Reviewby Theron Martin,
Le Chevalier d'Eon
In Paris, France in 1753, insane, murderous individuals called Poets use the blood of virgins to scribe Psalms, which allow them monstrous transformations and may grant them other powers, too. Their sworn enemy is the Chevalier Phoenix, a well-dressed young woman with a cat familiar who uses sword, Bible verses, and her own mysticism to end the bloody rampages of the Poets and strike them down wherever they may be found. In actuality the Chevalier Phoenix is lackadaisical police officer d'Eon de Beaumont when taken over by the wandering spirit of his dead sister Lia, and in truth d'Eon is actually a secret agent working directly under King Louis XV's orders. In addition to defeating the Poets d'Eon also seeks to solve the affliction of Princess Sophie, Louis' daughter, who has been rendered mostly unable to communicate due to Psalms reflected on her body.
If you have been following ADV's release of the anime series of the same name then it's important to understand up front that the manga version, which came first, has little to do with the anime version beyond involving Poets and centering on d'Eon de Beaumont, the secret agent for King Louis XV in mid-18th century France who is possessed (and occasionally taken over) by the spirit of Lia, his dead older sister. Robin is also present in this version, but he fills the role of d'Eon's boy servant instead of another agent of Le Secret du Roi. Beyond these commonalities the two tell dramatically different stories and take utterly different approaches to their subject matter.
The differences between the two become apparent only partway into the first chapter. Whereas the anime series presents itself from the beginning as a serious, plot-intensive balance of action, mystery, intrigue, and historical drama flavored with supernatural elements, the first manga volume shows a dedicated supernatural action/horror emphasis, albeit one occasionally peppered with the kind of goofy scenes one could only see in anime and manga. Its initial four chapters, which consist of three mostly independent story arcs, do not bother much with developing the setting or establishing an underlying plot beyond nasty Poets going around causing trouble, instead focusing much more on showing gory slasher-film fare, monstrous transformations, and battle scenes involving d'Eon dolled up as Lia. These scenes can be quite cool if you're into that sort of thing and have not seen the anime, but fans of the anime may find the lack of elegance or underlying structure to be off-putting.
Major contrasts can also be seen in the characterizations. The d'Eon seen in the anime is a somber, proper, openly dedicated young nobleman deeply troubled by his sister's death, while his manga counterpart hides his dedication to King Louis and secret missions under cover of a slacker police officer prone to whiny outbursts (although how much of that is an act remains unclear at the end of the volume). In the anime Lia is a literal spirit of vengeance when she takes over d'Eon (and usually not by his choice), while the manga portrays her more as a mature, sword-wielding version of a magical girl-like alter ego willingly cooperating with d'Eon. Robin eschews his serious demeanor from the anime in favor of a cheery, put-upon attitude, while contrarily the Louis XV of the manga pages behaves decidedly more direct and less foppish than his anime counterpart. Sophie, Louis' daughter by chief mistress Madame de Pompadour (and not a historical figure), makes prominent appearances here but does not appear at all in the anime, as is also true for the cat Nell. On the other hand characters like Durand and Teillagory, who are so prominent from the early stages of the anime, have yet to appear. Artistry dominated by thick, heavy lines, abundant shading, and a vast array of peculiar perspectives quickly establishes its own style, although it still shows more typical anime/manga influences than the anime version does. Its busy nature leaves the greatest impression; blank backgrounds are few and far between, with panels bursting with shading, detail, or heavy speed lines being the norm. No nudity will be found here, but particular effort has been devoted to action scenes and gory displays, as well as all the complicated, frilly clothing that abounds throughout. Most female characters – Lia included – tend to look like dressed-up dolls, while male characters almost invariably have some exaggerated expression and both male and female characters feature elongated limbs. In this version the visual difference between d'Eon and Lia also stands out starker; d'Eon either uses a lot of padding or else temporarily grows sizable breasts when Lia takes over, and notable differences can also be seen in his more feminine eyelashes and overall body form during these times, whereas in the anime his physical appearance changed little even when he dressed up as Lia. Also notable, when D'Eon turns into Lia in the manga he switches from being right-handed to left-handed, a change which does not happen in the anime.
Del Rey's translation retains all the original sound effects with tiny English translations tucked away somewhere in the immediate vicinity. Following the 185 pages of actual manga content are four pages of a print-only dialogue between d'Eon and Robin about various setting-related issues, one page notes from each of the writer and manga-ka, six pages of detailed translation notes, and a three-page untranslated preview of volume 2. Its richly-colored cover art uses reflective silvery paint to catch the eye from a distance.
As a stand-alone read Le Chevalier offers plenty of graphic supernatural fare and an interesting visual style but little depth. Comparing it to the anime is like comparing a rough draft to the polished final product.
Overall : B-
Story : C+
Art : B
+ Interesting art style, lots of action.
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