The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Le Chevalier D’Eon

Title: Le Chevalier D’Eon
Genre: Drama/Action
Company: Production I.G
Format: 24 episodes
Date: 2 Jul 2006 – 23 Feb 2007

Synopsis: The real life D’Eon de Beaumont died in London in 1810. But doctors that examined her body found a big surprise when they discovered that she was actually male. What investigators soon unraveled was the globetrotting adventures of a French diplomat and spy in secret service to King Louis XV himself. Indeed, the Chevalier D’Eon had lived half of her life as a man and half as a woman, but most surprising were the responsibilities, trials, and covert missions this full-time patriot carried out throughout her life.

The Highlights
History: The History Channel wishes it was this compelling.
Characters: Mature designs and personalities.
Scattershot appeal: Something for everybody!

We often see anime studios dip into the well of history for some narrative inspiration. And well they should, as Japan’s rich heritage, both traditions and legends, are one of the main draws of these cartoons from the Far East. But enough tales of samurai lords, mythical demons and spirits, and even unearthing the battleship Yamato have treaded on worn ground for the genre of historical fiction to become trope-ridden. But here, Production I.G. digs up a peculiar gem of European lore, featuring a real historical figure Chevalier D’Eon, and delivers a smart action piece where fact and fiction swirl together in a story that includes everything from political espionage to identity confusion to zombie hounds and more.

I was enthralled with the immersive setting of 1700s France. The royal court, though couched in manners and courtesy, is swimming in political machinations and maneuvers. The people, places, and organizations are all well researched; one could easily believe this was Europe 250 years ago. These decorative tidbits help suspend our disbelief when the show moves into supernatural territory later on. Concerning that, there is a cult element in this anime that uses ritual magic and curses. I had major fears about how it would seriously portray Christian ideas, since anime has a track record of being pretty ridiculous about it. But again Le Chevalier D’Eon shows its intelligence with a high understanding of religion from the western perspective. I didn’t have to worry about the verity of Bible quotes and could instead absorb the forays into Moral Gray Zone and the menace of the dark cult.

This anime designs to be very ambitious, but sometimes can’t keep all of its elements aloft. Le Chevalier D’Eon attempts to cover different angles on morality, loyalty, and religion. The plot switches between royal court intrigue, a murder investigation, and metaphorical riddles. Finally on the action side of things, slick swordfights, rooftop escapes, and curse slinging magic battles, all crowd for viewers’ attention. That it hardly scratches the subplots about D’Eon’s estranged love interest, his evolving relationship with his disembodied sister’s soul, and the zombies (the zombies!), testifies that this juggler has too many balls in the air. Sure, superficially all these crazy ideas sound good, and each part is skillfully executed and made entertaining on their own, but the big picture sometimes gets lost.

The mishmash approach impacts the pacing both good and bad. The pace is alternatively frenetic and reflective, which enhances the torrid and exciting tempo. There’d be a rush of major betrayal or a decisive duel, but then the next couple of episodes would slow down as the heroes try to figure out their mixed up thoughts and their next step. It’s very engaging in the moment, but it never shrugs off the feeling of disconnection between consecutive points. Many themes don’t get the attention they deserve, like the dual personalities of D’Eon and his sister cohabiting the same body. Where was opportunity for character development was instead made into a plot device.

With a well researched setting and a flourish for presentation, Le Chevalier D’Eon delivers an eclectic and very entertaining package. There’s a lot to like about it, and it smartly embellishes its myriad of likeable components to mask how its lofty aims are slightly beyond its reach. It’s uncommonly intelligent, top-fuel entertainment, just on the cusp of being outstanding if only it could’ve polished its direction a bit more. As it is, Le Chevalier D’Eon is a roller coaster of a different flavor for the animated medium. Quite thrilling, if a little disorienting.

The Rating: 7
7/10

Reviewed by: kadian1364

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