In this second volume, the epic series of battles comprising the War of the Roses see the deposing of Queen Margaret in favor of of the Yorks: specifically, King Edward IV. Mangaka Aya Kanno plays loose and fast with history and Shakespeare, adding in historical tidbits that she deftly spins into a very interesting supernatural angle (e.g., Richard IIIs emblem, a pig, appears quite frequently as a pet). For those not invested in British history, Requiem of the Rose King can be a bit of a slog; unlike similar historical-inspired titles such as Riyoko Ikeda’s Rose of Versailles, the political maneuverings of the Richard the III era are both ripe for storytelling but also very convoluted and confusing – with a huge cast of characters. Keep Wikipedia handy to get the most out of the title. And of note is that we have a very Shakespearean Richard: not historically accurate necessarily but a good tragedy and a fun story.
Story: Margaret’s ruthless plans have failed: the battle is lost, Plantagenets defeated, and Edward is crowned king. He fawns upon his younger brothers, George and Richard. When Elizabeth Woodville captures the eye of the king, love is in the air. But not for Richard – he is bitter over the death of his beloved father and even the attention of young Anne Neville can’t erase the taint of being both supernaturally cursed and a female. But as Warwick plays Kingmaker, he will soon come into conflict with the royal family and both Anne and King Edward will pay the price.
Granted, it can be quite amusing to compare royal portraits of the main players in Requiem of the Rose King to the manga version of beautiful people. But as a way to learn more about British history, this is a great introduction to the time of Richard III. Because Kanno has stayed true thematically to history there are a lot of tidbits and such to be gleaned. As well, it will make putting all the players into perspective that much easier as well. Richard III’s young death, after all, marked the end of the medieval period and the beginning of the English Renaissance.
Is it as good a story without a basic historical knowledge of the period? Sure, there’s plenty of swords, madness, greed, and over the top shoujo manga drama to keep readers interested. Knowing history just means getting a better idea of all the craziness surrounding Richard III and how the story is going to make huge twists just around the corner. It is worth sticking with, that’s for sure. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.