Reviewby Theron Martin, Apr 16th 2007
Le Chevalier D'Eon
DVD 2 - Agen Provacateur
The Russian Poet Vorontsov seems the key to everything the Musketeers need to learn about the death of Lia and the plotting against France, but before they can pin him down he departs France in the company of a young Maximillien Robespierre. Ultimately they must pursue him to Russia, but first d'Eon must make amends with Anna and call upon help from Queen Marie to come to terms with the spirit of his sister within him. On the road the quartet of d'Eon, Teillagory, Durand, and Robin soon learn that their every move is not only being tracked but dogged by those who would see their secret mission fail, while suggestions of a traitor within Le Secret du Roi loom over them. Even a fateful encounter with Le Conte de Cagliostro and his Poet mistress cannot deter them from reaching St. Petersburg, where they seek to meet the Empress Elizaveta, whom Lia once helped protect from an assassination attempt. But given the Vorontsov was a Russian, is she now friend or foe? And what of the dangerous plots that swirl around her? To find out, d'Eon must attend a masquerade dressed as Lia.
First, the historical perspective: the real d'Eon de Beaumont really did get sent to Russia by Louis XV to meet and intrigue with the Empress Elizaveta, and it was there that stories of him adopting the identity of Lia de Beaumont first arose. Also Giuseppe Balsamo, the Count of Cagliostro, really was known to have associated with the Count Saint-Germain, allegedly traded arcane secrets with him, and visited Russia. Thus certain parts of these four episodes are only minor but clever adaptations of actual historical events. As with some characters introduced in volume 1, dates have been fudged to allow characters to coexist for sake of convenience; Robespierre wasn't even born until 1758, and the Count of Cagliostro was too young in the late 1750s (when this story apparently takes place) and did not associate with Count Saint-Germain until much later. Still, the ingenuity with which this has all been worked into the plot allows for some inconsistencies to be forgiven, and as the Extras explain, the seeming historical incongruity of some characters is a result of them being composites rather than faithful singular representations (as in the case of the Duke of Orleans).
And it's in its plotting where Le Chevalier truly shines. Though elements of magic and the supernatural have been inextricably woven into the tapestry of historical fiction presented here, they remain just important flavorings to a well-balanced and well-paced story of action, drama, political maneuvering, and intrigue rather than the focus. One doesn't have to be a history buff to appreciate the story, either. More ordinary scenes of d'Eon having to be reminded not to forget his betrothed Anna in his quest to avenge his sister stand quite well alongside the scheming of the Duke of Orleans and Madame de Pompadour, the well-choreographed swordfights, the compelling turmoil of Lia's spirit, or the reactions d'Eon gets when he dresses up as Lia for his companions and the Russian court. The machinations may not be quite as intricate as they are in Gankutsuou, but that same level of attention to storytelling can be seen here.
The animation production got spread around a lot for this series, and unfortunately that shows in the inconsistent quality of the artistry and animation, especially in episodes 5 and 6. The problems can be most clearly seen in the character designs during those episodes and the shortcuts used in the actual animation. The swordfights continue to shine, however, offering some of the best-animated examples of such fare, and when drawn to tight standards all of the characters not only look good but unique. Costuming is also a highlight, especially the dresses of Madame de Pompadour and the one d'Eon wears to look like Lia (who else wants to see someone cosplay that look?), and backgrounds always delight with their detail. Beautiful CG effects pop up occasionally in the interior views of characters moving through Versailles. Even with the quality control issues, Production I.G. has still produced a good-looking series.
The musical score sounds even better. A good opener and somewhat disappointing closer frame the soundtrack, which doesn't get to show off as much as it did in the first volume but still offers consistently great supporting sound.
Picky listeners may not be satisfied with a couple of the more minor supporting roles in the English dub, but all of the performances in the key roles are, at worst, acceptable and in many cases quite close in style to the originals. The English script usually stays fairly close to the subtitles, but in at least two cases lines are spoken in Japanese (and given in the subtitles) that aren't represented at all in the English dub, and for no apparent good reason.
ADV has been promoting Le Chevalier as one of their hallmark titles for the year, and that can be seen in the effort put into the Extras. The disc itself is loaded with them, including extensive historical notes, English commentary tracks for episodes 6 and 7, a video of a Japanese promo event, clean opener and closer, and company previews. Over the last few years ADV has shown a penchant for occasionally including really odd extras on its DVDs, and the offering this time is one of the oddest yet: a cross-dressing pictorial featuring the English VAs for d'Eon (a very muscular David Matranga) and Lia (the sexy and relatively new Taylor Hannah) which has to be seen to be truly appreciated. Again included is a 20-page booklet including cast and staff credits, character profiles, an explanation of key terms, an interview with the series creator, and another round of script serialization. Another elegant slipcase covers the regular case, and the art box (not reviewed here) is also available with this volume.
If the delicious blend of action, intrigue, and the supernatural drew you in during the first volume then the second will not fail to sustain your interest and enthusiasm. Its clever adaptation of actual history remains a particular highlight.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : A-
+ Storytelling, soundtrack, use of historical detail.
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