Le Chevalier D'Eon Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, January 11, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, February 20, 2007
What They Say
Paris, 1742. A coffin floats in the shimmering Seine. On the lid, a word written in blood "Psalms. Inside, the body of a beautiful woman. Lia de Beaumont. Now her brother, D'Eon, seeks the reason for her mysterious murder, and uncovers an evil that shadows both the palaces of kings and the dark alleys of Europe. A power wielded by spell-casting Poets, and manipulated by royalty. A force so powerful it brings Lia's soul back from beyond to seize the only weapon she can possess to avenge her death "her own brother. History meets horror. Fantasy meets mystery. Experience the next revolution in anime with Le Chevalier D'Eon.
With the death of his sister, d'Eon leaves his simple life as a noble to join those who work in secret to protect the populace only to discover something supernatural.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. Both language tracks are done in a 5.1 mix at 448 kbps and sound quite expansive throughout. Dialogue is well placed along the forward soundstage with crisp distinction and the swordplay comes across strongly as well. The series has a lot of quiet moments to it, much of it taking place at night or in dark dank places, which works well with both the echoes that it sometimes creates as well as the way the nights feel so empty. This is a very good sounding mix across the board that's free of dropouts and distortions.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Production I.G. has managed another great looking show here and the transfer for the most part deals with it well though not without some minor problems. The series in general has a very good solid feel to it with little in the way of noticeable break-up or background noise. This is quite good since the show has a lot of night time scenes as well as the dark gray alleys and buildings of the time, both of which are areas that traditionally look noisy. Colors look good and the few truly vibrant ones really stand out when they come into play. Where the problems tend to show, and I believe this is more of a limitation of both DVD and the source, is that the CG areas tend to have more of a shimmer to them when there are panning motions. This shows up in some character animation as well once in awhile though it is far less noticeable. With the show averaging around 7 mbps and two 5.1 soundtracks encoded at the upper realm, this looks good overall.
Le Chevalier d'Eon is another example of the way ADV Films is choosing to market their titles in terms of packaging. We've seen a number of new series with foil covers but this title is one of the first that I've seen from them that has a cardboard slipcover over it. Designed to look like a dark leather, it features some good gold embossing on top of it to give it a very European and historical feel. In the center it provides both a small portion of the character artwork and a nicely stylized logo with the volume number. The back of the slipcover works in much the same way but without the embossing. The center portion features the summary of the shows premise and a very clear listing of the discs features. Due to the way it's laid out there isn't a technical grid here but it's set up well enough that you can find the information without hunting around too much.
With the keepcase, the front cover uses the Japanese first volume cover artwork but zoomed in slightly. The other change is that the white background is now black which gives it a much darker and more serious feel than the Japanese cover. Unlike other releases from other publishers, the back cover here doesn't mirror the slipcover back side but instead provides four strips of shots from each of the episodes and a fuller listed of the production credits. The technical grid doesn't show here either but it's laid out similar to the slipcover but with a bit more space to work with. Also included with this release is a very slick and informative booklet which covers character designs and details, an interview with the series writer, a partial script as well as a breakdown of a couple of scenes.
The design for the menus works out well in a somewhat understated way as it has the interior wall of some building where the top portion is old and stained while the bottom is more ornate. The top portion has an elaborate frame in the center through which various character shots in painted form rotate through while the bottom portion has the episode selection and other navigation. Overlaid on top of it are some flickering flames and pieces of wood falling from the ceiling which when combined with the somber instrumental music truly sets a good mood. Access times are nice and fast and the layout works quite well for what's here. The player language presets weren't an issue with our Panasonic player but it defaulted to English language with sign/song subtitles on our PlayStation 3 when we checked out some of the technical bits.
The extras for this release are interesting and are the kind that will certainly be beneficial to those who aren't familiar with this period and location in history. As is standard, we do get the clean opening and closing here as well as the original Japanese trailer and one of Production I.G.'s promotional videos. These all show nicely how the show was sold initially and it's easy to see why it appealed across the borders. The liner notes section, called Historical Notes, are very illuminating pieces into the documented lives of some of these people and really give you a different view of things, particularly with d'Eon. I'm not sure that they could be construed as spoilers for the show, but it could provide something of a disconnect when just trying to keep the reality of the show separate from the reality of our world. Also included are two commentary tracks. The first is a fun one with David Matranga and Steven Foster that covers the usual kinds of things that you find in an opening commentary between the lead actor and the ADR director. The second is a historical commentary, done with episode two, that has Janice Williams and Amy Forsyth (translator for the series) going over some of the more unique aspects of the show and its historical accuracy.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Le Chevalier d'Eon, created by Tow Ubukata of Pilgrim Jager fame, is the latest show that Production I.G. has turned its eye onto. With twenty-four episodes to play with, the shows takes all of the tricks of the trade that they've learned from their Ghost in the Shell TV experience as well as many others and brings it outside of Japan for something set in the 18th century France. While there are plenty of similarities to various times in Japan with the class structure and other political issues, this shift in locale allows them to expand their repertoire a bit more.
