Review by: Ai Kano
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $69.98 US
Running Time: 600 minutes
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: December 2, 2008
Viva le Chevalier!
One of the many things I love about anime is that there are many series that gives a wonderfully unique peek into Japanese history that many of us here in North America might never have heard of but find utterly fascinating due to seeing it in a series. I also love anime that strays away from Japanese history and lore to show us historical moments from other nations in the anime style. This is what Le Chevalier D’Eon does and I must say it does it quite exquisitely.
Le Chevalier D’Eon: The Complete Collection contains all 24 episodes in four DVDs (the fifth DVD contains special features and extra material) and offers a most generous peek into French history in the time of King Louis XV in 1742. In the opening episode, a rather crude coffin is found floating in the Seine in Paris and in it is the body of a lovely young girl named Lia de Beaumont. Her younger brother, a French knight named D’Eon, is deeply hurt by his sister’s murder but also determined to find out who killed her. You see, Lia de Beaumont secretly worked for King Louis and died on a secret mission involving a powerful cult and a text of great power.
D’Eon himself is chosen to continue this mysterious mission that involves members of Royalty not only in France but in Russia and England as well. It becomes apparent that this text does exist and that it has influenced spell-casters known as Poets. His first real lead in the case is a Russian who casts his spell that comes in the form of words that takes a hold of a fellow knight that suddenly attacks D’Eon. It is here that the series takes another major supernatural twist. You see, D’Eon is possessed by the spirit of his dead sister, Lia. This becomes evident to a boy named Robin who is sent to follow D’Eon because the transformation between D’Eon and Lia becomes slightly physical when D’Eon’s hair is let loose and even his voice changes.
On top of the fact that D’Eon is possessed by his sister when tossed into battle with Poets or those they controlled (called Gargoyles thanks to their grayish complexion), D’Eon begins to see flashes of his sister’s life that would eventually lead to the truth behind her death. With orders from King Louis as well as the blessing of the Queen (who speaks to a human skull of a little girl named Belle), D’Eon heads to Russia along with Robin, a dashing rogue named Durand and D’Eon’s old fencing master named Teillagory.
The four quickly become involved in a dangerous mission that also involves known historical figures such as the Duke D’Orleans who is watching their every move and later, in a trip to England, by the famous Earl of Sandwich. Their search for the Russian takes them to the Russian palace where D’Eon discovers that his sister was a very close friend to Russian Empress Elizaveta. In fact, she had even saved her life when a group or revolutionaries calling themselves the Revolutionary Brethren attempted a coup. Their stay in Russia also uncovers yet more assassins attempting to take the Empress’ life.
In England, D’Eon begins to feel his sister’s presence take a hold of him more powerfully. Incidentally, the real D’Eon was said that many swore he was really a girl and in this anime D’Eon even wears his sister’s clothes during a masquerade party with the Queen and King of England. Many surprises are discovered in England that says a lot about the English monocracy of that period and – while the series never dives too deeply into the politics of the time thanks to some fictional liberties that change a few events around – we do get a sense of what Europe was like before certain key historical events took place. The series even lightly touches on England and France’s take on what is to become the Revolutionary War in America.
In the middle of this is the secretive sect whose members mimic those of the Hellfire Club. Among them is a Poet that D’Eon is chasing named Maximilian. A connection is made between him and Lia that leads up to an interesting confrontation. Meanwhile, D’Eon’s companions reveal their real loyalties that will eventually take them to a thrilling final confrontation in France’s Royal Palace. Believe me when I say that the final two episodes are not only surprising but they are what the stuff of masterpieces is made of.
Le Chevalier D’Eon also sports some of the best animation as well offers an excellent Japanese and English dub cast that does a great job with the wonderful dialogue. While some of the supernatural elements adds a strange twist to the story, it doesn’t hold it back. Even the swashbuckling action and the zombie-like Gargoyles helps propel the story forward and make it even more exciting to watch. The Complete Series set even comes with an extra disc with interesting extras such as promotional material and great interviews.
In the end, Le Chevalier D’Eon: The Complete Series is a beautifully packaged series that is simply as close to a masterpiece as you can find in the genre. It’s a beautiful, emotional and sweeping story that is brilliantly told in 24 episodes. You don’t have to be a fan of French history to enjoy this one but those who do will find a delightfully original and heartfelt series that will make you glad you picked this one up.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
A beautifully told story with a compelling and brilliantly unique slant on historical figures and events, the majority of the episodes in the series will have you captivated by its originality. D’Eon’s mission for France and the search for his sister’s assassin takes many a strange yet fascinating turn that ends quite surprisingly.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
You’ll be glad the picture is this sharp because the animation in the series is simply stunning. Some CG was used for the series but it doesn’t take away or distract from the lovely animation. The character’s body language and beautifully rendered real landmarks add a touch or realism.
AUDIO QUALITY: A+
Thankfully, the audio is also handled beautifully and does the Dolby Digital justice. I really like the English dub cast in this series that more than meets my expectations and, of course, the Japanese voice are just as adequate. You have to love the lovely score by Michiru Oshima and simply adore the great opening theme song “Born” by Miwako Okada and the closing theme song “Over Night” performed by Aya.
Each disc, except for the fourth disc, contains a couple of commentary tracks from the cast and there are some historical notes as well. The fifth disc, however, is chock full of extras that include the Japanese promotional video for the series, clean opening and closing animations and the Japanese trailer. The best bonuses, however, is the interview with the Japanese cast, a photographic profile of the cross-dressing element of the show and a look at the promotional event held in Japan.
Very few historical fiction anime series are rarely this wonderfully compelling and heartbreakingly real but Le Chevalier D’Eon manages to be all that and so much more. Le Chevalier D’Eon: The Complete Series is everything you can ever ask for in an anime series with historical tones and it’s downright entertaining to boot. Pick this one up if you like history, supernatural themes and great storytelling.