Riyoko Ikeda is an internationally acclaimed shōjo manga author, best known for her historical romance Rose of Versailles (Berusaiyu no bara, 1972-1973), set in pre-revolutionary France. She is considered as a member of the ‘Forty-niners’ group (Nijūyonengumi), whose contribution to girls’ comics significantly shaped the shōjo manga scene in the 1970s, and greatly influenced the future generation of authors.

Ikeda started drawing comics while studying at university, and debuted in 1967, in the then relatively new shōjo magazine Margaret, with a romantic one-shot Girl from the Rose Mansion (Bara yashiki no shōjo). Her other early works for Margaret, which include Love Ripples (Ai no sazanami, 1969) and Portrait of Francesca (Furanchesuka no shōzō, 1969), were mostly short romances which took place in exotic European settings – a theme Ikeda explored  in her later work, particularly with her immensely popular Rose of Versailles. This successful series follows the tragic life of Queen Marie Antoinette and Oscar de Jarjayes – a young female aristocrat who dons male clothing to take up a position as a palace guard captain at the court of Louis XVI. The series became an instant hit among both younger and older female readers, and was later adapted into an anime, live-action movie and  a musical for Takarazuka revue (an all-female Japanese musical theatre troupe).

Apart from the Rose of Versailles, Ikeda authored another big hit in the 1970s – The Window of Orpheus (Orufeusu no mado, 1975-1981), a tragic romance partly inspired by Greek mythology, for which she received the Japan Cartoonists Association Award in 1980. Around the same time she also created several romantic stories dealing with same-sex relationships – a theme commonly explored by the Forty-niners, especially Moto Hagio (*1949) and Keiko Takemiya (*1950).However, while other members of the Forty-niners focused mainly on male homosexuality, Ikeda explored lesbian relationships – which were already hinted at in Rose of Versailles – in such stories as Dear Brother (Oniisama e, 1974) and Claudine…! (Kurōdīnu!, 1977), the latter being a tragic one-shot, memorable for introducing a main heroine who was openly transgender.

Ikeda’s later work includes mainly historical manga centred on real-life protagonists, such as Tsarina Catherine (JoteiEkateriina, 1982-1984), To the End of the Skies: The Secret History of Poland (Pōrando no hishi: Ten no hate made, 1991), and Eroica – The Glory of Napoleon (Eikó no Naporeon – Eroika, 1986-1995), which also featured some of the minor characters from Rose of Versailles. She also produced several manga adaptations of classic European plays and operas, namely Othello (1975) and The Ring of the Nibelung (Njūberungu no yubiwa, 2000-2001). While most of her historical works are set in Europe, Ikeda is no stranger to Japanese history, as evidenced in her well-received manga Prince Shōtoku (Shōtokutaishi, 1992-1994), based on the life of one of the most venerated Japanese historical figures.

Aside from being an acclaimed comics author, Ikeda is also a professional singer.

In 2009 she was awarded with the National Order of the Legion of Honor for her promotion of French culture in Japan.

— Anna Krivankova

See also: Nijūyonengumi, shōjo manga

Further Reading

  • Duggan, Anne E. The Revolutionary Undoing of the Maiden Warrior in Riyoko Ikeda’s The Rose of Versailles and Jacques Demy’s Lady Oscar. Marvels & Tales 27.1 (2013): 34-51.
    Gravett, Paul. Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics. London: Laurence King, 2004.
  • Schodt, Frederik L., and Osamu Tezuka. 1988. Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics ; Includes 96 Pages from Osamu Tezuka’s “Phoenix”, Reiji Matsumoto’s “Ghost Warrior”, Riyoko Ikeda’s “The Rose of Versailles”, KeijiNakazawa’s “Barefoot Gen”. Tokyo, New York: Kodansha Internat.