Judge Adam Arseneau wishes he'd been a girlie, just like his dear papa.
Set in revolutionary France during the reign of King Louis XV with a tantalizing blend of historic drama, political intrigue, and supernatural mysticism, Le Chevalier DÂ'Eon: Volume 3 picks up where Volume 2 left off with four more episodes of the anime series.
Now in Saint Petersburg, D'Eon and his Le Secret du Roi companions are hot on the trail of the Russian Vorontsov. Attending the court of Empress Elizaveta, D'Eon uses the opportunity to learn more about his enigmatic sister Lia and the time she spent in Russia prior to her death. However, D'Eon and his companions' arrival in Russia have not gone unnoticed by those looking to prevent reform and preserve the status quo in Russia. A plan is set in motion to assassinate the Empress and pin the crime upon the four French agents, intertwining the fate of two great nations in espionage and calamity. The Revolutionary Brethren are also in town, looking to capture D'Eon and use Lia's spirit for their own unknown purposes—but could they be behind the coup in Russia as well?
If you've been with the show up until this point, Volume 3 offers no surprises from the formula—these are flowery, complex pieces of political machinations, mysterious conspiracies, and magical powers wound up into a single package, quite unique in the anime world. I suppose this volume is slightly more action packed than the previous sets, but the show itself rarely elevates beyond a few moments of sword fighting here and there. Still, the combat is great, with Production I.G.'s high quality style and fluid character movement carving out lightning-fast and detailed sequences. That being said, it isn't that kind of show—the drama is plot and character-driven, with action sprinkled here and there for garnish. It makes for an endlessly intriguing series, although subtle and often slow-moving.
In Volume 3 we start to get a bit more information about the Royal Psalms and the Revolutionary Brethren, the mysterious organization that seeks to bring change throughout the lands, but their motives are as yet unnamed. They seek change, but to what end is still unknown. One thing is clear, however—they are very interested in D'Eon and the two souls that inhabit his body, recognizing the immense power present in Lia, and looking to harness the power for their own ends. I guess that's all you really need to know. I mean, for all the show's subtlety and complexity, the hero has fantastic power that the bad guys are scared of, and want to steal for their own use…pretty standard anime stuff, really. Of particular note is that we get to meet Maximilien Robespierre, who may or may not be the architect behind the Brethren. He has been glimpsed in previous installments but gets properly introduced in this volume. As a villain, he's quite the bad-ass.
As with previous installments, the technical presentation is near-flawless, with vibrant colors, razor-sharp edges and deep black levels. The CGI-generated backdrops are tight, and character designs and animation levels are consistently top-grade. Both English and Japanese 5.1 channels are included, with the English getting the better grade. Both are loud, low, and vibrant with great detail and resonance, but the English track got some extra tweaking during post-production dubbing.
Extras remain surprisingly tight. Anime DVDs have a nasty habit of going all out with extras for the first installment, then tapering off into nothingness after a few volumes. Luckily, Volume 3 remains fairly packed. We get commentary tracks on all four episodes, the first with voice actor Chris Hutchinson (Bestuzhev) and ADR Director Steven Foster, the second with voice actors Lesley Tesh (Lorenza) and Amit Patel (Robespierre), the third with voice actor Alice Fulks (Elizaveta) and Steven Foster again, and finally voice actors Jessica Boone (Ekaterina) and Jose Diaz (Pyotr). Also included are some on-screen historical notes, especially useful for keeping track of the political events occurring in Russia. The 20-page booklet makes a reappearance here, with detailed biographies, a character relationship chart, interviews, design sketches, dialogue transcripts, storyboard comparisons, and mise-en-scène commentary. I had worried this particular feature would end up omitted after a few installments, but so far so good. Toss in the requisite trailers and clean opening/closing sequences, and Le Chevalier D'Eon continues to deliver a fantastic technical presentation for anime aficionados.
After 12 episodes (usually the halfway point or so in the average anime run) things usually start to cement up in terms of plot, and one can slowly start to see how things will play out. We have yet to see this occur in Le Chevalier D'Eon, and it is becoming problematic. The series, set amidst political intrigue, revolution, and mysticism is a radically unique offering, but the pacing is dry as a bone. I was enamored with the series at the beginning, but my admiration is beginning to tarnish somewhat with the passing of episode after episode with little to show for the investment.
Now, I'm not giving up on this anime. I mean, it's a mystical historical drama set in France—such a creative property does not come around every day. Plus, Chevalier is created by Production I.G., one of the heavyweight anime producers of the world. These guys don't get involved in menial projects, and their name on the box virtually guarantees quality. The show definitely has plenty of potential to become something earth-shatteringly awesome, but man, I'm so ready for it to happen already.
Coyness is one thing, but Le Chevalier D'Eon can be a terrible, terrible tease.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• Commentary Tracks with ADR Director Steven Foster and Voice Actors Chris Hutchinson (Bestuzhev), Lesley Tesh (Lorenza), Amit Patel (Robespierre), Alice Fulks (Elizaveta), Jessica Boone (Ekaterina), and Jose Diaz (Pyotr)
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