Le Chevalier D'Eon Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, August 24, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What They Say
France, Russia, now England. No land is safe from the temptation to possess the Royal Psalms. Now that D'Eon and his comrades know who has the Royal Psalms, they track the traitor to England. But the thief has friends in powerful places, both in the palace and in the stained glass windows of a church, where an order of dark mystics holds terrifying rituals. While Lia's soul becomes more active in her possession of D'Eon's body, one of the spies comes into possession of something else; a secret letter from the king that reveals no one, not even your sworn sovereign, is to be trusted.

Contains episodes 13-16.

The Review!
As the journey shifts to England, we find that it's little different from Russia in that there is danger lurking everywhere.

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. Unlike the first three volumes, this cover isn't embossed and has changed from the book design to one featuring character artwork of Lia in her dress. It still maintains the overall design elements but it feels cheaper than what we were getting before and this late in the series release conveys a message that the show simply isn't selling like it was hoped for. 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 Durand's Japanese voice actor, a partial script as well as a breakdown of the ending sequence animation.

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 volume are somewhat standard 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 moves past the halfway mark with this volume and opens up to a new area for the four Frenchmen to tackle. After all sorts of incidents in France and then getting caught up in events in Russia, the group is now setting foot into England and are ready to mix it up with everyone there. With some amusing moments that tweak history in regards to Queen Mary, the episodes do please overall.

The series is one that's deeply rooted in political intrigue which can be difficult to follow at times considering the overall scope of nations included. The main pressure continues to be applied in France where we see small movements by various members such as Lady Pompadour and the Queen herself. There are subtle alignments and shifts in an attempt to gain the upper hand that's not always apparent at first but becomes clearer later on. Even when not on screen the presence of the Monarchy in France is felt, such as when Durand receives a secret message from the King about how to deal with everything after the Psalms are retrieved.

The majority of the volume is spent with the group in England however as they seek to gain an audience with Queen Mary while continuing their pursuit of the Psalms. The show is still very much an ensemble piece with d'Eon taking the lead and that's all the more apparent here. With a dual personality and past, d'Eon is able to bring in some interesting connections with everyone as it turns out that Lia's presence in England was far greater than anyone suspected. The Queen is quite pleased to see her though she can easily tell that something is amiss with Lia when she meets her. The relationship between the two women is rather fascinating as it's slowly revealed and we see just what the Brethren have done in this country.

The Revolutionary Brethren get a fair bit more exposure with these episodes as well as Robespierre returns to where the group of Poets congregates. The role that Robespierre is set to play in this, along with the role he played with Lia some time before the current events. Robespierre has been fairly enigmatic as he works alongside Cagliostro and Lorenza but it becomes more apparent why he's like that when people like Dashwood and Whitehead appear. The goal that Dashwood has for the Royal Psalms, and his need to use Robespierre for them, are certainly creepy at the least but it's surprising that even Robespierre appears to feel similarly about it. Yet it is also apparent that he has his own plans in motion for what's to come which puts another bit of potential into play for how this will spin out of control when everything comes to a head.

Though not the most fascinating character of the series, the introduction of the Comte de Guercy certainly provides someone interesting to watch in this particular arc. An ambassador for France living in England who has lost a lot of his loyalty to the crown, he's an old friend of Durand's which makes him an obvious choice for pushing their agenda forward. Being half French and half Scottish, de Guercy is easily swayed by money and will do whatever people ask for the right price. A high price generally but a price nonetheless. Durand's arrival and Lia's connection to Queen Mary will certainly benefit him and he works hard to utilize it but it's something that cements the position that he'll never make it back to France again but he could find himself very well off in England. He's an interesting character in how the conflict works within him even if some of it is just painted on his face plain as day.

In Summary:
While it can be a bit too mired in the politics at times which works for those much more familiar with the period, Le Chevalier d'Eon still manages to flow quite well and progresses strongly with the core story at its heart. The journey to England has brought about some fun moments with the Royals while also making sure to provide plenty of dilemma's for the lead characters as they work through the issues. Durand finds himself in an untenable position while d'Eon now sees he's not alone in his dual personality predicament even as it starts to overwhelm him more with the past and potentially the present. This series really stands alone out in the market for what it's presenting and trying to do and for that alone it's worth checking out. It's also worth checking out since it's a well told story and animated with a lot of attention to detail. There is simply a lot to love about Le Chevalier d'Eon.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Historical Notes, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 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: B
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