s some nice eye candy. And the visual dissonance of seeing a lady from that era, with the huge ornate dress and enormous behive also half rotting in zombie form is something you just don’t see that often.
There is something particularly hilarious about Albert, gossiping and socializing with the ladies of the court. The book does actually do pretty well to establish just how limited the lady’s place was and seeing Albert have to conform to that was at times surprisingly charming.
I realized quickly that I liked the historical setting a lot. First I find that zombie stories work surprisingly well in that context. Moreover, it creates this grand scale operatic atmosphere that’s just perfect for the horror soap opera parody. It adds a lot to the fun.
And there’s the operative word. the first volume of Versailles of the Dead wasn’t revolutionary or deep or touching. It’s not even particularly witty. But it’s fun. Plain old occasionally dumb fun!
It’s a bit dumb. So far the fact that Albert is a man is played on the political intrigue scale. I looked it up and the author has a couple of BL titles under her belt but I don’t see any of that here. At all. Instead, Albert takes his sister’s place to secure a life of luxury for himself and the French royalty accepts him to avoid the potential international incident that would occur if the world and mostly Austria learns that they let the princess dies within their borders.
Surprisingly logical setup for this type of story, isn’t it?
However, maybe because it’s such a down-to-earth motivation, they’ve also added a bit of mystery to Alber’s character. He’s a bit off. Sometimes he seems possessed. It’s also very unclear how he survived the zombie attack, to begin with as we see him looking very much not alive. Is he a new super zombie? Is he something else? Is he just a plain human that has had a lifetime of petty abuse at the hands of his sister and this last trauma pushed him over the edge?
Don’t get me wrong, this element in and of itself isn’t bad. If done right, it could be very interesting. I like the main character that cannot be trusted. But, I’m not sure if it’s going to be done right. The first volume sort of uses this in spurts where Albert seems perfectly normal for a chapter or two and then suddenly seems clearly possessed by the devil with glowing eyes and unaccounted for physical power. And because of the way the story is told, you’re never quite sure what is real and what is artistic flare. I can see it getting annoying rather than intriguing really quickly!
The last pages introduced us to an unhinged shota archetype which turned out to be Napoleon. I don,t see that going well. Although it could be hilarious camp!
Basically, Versailles of the Dead is a silly book. And it does enjoy being a little trashy on occasion. Those ladies of the court sure had low-cut dresses. Then again, that does make sense. If you enjoy horror comedy and crossdressing, you probably won’t go wrong with this one.