I was given the chance to watch the first episode of Le Chevalier D’Eon before its US release. A 24-episode series based on Tow Ubukata’s historical fantasy novel of the same title, D’Eon was produced by Production I.G., licensed by ADV Films, and previously serialized as a manga.
Unfortunately, unless you like Louis XV, Versailles, and France in general, D’Eon seems bound to disappoint. Aside from the Japanese fascination with all things French (which is inexplicable to me), the first episode has too much voice-over and too little everything else. The title character, D’Eon, is a French noble who joins the king’s secret police after his sister is killed. Her body was filled with mercury so that it wouldn’t decompose, which forced the (Catholic) Church to deny her a proper burial—which, in turn, forced her spirit to wander and periodically overtake D’Eon’s body for her own vengeance. If you don’t understand all that, it’s all right—I don’t really get it either.
The official Web site says, “D’Eon pursues the truth of his sister’s death, but soon he finds out that it was not a mere murder, and the trail leads him ever deeper into an increasingly serious incident which involves the whole European continent.” No kidding! After doing a little bit of Internet searching, I discovered that the anime not only includes most French nobility, but also King George III and his wife, Elizabeth of Russia, and other hard hitters of the late eighteenth century.
The story behind the story is more interesting to me. Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée Éon de Beaumont, more commonly known as Chevalier d’Eon, was a real person who lived during Louis XV reign in France and was a French diplomat, soldier and spy. D’Eon lived the first half of his life as a man, until the death of Louis XV, when d’Eon claimed he was a woman (physically) and demanded that the government recognize him [her?] as one. Louis XVI and his court complied but required that he wear women’s clothing. D’Eon consented, especially when the king granted funds for a new wardrobe.
Le Chevalier D’Eon is loosely based on the real chevalier, and after reading more about him, I actually want to go back and watch the episode again. Who knows, it may make more sense the second time around. In any case, you history buffs out there may enjoy this anime, especially if you’re into alternative histories (that is, history that could’ve happened, but didn’t). The trailer is available for viewing on the ADV Web site; the first volume, “Psalm of Vengeance,” hits stores February 20.