Alex Papillon August 23, 2007
The 24 episode series Le Chevalier D’Eon is somewhat based on the real life activities of French spy D’Eon Beaumont who served under Louis XV. Although, the anime itself is directly based on the manga by Tow Ukabata and is produced by Production I.G. The show includes elements of fantasy in that zombie-like beings can be created from those who are able to wield the biblical psalms as a sort of supernatural power. Historical intrigue, the intricate combination of religious themes and supernaturalism, the theme of camaraderie versus nationalism and various other motifs make the show not only visually appealing but insightful as well.
I’ve been meaning to review this for a while, but I watched it kind of sporadically and in this series, it’s very important to keep events more or less “in order”. A simple synopsis of the plot would be something like this: d’Eon de Beaumont, a noble in Paris suddenly finds out that his sister has been killed and so joins a secret order (in which his sister, Lia also had connections to) to uncover some…well secrets including the events surrounding her death. Throw in Robin, an ambling boy who doesn’t really use his pistol, Teillagory the seasoned swordsman who’s wise and skilled, Durand the mysterious bad boy and on the somewhat villainous side, Maximilien who likes his hair long and blonde (of course). There’s a lot of plotting, quite the bit of betrayal, murder and twists - what you would expect surrounding secret and underhanded things about a king, in this case, King Louis XV. As a lump sum, the events are supposed to lead to what is to become the French Revolution and is a valentine (probably not the most accurate word…) to the right of power in the people, not in royalty.
The interesting take on the real d’Eon known cross-dressing and proclamation that he’s actually a woman is done by making Lia’s soul possess d’Eon once in a while if he comes face to face with an old nemesis, or someone that she had unresolved turmoil with. When Lia controls d’Eon’s body, he speaks with a feminine voice - quite low, and his hair usually in a ponytail comes out so that he looks more womanly. I would say or guess, about 80% of the characters are based on real people and the real d’Eon did go to Russia to “befriend” Queen Elizabeth.
The bulk of the action is in sword fighting (fencing) and all kinds of violence involved with lead (some kind of metallic liquid?) bleeding blackened zombies. In fact, Lia is a better swords fighter than d’Eon and even more so, when vengeance is in the air. There’s one thing that I like about the series and it’s that eventually, you surmise that there is no clear villain. You could argue for or against most of the characters here and personally I feel empathy for a lot of them. The supernatural element is based on the book of the Psalms from the bible, and there is quite a bit about power being given to the king and so forth in it. In the show, the words are able to bind people, turn them into zombies and blow people into a million bits…as well as pull a resurrection. In that sense, there’s a sort of Jesus type of character in here. Personally, I didn’t really like d’Eon as a character. He has a good sense of justice and righteousness, he’s brave and he’s hardy but nothing really develops until the very end - the last few episodes pretty much. Although, I’ll give that a lot of the truth intended to be revealed is hidden so his reaction is pretty much heavily detained.
The rest of the characters, due to plot twists and secrets turn out to have a certain depth to them, especially Louis XV and his wife. Some of the episodes can be a bit lagging especially since they seem to be predictable and a lot of the scenes are the four talking and discussing what just happened or what will happen, however I really recommend sticking it out until the very end. One thing I find interesting is the show’s portrayal of Queen Catherine the Great of Russia and her timid, somewhat dubious beginning. There’s also a strong focus on what nationalism means - whether a monarch is really ordained by God (there’s quite a strange sequence about this here…) or whether the future of a country lies in its people. Sacrifice is also vital to be patriotic as d’Eon pretty much sacrifices everything he has and then some. Lastly, I think it talks about reason verses emotion as well as choice which sway events in history.
The animation begins quite well and then continues with being good to somewhat mediocre in certain frames. This happens when some characters are in the mid-background and the camera is zoomed on to something in the foreground. The mid-bg characters’ faces are, a lot of the times, depicted with sloppy thick black lines and their eyes seem really sketchy so that their features are distorted ungracefully. I would say, this is pretty noticeable - it’s like taking a large picture and resizing it roughly and having some parts of the picture look awkward or slightly out of place. The action however is relatively decent; nothing to boast about but engaging enough. The music is actually pretty decent and I noticed some small parts that seemed to sound like it was lifted from certain violin symphonies by Brahms, Beethoven and possibly one or two more I couldn’t recognize. The OP is Born by Miwako Okuda and is slightly catchy, but quite generic. The ending Over Night by Aya is pretty decent; it has an interesting composition and your token bits of engrish.
Overall, I recommend this a watch if you’re in a mood for a series that’s decently developed throughout as the pacing in this anime (in retrospect) is really quite good compared to a lot of the other recent series I’ve seen. It takes a bit of patience and an interest in French and Russian history would help but even without it’s got enough extra elements to be much more than just a history lecture.
Category: Series Reviews
A. Papillon is not amused.