Reviewby Theron Martin, Jun 15th 2007
Le Chevalier D'Eon
DVD 3 - Danse Macabre
With sanction from the Empress, the four French knights continue their hunt for Vrontsov, while at the same time the Revolutionary Brotherhood maneuvers for their own purposes, including obtaining royal blood to reveal the Royal Psalms. Thanks to the warning of Ekaterina, they are able to foil one attempt on the Empress's life, but too many machinations are in motion (both in Russia and in France) for them to account for everything, and an attempt is even made to trap Lia's soul. Lia's vengeance cannot be denied, however, nor can the changes to Russia's political landscape or the impact Lia has on them. When the perpetrator of Lia's death is finally revealed, following through their task leads d'Eon and his companions towards a new destination.
Ready for another dose of historical context? Le Chevalier plays out just fine without it, but it's such a more fun view if you appreciate how cleverly the series adapts historical events into its storyline. In this case it continues its previously-established pattern of using actual historical figures as extensively as possible while condensing the time frames in which events happen and warping some of the details. In the 1760s, for instance, Russia really did go through two changes of leadership in a six-month period as control of the empire transitioned from one strong female leader to one who would become stronger still. (Yes, the young Ekaterina who first appeared last volume is that one.) Vrontsov really was a nobleman loyal to Empress Elizaveta, Pyotr really was a worthless, immature fop (although his historical fate was a bit different), a Cossack named Razumovski really was one of Elizaveta's lovers, and Bestuzhev, who also did not get along with the historical Elizaveta at all, still served her well as one of Russia's chief diplomats. The real-life d'Eon did go to England next after finishing his business in Russia, although he was in Russia quite a bit longer than his fictional counterpart and spent more time dressed as a woman. The only named character who differs dramatically from his historical counterpart is Maximilien Robespierre, who was, of course, not known to have been a Poet or had anything to do with what was going on in Russia.
The plot is what really matters here, though, and the third volume serves up a five-course meal of it, complete with dessert. You have Russians scheming to see Elizaveta get overthrown for a variety of different reasons, the Revolutionary Brotherhood involved for their own reasons, Elizaveta trying to reform Russia for the better, Ekaterina just trying to find a way to get through it all and keep her head, Queen Marie and Madame de Pompadour scheming back in Europe while Louis XV has his own priorities, and Lia herself still occasionally trying to take over d'Eon's body and inflict her own single-minded agenda. D'Eon, Robin, Durand, and Teillagory are the knights/spies caught in the center of it all, trying to complete their mission for one person while another wants them out of the way; one of the most telling scenes comes in episode 11, when within the space of a minute's time one powerful person in one palace orders them to be assisted, while another powerful person in the same palace orders them to be offed. Such delicious intrigue is a big part of what continues to make the series such a fun view.
As has been the case with prior volumes, the visual highlights are the CG renditions of palace interiors and the dazzling detail in the animation of the sword fights – one of them here, in a highly unusual move, briefly and impressively done from a first-person perspective. The series still makes a concerted effort to base character designs off of surviving portraits of the actual individuals wherever available, and maintains its high standards for accuracy in costuming. The quality control is still just a little too rough for the artwork to get a top grade, and the non-fighting animation can be a bit stiff in places, but it remains a good-looking series.
The musical score maintains the same opener and closer while supporting and reinforcing the action and drama nearly as well as it did in the first volume. The English voice acting also continues to do a good job of bringing its characters to life with the right personalities and attitudes, while the English script rewrites as necessary for a smoother flow, including some slight rephrasing of the Biblical phrases. Pronunciations for names are strictly European; no attempt is made to duplicate the Japanese interpretations. The one downside is the subtitles, which contain multiple typos, especially in episode 11.
As with the first two volumes, ADV has also given this one the deluxe treatment. An elaborate slipcover, styled to look like the book containing the Royal Psalms, covers a case which includes another extensive liner booklet. Among the inclusions this time are staff and cast credits, character profiles, blurbs about certain concepts which have come up in the first half of the series, a Gallery focused on the ending animation, and a script serialization for a background story that has not yet appeared in the animation. On-disk Extras include clean opener and closer, audio commentary for each episode which feature English voice actors and ADR director Stephen Foster, and another round of Historical Notes. This time the latter includes details on Elizaveta I, Aleksy Bestuzhev-Ryumin, Pyotr III, Ekaterina II, Saint Petersburg, and the Little Ice Age, which was taking place at the time of the story. Much of this is copied wholesale from Wikipedia, but its inclusion is nonetheless quite helpful for those who don't want to do outside research.
The plot is as complex as ever as the story wraps up its Russian arc. Still a great choice for anyone seeking some variety from typical anime fare.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : A-
+ Sword fighting scenes, complex storytelling.
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