Le Chevalier D'Eon Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, June 08, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What They Say
The politics of dancing have never been more deadly. After meeting with the Russian royalty, D'Eon and his comrades find themselves in the Empress' favor. Yet she has partners who want to cut in, cut them out and cut her throat. As the tempo of this political waltz speeds up, darker and more dangerous missteps are made. Secret sorcerers show their true faces and powerful players make desperate moves. D'Eon will at last come face-to-face with the traitor to his cause and, quite possibly, the one responsible for his sister Lia's demise. The music of madness reaches a crescendo. Join the dance.

The Review!
The stakes rise as not only is d'Eon's mission at risk but also the future of the entire country of Russia.

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 continues 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 leather book, 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 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.

After the extras that were available on the previous volume this one feels a bit weaker depending on what you're looking for. English language fans will be supremely happy at what they get here however. Four commentary tracks are here, one for each of the episodes. The voice actors for several key characters are grouped throughout here while ADR director Steven Foster participates in two of them. There's a lot of good material here for fans interested in the series dub production that provides for plenty of replay value. In general, the other extras are somewhat standard for this release but solid. The historical notes once again convey a good deal of information and some of the liberties taken and there's also the inclusion of the clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Le Chevalier d'Eon manages to reach some new heights with this set of episodes though it takes far more historical liberties than before. Taking that aspect out of it though the series still seems to place the leads in situations that are almost too grand for them to be involved in while still making it work well. It's a problem that crops up in many series but few of them deal with the future of entire nations.

d'Eon's arrival in Russia along with the others has led him to a tense if proper introduction to Empress Elizaveta. Through his similarity to his sister not only in look but also in heart, he's able to convince her to pay him some heed as to what they need to accomplish. Their first sit down conversation allows d'Eon to explain some of what's gone on in France but the real revelations revolve around what Lia was able to accomplish while in Russia. Her ability to help foster the reforms that Elizaveta has been trying to push through is altering the direction of the country in a way that will benefit France greatly but potentially Russia as well. The work that his sister was involved in is something of a surprise to him but it fits with what her mission was and who she was as a person.

With permission not only to hunt down Vorontsov but also to come and go as they please from the palace, d'Eon and his comrades are able to start their investigation quite seriously. What they discover along the way is that there is just as much intrigue going on in Russia as there is in France. A plot to kill the Empress in order to completely stall her reforms is underway and the four get caught up in it as it's in their best interest to keep her alive. Having four Frenchmen involved in Russian internal politics doesn't go over well and only serves to enrage those behind the scenes orchestrating everything. Factions within factions start to appear and while the overall plot is fairly simple there are some great complexities and nuances to all of it.

Though the scope starts initially with dealing with the assassination attempt, the show expands much more afterwards as it deals with the power grabs that are going on within the nobility. The political scene is quite engaging as those for and against reform work towards their own goals and have their varied reasons for wanting to do so. All of this is being taken advantage of by Robespierre however along with the group that he has to deal in the Psalms and more. Even beyond them people like Vorontsov are easily manipulated and nudged into doing what he wants done as it furthers his own goals. Where events with Robespierre get to be really fascinating is when he's able to take out the book itself for use and ends up in a confrontation with Durand. This new twist and the small tidbits of the past that surface because of it paint a more intricate picture that is to be the second half of this series and more.

While the plotting and pacing at times may be a fair bit slow and mellow, every scene has some new bit of information to it or sets things on the proper path for discovery. The show has revolved mostly around the journey to find Vorontsov but all the larger elements have attached themselves to that as well. The result is that with this set of episodes the story becomes larger as expected and moves beyond the front man that has guided it for so long. The real devil behind the deeds is revealed and his motivations aren't entirely clear yet. The ties take it back to France while changing the direction of the show towards England. This is a fascinating period in history as alliances shift easily and at the will of individuals who control the destinies of nations. Politics can move fast even in the modern day but in a period like this where the balance of control is in so few hands it's even starker.

In Summary:
Few shows rise to the level that Le Chevalier d'Eon does, be it in terms of animation or story quality. Simply everything about this show shines as a real jewel. An original story, stellar animation, solid pacing and plotting and engaging characters all bring it to life. The historical angle as they tweak and manipulate the past highlights some interesting moments and seems to make every history teacher I know smile with its mix of accuracy and liberty. Though it's not likely to be a huge mainstream hit by any means, it's one that ADV Films can stand proudly behind in just about every aspect. Their fascinating and love of the show is very well represented in each of the releases and this one is no exception.

Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Historical notes,Commentary with Chris Hutchison (Bestuzhev) and Steven Foster (ADR Director),Commentary with Lesley Tesh (Lorenza) and Amit Patel (Robespierre), Commentary with Alice Fulks (Elizabeta) and Steven Foster (ADR Director),Commentary with Jessica Boone (Ekaterina) and Jose Diaz (Pyotr),Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
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
MSRP: 29.98
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