The year is 1742, and the body of Lia de Beaumont has just been found in a coffin floating down the Seine- and for her brother d’Eon, it signals the start of a journey. Possessed by Lia’s restless soul, he finds himself driven to find the cause of her death, and in so doing, he and his comrades find themselves travelling across Europe and uncovering conspiracies and agendas that permeate even the highest of authorities. Can d’Eon survive long enough to uncover the truth, or will he fall victim to mysterious powers possessed by the many forces seeking to advance their own agendas?
Every so often, a series will come along that produces an ‘obsession phase’- that is, a condition in which one becomes so enamoured of the title in question that its flaws, whilst apparent, pale against the general appeal it holds. Such was the case with Chevalier, a historical fantasy that took more than a few liberties with the events of eighteenth century France as it wove a tale of historical and fictional characters during a sort of compressed pre-Revolution era.
By all rights, the result should have been (and in many ways nearly is) a somewhat cheesy tale of swords, sorcery, clichéd characters, historical cameos and unnecessarily convoluted storylines that often went nowhere and made little sense. Indeed, many times Chevalier skirts perilously close to this realm, but some thread of inherent quality manages to keep it from going over the line every time. Perhaps it is the conviction with which the characters play their roles, investing passion and an air of gravity to the tale; perhaps it is just something as simple as the atmosphere set by the superbly produced OP- either way, instead of seeming laughable, Chevalier is transformed into a compelling and addictive tale that generally makes one want to gloss over its flaws rather than focus on them. The end result is so satisfying, in fact, that one almost wants more arcs- seeing France, Russia and England is far from enough when the likes of Austria and Prussia are just begging to be visited.
As mentioned above, Chevalier boasts an impressive cast of both fictional and historical characters, each of whom have well-defined personalities despite never really receiving much in the way of development. Aside from the unique combination of Lia and d’Eon, even characters who are given back story and the chance to grow over the course of the series generally only do so in the most predictable of ways. There are a handful with more complex motivations and agendas, such as the enigmatic Maximilien Robespierre, but unfortunately the actions of such characters often ultimately make little sense when analysed in depth over the course of the series.
Visually, Chevalier combines intricately drawn settings with somewhat low key but still technically adept character designs; unfortunately, however, the animation is not always up to par in every episode, with certain characters looking rather inconsistent as the series progresses (of course, this may be fixed in the DVD version). The OP and ED are powerful and memorable, but the rest of the background music is generally forgettable, although it does subconsciously add atmosphere to the series.
Whilst it is clearly a series that won’t appeal to everyone, those who fall under Chevalier’s spell will quickly find themselves addicted to this intriguing tale of “what just might have been happening alongside historical events”. If you have any interest in fantasy, drama and a dash of politics all presented in a historical setting, you must at least give it a chance.