Masami SuzukiTakaya HashiRisa MizunoYoshihisa Kawahara
Le Chevalier D'Eon
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2006
Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi
Writer: Tow Ubukata
Actor: Akihiko Ishizumi, Akio Nojima, Atsuko Tanaka, Bon Ishihara, Daisuke Sasaki, Eri Kitamura, Gen Nakano, Haruo Satou, Hideyuki Umezu, Kaori Nazuka, Kazuhiko Nishimatsu, Keiichi Sonobe, Ken Narita, Kenji Hamada, Masami Suzuki, Masatoshi Iida, Mayo Suzukaze, Mayumi Yanagisawa, Megumi Matsumoto, Misato Fukuen, Nobuyuki Kobushi, Riichi Nishimoto, Risa Mizuno, Ryusaku Chijiwa, Satoshi Tsuruoka, Takahiro Sakurai, Takaya Hashi, Tetsu Inada, Yasunori Matsumoto, Yoshihisa Kawahara, Yuki Kaida, Yukiko Takaguchi, Yuuki Tai
Keywords: anime, historical, rubbish
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 24 episodes
Website category: Anime late 00s
Review date: 17 July 2017
I got this on DVD because I'd heard it was good. I was misinformed. It improves a bit in the last few episodes, but by that point Tomoko and I were openly mocking it.
It's a pseudo-historical, starting out in 18th century France. On the side of fidelity, its research is quite thorough and even the character designs are being moderately faithful to how these people really looked. (This makes them a bit ugly by anime standards, which I admire.) It would be carping to criticise throwaway errors like "The British Bank", even if that one did make me snort. A lot of hard work went into this show, especially in the design and backgrounds. However they're also taking some artistic licence. (I'm comfortable with that too, by the way.) This is a story of magical undead being created by sentient poetry that seems to be driving half of the world's most powerful figures to betray the other half. Those poems also may or may not be the Biblical psalms. If you hate the idea of an evil Bible... well, it's all vague and ambiguous enough that it's impossible to say for sure what's happening, so you can decide for yourself what it all means.
Those psalms are indirectly the root cause of this show's problems. This is not a character-led drama, which makes its 24 episodes a slog. Instead it's committing the Historical Fiction Sin of building its storyline out of things you'd find in history textbooks. We visit France, Russia and England. The main thing being explored in our heroes' characterisation is whether or not they're loyal to their country. When they're loyal (i.e. most of the time), this reduces them to plot puppets. Go to Russia. Talk to Tsarina. Go to London. Talk to Queen Mary Charlotte and the Earl of Sandwich. Everyone's very serious and weighty, i.e. patriotically and dutifully repudiating any feelings that might make them seem like human beings.
I didn't care about these characters or their reasons for being as they are. The least uninteresting are the kings, queens and other people in power, who are at least doing stuff on their own initiative. Most of these are female, which is nice because otherwise most of the cast is male, proud and kinda one-note. I liked the queen who had her husband hanged, as well as Queen Marie's idea of child care. Those were good bits. (Queen Marie's "forgive me" made me laugh aloud.) However the Infinitely Forbearing Fiancee is insipid and Lia barely counts as a character.
The show improves (up to "bad") when we start exploring the limits of people's loyalty. This includes loyalty to unexpected people. The bloodbath that is the last few episodes is welcome, although unfortunately there are some survivors. The killing and double-dealing isn't unwatchable, but it's empty. I couldn't tell why everyone was doing all that and none of it's real or meaningful anyway. They're doing it because of a magic book. Somehow. In some way. Is the book making them do it, or are they being evil off their own bats? What exactly were the baddies' plans, anyway? What were their goals and how were their actions supposed to achieve them? There are some amusing revelations in the final episode that provide partial (if silly) answers to some of those questions, but fundamentally this is a series where the heroes' actions are mostly just obeying orders and the villains' actions are hardly much better.
Even the fantastical elements don't spice things up. One might normally expect entertainment from zombie-making poetry, but it's all being played humourlessly straight and the undead are surprisingly minor story elements. They only appear when summoned. There will be some fight scenes and they'll get disposed of quite quickly. That's about it. The story's also being creative in its use of the historical figure, Chevalier d'Eon, who in real life was a crossdresser who ended up living as a woman, but here is a man possessed by the spirit of his dead sister. This would have been more interesting if she'd had a personality.
The show's a stiff. It's the walking dead. It's mostly about Manly Stoic Men Who Love Their Country and have no sense of humour, doing their duty until you realise that nothing character-driven has happened for a good six episodes. There are some interesting themes, e.g. identity (in various senses), but themes mean less if the story isn't bringing them alive. Tomoko and I often disagree on anime, but this show bored both of us.