Le Chevalier D'Eon Vol. 1: Psalm of Vengeance
In Le Chevalier D'Eon, director Kazuhiro Furuhashi and Production I.G have created a complicated, imaginative period piece based on a novel by Tow Ubukata that brings D'Éon's tale into a world of occult and conspiracy.
Le Chevalier does not simply select historical figures to romanticize in revisionist biographies, nor does it restate the past. Rather, the series engages, as the best anime often do, in artful dialogue with its inspiration. Le Chevalier creates a new narrative through cunning, connective treatment of Louis XV's France, historical and semi-historical characters and themes of alchemy and religion without indignity to the period's history and its embellishments.
D'Éon joins Le Secret du Roi and is quickly swept up in a web of intrigue and magic with unclear connections to the throne and its enemies. On his quest D'Éon is beset by "gargoyles," zombie-like people whose blood has been drained and replaced with mercury. These creatures are controlled by alchemic "poets," shadowy pseudo-religious figures who are seemingly connected to the Comte de Saint-Germain and a group apparently in favour of overthrowing the monarchy.
Assisting D'Éon on his quest are Durand, a spy who knew Lia before her death; Teillagory, former fencing instructor to both Lia and D'Éon; and Robin, a young attendant sent by Queen Marie. D'Éon also receives significant help from his dead sister, who occasionally possesses his body and changes him into a woman with impressive sword-fighting ability. The reinvention of the real-life D'Éon's use of a female alter ego as the wandering soul of his sister is an especially ingenious aspect of Le Chevalier's historical correlation.
Le Chevalier's character design and animation are beautifully rendered in rococo and gothic style to create the look and feel of 18th-century France. Backgrounds of Paris and its architecture are accurate and swordplay scenes are well choreographed. CGI is used to good result in reproducing the vast, opulent spaces of Versailles, but the transitions between these effects and the main body of animation are a bit coarse.
Le Chevalier is a series that respects its audience enough leave it with a sense of wonder. This volume is full of mysteries, and one is left eagerly anticipating the next twist in this tale. History tells us that France is hurtling toward revolution, but how will D'Éon's mission intersect that inevitable destiny? D'Éon is unquestionably loyal to the crown now, but will his morality and love of France push him to relate to the revolutionaries?
It's too soon to tell if Le Chevalier will be Kazuhiro Furuhashi's chef d'oeuvre, but this gorgeous and engrossing series is bound to be one of the most compelling anime releases of 2007.
DVD Features: 16:9 anamorphic widescreen; English and Japanese audio tracks; English subtitles; Region 1.
DVD Extras: Historical notes; Japanese trailers and promotional segment; textless opening and ending; commentary by David Matranga (voice of D'Éon) and Steven Foster (ADR director); second commentary by Amy Forsyth (translator) and Janice Williams (media coodinator); printed booklet containing an (indispensable!) character relationship chart, character sketches, background notes and interviews with Japanese production staff.