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"Chevalier D'Eon" Vol. 2: The First Cut's Still the Deepest

Perhaps what I like best about the Star Wars movies is that they take place in a living, breathing universe full of intriguing detail every way you look. One suspects that fascinating characters and subplots lurk in the corners of the frame, and hopes that with each new chapter more of them will be brought to light. Le Chevalier d’Eon likewise fills one with curiosity about the many intrigues in and around the French court in the mid 18th century. It’s almost enough to get me to dig out my ancient European history textbook.

Almost.

Spongebob kicked things off with a deafening bang, full of mystery, monsters, and melees. Unfortunately if not surprisingly, volume 2 can’t quite maintain that frantic pace. The intensity is dialed back several notches, and there’s only one significant action scene on the whole disc. Which isn’t to say it’s not still entertaining. Our heroes’ trek across Europe is full of stunning visuals and interesting historical footnotes. Hero d’Eon’s attempts to unravel the mystery of his sister Lia’s death continue to draw the viewer in. Plus there’s a delightfully oddball new villain.

In Episode V, “Palais-Royal,” d’Eon and his fellow Musketeers finally track down the shady Russian agent Vorontsov, but he escapes to sea after a tense chase. Consequently, in “Knights of the King,” the Musketeers are ordered to Russia to hunt down Vorontsov and the government secrets he stole. Queen Marie pushes d’Eon to embrace Lia’s powerful spirit within him, while the Musketeers push the shy young man to properly express his feelings for his girlfriend Anna.

Along their journey the group stays the night in Cologne, where in “Gargoyles” they run afoul of the scheming Marquise de Pompadour’s agents, the eccentric Comte de Cagliosotro and his lethally gifted girlfriend Lorenza. Finally, in “An Audience with an Empress” d’Eon infiltrates the Russian Empress Elizaveta’s masquerade ball disguised as her old friend Lia. Little does he suspect there is a plot afoot to murder the empress and frame the Musketeers.

d’Eon hoped he’d packed everything he’d need in prison, but would ten cartons be enough?

Cagliostro is easily the most entertaining character in this volume if not the entire series. His name may call up thoughts of Lupin the Third. Is gender confusion a pressing issue in Japan, or is this just another manifestation of anime’s proud “the weirder the better” tradition? I suppose that since some of the most popular performers on the Japanese pop scene are wildly metrosexual, d’Eon’s cross-dressing may not have seemed particularly remarkable. At any rate it’s hard to imagine in an episode of The Batman. Though not so much in Spongebob.)

d’Eon hoped he’d packed everything he’d need in prison, but would ten cartons be enough?

Cagliostro is easily the most entertaining character in this volume if not the entire series. His name may call up thoughts of Lupin the Third, and it’s not a bad comparison. Obsessed with fame and fortune, this flamboyant charlatan is always looking to get a leg up, whether by peddling dubious cosmetics to nobility or by making a name for himself via assassination. He even tries to hawk cologne to a less than amused crime boss. Visions of rich rewards cause him to become positively giddy with excitement, like a six-year-old on Christmas Eve.

Action junkies won’t find much to chew on in this volume. However, if you’re one of those strange cat people who hates dogs there’s a long sequence that PETA definitely wouldn’t approve of. Lorenza casts a spell sending dozens of rabid mutts stampeding toward the Musketeers’ jugulars, and they have little choice but to start carving up canine sushi.

The animation continues to be gorgeous, and it’s a treat to see the painstakingly rendered European landmarks along the Musketeers route, such as the Cologne Cathedral and St. Petersburg Winter Palace. I’ve always thought the ability to depict people and places exactly as they were lends animation a huge advantage over live action in telling historical epics, and Chevalier is compelling evidence for that.

There’s nothing wrong with having a thing for your dead sister. No, wait, yes there is.

The fabulously Baroque packaging holds another superb booklet containing helpful character information, an interview with the series’ creator Tow Ubukata, and another confusing chapter of the Chevalier text serial. The text historical notes also return, and ADV’s interns really outdo themselves with a wealth of fascinating historical details about people, places, ideas and events related to Chevalier‘s story. Citing Wikipedia, though, is not the best way to establish credibility.

“Crossed Swords & Cross-Dressing” suggests that at ADV they’re not only hard workers but hard drinkers as well. At least I can’t think of any other reason for this ridiculous gallery of the two lead voice actors posing in drag. Admittedly, Taylor Hannah (Lia) is exceptionally photogenic.

The two episode commentaries, with Teillagory’s VA John Swasey and Queen Marie’s VA Donna Hannah respectively, contain some mildly interesting discussion of both performing and directing ADR work. Hanna remarks that she insists on recording her lines after the rest of the cast so that she has the English dialog to react to.

I often complain that anime DVD extras don’t have enough Japanese content, but the Chevalier publicity event included here isn’t quite what I had in mind. This brief, lightweight Q&A with Ubukata and the main cast members is neither very informative nor involving.

If you watched the first volume of Le Chevalier d’Eon then you’re surely hooked, and therefore picking up volume two is a no-brainer. Hopefully the staff was just conserving energy for the next sprint. It’s all I can do not to crack open the encyclopedia and read ahead. If only I’d been assigned more anime in chemistry class.

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