“Versailles no Bara Gaiden,” consists of a side story called “The Countess in Black,” as well as four side stories collectively known as “The Great Detective Loulou.” Each story takes place around the time that the Black Knight appears in the original manga.
I’m actually really impressed by these side stories! They have a very different feel compared to the original manga; it seems as though Riyoko Ikeda had more creative freedom since she wasn’t bound by a need for historical accuracy. While the main story of “The Rose of Versailles” has a melodramatic, romantic tone, the atmosphere of the side stories bounces between comedic and
gothic. A main reason for the change in tone is the introduction of Oscar’s niece, Loulou!
A person’s enjoyment of the side stories largely depends on their enjoyment of Loulou. She’s a young, rambunctious girl who has incredible intuition. Her inquisitive mind often leads her down the path of unravelling various mysteries involving shady members of the aristocracy. I found Loulou to be really funny and endearing, but I can also see how some people might find her annoying.
Don’t go into these side stories expecting to get much insight into the main characters of “The Rose of Versailles.” Antoinette is hardly present, and Oscar spends most of her time watching over Loulou. To me, the main appeal of these stories are Loulou’s antics and the surprisingly dark mysteries. The villains of these stories are totally wicked, many of them are vastly more interesting than the villains from the original manga!
It’s also interesting to see some characters from a slightly different angle; Loulou’s shenanigans often stun or irritate Oscar and André, leading to some great comedy. In the original manga, it was uncommon for Oscar to be portrayed as anything other than composed, so it was delightful to see her lose her cool a bit in these side stories!
My main criticism is that these side stories are pretty inconsequential and don’t really serve to further develop any of the main characters. These small narratives are far less grandiose and epic than the original manga’s storyline, so in some respects, they’re a bit forgettable. However, they’re super charming, so I really enjoyed reading them!
If you’ve had your fill of 18th century French melodrama, then “Versailles no Bara Gaiden” will probably feel like an unwelcome dessert. However, if you just can’t get enough of “The Rose of Versailles,” then I highly recommend taking the time to read these side stories!