Review
Le Chevalier D'Eon Vol. 1: Psalm of Vengeance
© Production I.G
Brett D. Rogers · February 20, 2007 | In the mid-18th century, Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée Éon de Beaumont was sent to Russia as a member of Le Secret du Roi, King Louis XV's secret spy organization. Legend has it that D'Éon was able to secure the support of Russia against the Habsburg Monarchy by disguising himself as a woman and serving in Empress Elizabeth's court as Mademoiselle Lia de Beaumont. Upon his return, D'Éon spent much of the remainder of his life as a woman, displaying his (her) fencing skills in tournaments and serving as a diplomat in London.

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.

Le Chevalier D'Eon Vol. 1: Psalm of Vengeance
Directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi
Animation production by Production I.G
Distributed by ADV Films, 2007
Originally broadcast in Japan in 2006
100 minutes

Shop for Le Chevalier D'Eon DVDs and more:
Amazon.ca
Amazon.com
Le Chevalier preserves the Secret du Roi connection and the mission to Russia; however in the series it is D'Éon's sister, Lia de Beaumont, who infiltrates Elizabeth's court while serving as a spy for France. Le Chevalier begins with the discovery of Lia's body floating on the Seine inside a coffin marked "Psalms." Her body is filled with mercury, preventing decomposition and thus, in the eyes of the Church, precluding a Christian burial. This makes Lia's death especially painful for D'Éon, who pledges to uncover the reasons behind his sister's murder.

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.
Page Tools:

E-mail this page   Print this page   Add to del.icio.us   Add to Digg   Add to Fark   Add to FURL   Add to Reddit
> Search
> Site Archives
> Blog Archives
> Upcoming Releases
> RSS Feeds