Reviewby Theron Martin, Jan 19th 2008
Le Chevalier D'Eon
DVD 6 - Bete Noire
The struggle over possession of the Royal Psalms reaches its peak as d'Eon attempts to return it into the hands of Louis XV and Maximilien seeks to use it as a tool for revolution. Teillagory's betrayal of d'Eon to the Duke of Orleans disillusions Robin and forces him to make some difficult decisions, but d'Eon and Lia, who become more fluidly interchangeable with each passing day, will not be hindered in their duty even by their former master. At Versailles, Anna anticipates d'Eon's return while comforting Auguste, but around her the court descends into deadly chaos as schemes unravel and Louis takes progressively more drastic steps to assure that the secrets hidden within the Psalms never get discovered. Truths are revealed, legacies are carried on, allegiances change, Poets duel, and the circumstances of Lia's death, and how they are connected into everything, finally come to light as all the characters assume their proper places in history.
With this volume Le Chevalier d'Eon draws to a close, and the final four episodes assure that it goes out with a bang. Every scheme and intrigue that has populated the series comes to some kind of resolution, including a couple whose existences and true natures do not even become apparent until the final episode, and that's only for starters. To the end the series continues its penchant for peppering its dense plotting with numerous bombshells, including the stunning revelation of who Belle (the talking child's skull) really is and how she ended up dead, the startling truth behind who killed Lia and why, and the staggering, won't-see-it-coming secret motivating King Louis and his right-hand man Broglie to do what they do. Add in to that the change in character Robin undergoes, the truth behind Teillagory's actual motivations, the Duc of Orleans' plan and how the king counters it, the fates of various important characters, and a couple of heartbreaking developments and you have a full feast of plotting goodness paced well enough to keep the tension consistently high. Anime stories do not get much juicier than this.
For all that goes on, the factor that ultimately separates this one most from other anime period pieces is how skillfully it blends its supernatural plot with actual historical characters and developments. Granted, it plays around with exact timing a lot and alters some circumstances quite a bit, but in the end nearly everything falls at least generally in line with what is known about the historical figures in question; even the gross discrepancies involving the Maximilien Robespierre in this series and his historical counterpart get resolved in a clever and unexpected way. Up until this point neither Robin nor Belle had appeared to be based on actual historical figures, but both are, and exactly how they are provide two of the volume's biggest revelations. Those who have studied up on the characters may be impressed more but will have little advantage in guessing how anyone's situation other than d'Eon's plays out, as the many twists and turns make anything about this series difficult to predict.
Even to the end the series focuses more on its intrigues than its action, but it does not fail to deliver several intense action scenes, too. Swords flash in involved duels, animated gargoyles attack, pistols shoot people down, and Poets (and those with the power of poets) engage in Psalms-based spell battles, with one scene in the final episode having all four. The graphic content here is higher and more intense than in any previous volume, though not so much as to pass beyond a TV-14 rating. If the drama, secrets, and intrigues do not thrill you, the action may still carry the load.
Little can be said about the artistry that has not been mentioned in previous reviews. Its historically-based character designs and background art still impress, and its action scenes represent the best examples of its animation. The CG renditions of the flowing Psalms text work better than they probably should save in one corny-looking scene near the very end. The subtle changes to d'Eon's appearance over time to reflect the growing influence of Lia (such as him having more colored and defined lips) is a nice touch, as are the appropriately-aged views of him later in life at the end. If the series has a visual weakness, it lies in its use of facial expressions, which sometimes lack proper and convincing reactivity to the situations at hand. Its musical score, as usual, is also fully up to the task of appropriately dramatizing the events on the screen.
The English dub holds true to the standards set by previous volumes: while not overly impressive, it nonetheless does the job satisfyingly well, with the entire cast maintaining established performance patterns through to the end. The Psalms sound a little more distinctive in English, while the voice of Belle sounds a little better in Japanese, but otherwise little qualitative variation exists between the two dubs. The English script usually stays very tight.
The Historical Notes on the disk this time around entirely concern period background events having little or no direct impact on the story, such as the Wars of Spanish and Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War. Also included are the standard clean opener and closer and a 24-minute round table discussion involving several key members of the Japanese cast, who discuss performance issues and insights into important characters. In an unusual practice for ADV, they also retain the original Japanese closing credits on the final episode, with translated credits following. The case has the normal cover, and the included booklet contains cast and staff credits, an interview with the seiyuu for Lia, and another script serialization focusing on the carriage drivers and their families from much earlier in the series with a note referring the reader to a Web site for the final installments. The oddest addition is a collection of chibi images of main cast characters drawn by the character designer for a Japanese Web site.
The final episode (and, arguably, the final entire volume) merit a second view to make sure you have all the plot points it throws out straight, but otherwise the series as a whole is a great example of pacing and plotting. It rarely sags, always delivers a wealth of interesting events, and achieves as much intensity through its intrigues as through its action. Some may find some of the resolutions in the final volume a little too compact and simplistic, but ultimately it tells a complete story with a proper conclusion that wraps up its innumerable plot threads. ADV's signature series for 2007 ends as strong as it started, and perhaps even a little stronger.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : A-
+ Historical context, plentiful major plot developments, good pacing.
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