Taking place during the reign of Louis XIV towards the latter half of his life, we're introduced to a young man named d'Eon de Beaumont who has lost his older sister. Lia had been a participant in the kings court and was a well known and loved teacher there. Her death, which was done through means that has kept her from a proper Church burial, has prompted d'Eon to leave his otherwise simple life as a noble to become involved with the King's own spies. A number of women have been kidnapped similar to Lia only to be found dead some time later with changes to their bodies that includes mercury being introduced into them.
Through his investigations with this group of loyal knights to King and country, d'Eon gets closer to finding out who is masterminding all of this. But like any good mystery, it's far bigger and expansive than you would initially believe. This period in French history is the prelude to the revolution that would come so there is much corruption within the upper echelon of society as well as political intrigue. People disappearing by form of police weren't exactly unheard of but when those secret police themselves are caught by surprise with it there is more than meets the eye. Where Le Chevalier d'Eon makes its twist and turn away from a traditional historical show is when it introduces a supernatural element as being involved by those behind the scenes.
Using some very loose translations from the Bible, particular members seem to be adept at using Psalms to both strengthen some of their foot soldiers in their grand plan but also to take those who are about to die and possess them, essentially making them a form of living dead that they're able to use in various ways. Each of these possessions though turns their bodies unclean which make it harder for those who have to deal with them at first. For d'Eon, seeing that his sister was treated much the same way, it's doubly difficult for him since he understands the loss that the relatives will suffer because of this. To make it even worse, there is a predilection towards using women in this manner and that is something that a man who serves the country and is a knight has difficulty with.
As the plot is slowly revealed, and surely we're getting only the feints and outer edges this early in the series, d'Eon is able to bring together a small group of loyalists to his side. Though not something he wants to do at first as he is more focused on avenging his sister, he comes to have a younger attendant named Robin, someone slightly older than him named Durand and also his and his sisters' swordsmanship instructor, a much older man named Teillagory. Each of them bring various backgrounds and knowledge to the fore that's useful, but it's also the kind of well rounded group that serves the lead well. D'Eon doesn't come across as too young or rash when you have Robin there, but neither does he seem as mature as Durand or as wise as Teillagory.
One of the things that I had enjoyed the most during the 2nd Gig season of Ghost in the Shell was when the series took some time overseas, particularly in Europe. Seeing the production values of a near-future Europe was fascinating enough from a Japanese perspective, but seeing them taken on a rendition of 18th century France is just lavish. Historical shows have done well before with European architecture and style, but this show just seems to elevate it to a new level. The detail and apparent accuracy in many scenes is just great to look at. The palace at Versailles is luxurious and feels it while the longer views of the various cities really give them impression of how it would look at that time, particularly with how empty and quiet much of it is. The interiors are equally as impressive as they range from the palaces and other estates to the local taverns and dank dungeons that everyone ends up roaming through.
When a production studio moves outside of some of their more normal areas, not that Production I.G. has really kept to just one area, they can either produce something stunning or incredibly weak. In its first four episodes, Le Chevalier d'Eon is moving quickly up on the stunning chart. While its first episode felt incredibly rushed and poorly paced in some ways due to how much it was trying to do, it settles in nicely after that and begins its expansive storyline. Similar to their work on Otogi Zoshi, they've done a ton of research on the period and locales and it adds so much more to the atmosphere. Combined with the real life nature of many of these characters, you get a greater sense of them having truly walked these streets and interacting with each other.
There is a lot to like here with a straightforward storyline that has much more richness hidden underneath and it. I can see this as serving a similar kind of need that one of Production I.G.'s previous series did all while standing firmly on its own. Sometimes it's nice to get away from the very Japanese centric stories when it comes to the historical dramas and Le Chevalier d'Eon handles it exceptionally well. Very recommended for those who are tired of high school lads saving the world or magical princesses that never seem to grow up.
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Historical notes,Multiple commentaries by the English cast and staff,Original Japanese TV spots,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animatio
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Le Chevalier d'Eon