“Wars of the Roses”
They say “all is fair in love and war”, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for Richard Plantagenet (Saiga Mitsuki). The canvas of Richard’s life is painted with the dark palette of isolation and rejection. Richard, though from the same parents, is different from his brothers. His brothers George (Takumi Yasuaki) and Edward (Toriumi Kousuke) are fair-haired, while Richard is dark haired. Richard’s mother embraces his brothers, while scorning him. He spends most of the episode sheathed in shadows until Henry VI (the “shepherd”) (Midorikawa Hikaru) tries to draw him into his light. Of course, this “shepherd” guides not sheep, but the nation of England- unbeknownst to Richard (for the moment at least).
Apparently the cause of this difference is Richard’s birth as a person with both male and female sex characteristics. This inability to conform to what is expected for a prince of York leaves him branded as a devil, a label which haunts him daily. I find it interesting that they use this as the driving force behind Richard’s outcast status. I typically think of Richard III in terms of cold historical facts (especially given events that come later) more so than a young person lost in a quandary of identity and self-condemnation.
Making Richard III both male and female adds more layers to his character, while also adding more tragic elements. I find it so different from what I imagine Richard III in my head, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I like it when an artistic work can put a new spin on an old tale. In taking artistic license to Richard III (in both real life and in Shakespeare’s play, Richard III was biologically male), it could deeply explore of gender identity and provide a new perspective on his legend- if done sensitively.
The connection between Joan of Arc and Richard Jr. (I’ll just call him that for now, since he hasn’t yet become Richard III) is curious because Joan died 31 years before he was born, so they never would have met. But he would have heard of her through legends no doubt. Like Richard who holds his identity secret, Joan hid her identity- joining the battlefield as a man to fight for her kingdom. This is a role Richard deeply desires but is kept from due to being “too young”. Any further comparison is dashed to pieces-Joan believed she was doing “God’s work” and personifies the voices of condemnation that echo in Richard’s head. Between the voices of his mother, Joan, and others, Richard Jr. is an echo chamber of curses. The scene with Edward of Warminster (Amasaki Kouhei) seeking to violate Richard’s secret highlighted the irony that some call Richard a devil, yet they way they badmouth and reject him makes them the devils.
The only comfort Richard can take is in the white boar, who is a symbol of himself as an outsider, and in his father (Hayami Shou). Richard finds meaning for his life in his father’s hope of winning the kingdom, believing that he will be allowed to exist if he can bring victory to his father. This could become problematic for Richard Jr.-a person’s desire for approval can easily be manipulated by the other party. Thus far however, his father seems a kind sort of person in his affection for his son. Even though Edward of York takes the role and body of the soldier and victory that Richard longs for, it is Richard’s voice that urges his father onwards- showing how highly his father regards him.
A thirst for affirmation can also drive a person to desperate means. The latter case seems to be the road Richard is heading down, with his vowed intent to execute Henry VI. Once he finds out that his enemy Henry is in fact the kind “shepherd”, I wonder if his resolution will be in disarray-caught between the kind embrace of Henry and the desire for approval from his father and his family at large.
The premier did a fine job of setting up the political conflicts in England at large and the personal pressures weighing on Richard Jr. I also quite liked the art style with the shadows and light framing Richard’s perspectives of his cursed self vs. the blessed ones. I find it interesting that his imaginary encounters with Joan of Arc have such vivid colors that contrast with the grays of reality-as if his dream of attaining soldier-hood and his self-condemnation are what gives color to his world. From what I saw today, it promises an interesting spin on well-known historical events. I would highly recommend watching this if like myself, you are a fan of political drama and historical conflicts! The story seems to favor emotional turmoil and character drama over epic battles, so if you are a fan of riveting action, this might not have the fight scenes you are looking for.
ED: 「悪夢」 (Akumu) by (ZAQ)