Tou Ubukata / Kiriko Yumeji – Del Rey – 2010 – 8 volumes
You know, I couldn’t be happier that Del Rey finished this. They aren’t publishing a lot lately, and it’s easy to just leave this one since we’ve only been getting a volume a year for the last year or two due to being caught up with Japan. It’s also an adaptation of an anime, which leaves it the low man on the pole. But I always liked it, despite it being incomprehensible at points, so I was happy to see the end.
I’ll be honest and say one of the main reasons I like this series is purely the art. Yumeji is great at drawing the Chevalier Sphinx’s costumes. The one on the front cover would be amazing if it looked like her breasts were attached to her body, and maybe smaller. But all the costumes look like that in every panel. I’m sure it’s an insane amount of work, and I really appreciate it. Every one of the characters is dressed like that, too.
The plot… I don’t understand what’s going on much of the time. Somehow, it suddenly clicked and made sense in this volume. I thought there was something being lost in translation between Latin, French, Japanese, and English (and sometimes Greek too, maybe?), but the battles literally consist of the characters moving letters around from what people say in order to fight back with another word that should defeat them, based on who they are. They seem to mostly be anagrams and one word that can make another word or words if the letters are re-arranged. These references are so obscure and plot-specific that nobody is likely to puzzle it out for themselves before the characters do. It made sense when Lia was fighting some of the last enemies here, too.
Basically, I am ashamed that it took me eight volumes to figure out she was rhyming enemies to death. I understood there were word plays, but I thought they somehow summoned other powers, that the hierarchy of poetry was involved, other things came into play… apparently not. Solving certain puzzles certain ways makes you ascend the rank of poet, and… gives you power to fight others? That seems to be all it is. If so, this is probably a lot easier to read than I thought. I was thinking too hard.
The battles were suitably epic this time around, and I cracked up when I saw who the poet ultimately was that she came to the cathedral to fight. Actually, there are two of them. One is more sinister than the other. I thought she really had shoved her sword through the last one’s head in the end, though, which was terrifying and intense.
The actual ending of the series? Not as impressive. It is horribly open-ended, with the goals of the characters un-accomplished and everyone setting out to Prussia to stop the poets on the last page. This is merely the end of the “France Chapter.” Except I don’t think there’s a “Prussia Chapter” to the anime, and I know for sure that the manga doesn’t continue after this. I hate open-ended work like this. Maybe he hoped to come back to it some day, but… I doubt that will ever happen.
Not that I’m going to lose any sleep about not knowing the resolution to Le Chevalier d’Eon. It was mostly just a long string of semi-confusing battles. Mostly, I’m going to miss Kiriko Umeji’s artwork. I hope she gets another series that lets her show off her skills like this one did.
Actually, I take back what I said about the anime earlier. It sounds like the anime is nothing like the manga. I just read one of the later episode summaries and it blew my mind. I don’t even know how things would have gotten to that situation. They go to Russia in… the fourth episode? Wow, it’s a lot different. I kind of want to see it now.
Story By Tou Ubukata / Manga By Kiriko Yumeji – Del Rey – 2009 – 8+ volumes
I reviewed this volume for the weekly Manga Minis column at Manga Recon, so you can check out my review over there.
I said pretty much everything I want to say over at Manga Recon. This is one of those series that I know is kind of crappy, but I like a lot anyway. I keep wishing it did things a little differently, but that’s just not in its nature, and it would probably be a lot less cool if it went anything like how I imagined.
Also, I just looked up the Japanese volumes to post the volume number here. I hadn’t really noticed, but I am very amused by the fact the breasts keep getting larger and larger on the covers of the recent volumes. For 7 and 8, if I didn’t know any better, I would think it was an H manga.
Actually, even the tarot card nonsense they started in with last volume is starting to make sense. It helped immensely to see a poet moved up to rank 7 and given the power, rather than having D’Alembert explain it at length as in last volume. It says that there are only 22 people in history that have risen to rank 7, so I assume we’ll run across each, and they’ll all be assigned to a major arcana.
Apparently everyone rank 7 or higher also has an animal helper, be it the vitrol rats from last volume, or a crow, or a freaky mouth, or Nell. And… apparently some poetic… thing is needed to manifest the animal helper, or to get the animal helper to manifest its power? I really didn’t understand why each rank 7 poet had some sort of tagline that had a meaning that was dissected at length… or rather, what bearing that tagline has on the story. I’m sure there’s some indepth explanation as to how it reflects on the poet, but apparently you need to involve the tagline in some sort of wordplay, or have the initials show up, or something, in order to get your animal helper’s powers… I guess? That makes sense for now, at least.
Roble is still the boss of the poets, even after the heavy hints that Saint-Germain was somehow involved. He is, and he’s got some freaky stuff going on, but for now, he seems to be hanging back to see what will happen.
This is mostly stylish fighting again, this time with a rank 7 Emperor poet. Plus the Tower poet gets her powers. Lia and d’Eon are hardly in it, unfortunately. I’m still not really getting tired of the random battles in this series. I’m actually inordinately fond of Le Chevalier d’Eon. It’s got great art, a great premise, the battles are pretty fascinating given the fact they involve a lot of wordplay, the setting is excellent, the plot is moving along at an okay (well, maybe a little slow) pace, and now that all the confusing symbolism from last volume is slowly being made clear, there’s very little for me to complain about. Its biggest flaw is probably that it has a lot more fighting than it should, but I wouldn’t really change that and exchange it for story.
It’s mostly style over substance, but it’s also a great read. I think we’re caught up with Japan now, so I hope I don’t forget everything I’ve come to understand about the tarot cards/rank 7 poets in this volume.
For some reason, this has been sitting in my to-read pile FOREVER. I actually like this series a lot, so it’s a shame I didn’t pick this up until recently. I think this is the last volume for awhile though, so I guess… I was just making it last longer?
The beginning of this volume is sort of a good example of why this can never be a really great series. We get a lot of really heavy-handed and overly ornate symbology that’s a bit difficult to wade through, and just some insane things that don’t make much sense. I have to admit I don’t mind the latter too much, but this series is a bit too serious to be able to pull it off 100%.
Anyway, the first thing that happens is there’s a long, drawn out and meaningful tarot reading done by a demon. The demon is actually the cat that is normally around… you know, the one that turns into the sword. d’Eon and d’Alembert are attacked during the reading by a poet. This poet is actually relatively straightforward and just melts people with acid, where normally they all have some sort of philosophy about their craft that is actually kind of hard to figure out and may have something to do with the French->Japanese->English nature of the series, though the translation and the way the series is written is very much French->English… but the poet’s philosophies are still nearly incomprehensible, even with the generous and copious translation notes at the end. This series has the best end notes, both for historical context and for trying to explain what it is that the poets are doing. I really appreciate them, but even those don’t help the poets much.
Despite the fact I’m usually not clear on the exact nature of the battles, I still think they’re cool as hell, and I also still really like the art. Perhaps I’m just not putting as much thought as I should into figuring out exactly what each poet is about. I appreciate the level of detail and the unusual wordplay that is involved with each of the battles, it’s unlike any other series I’m going to ever read, but it just doesn’t make much sense. That’s fine by me, but I’m not sure where that leaves the series as far as… accessibility goes.
While a lot of the stuff having to do with the poets still doesn’t make a lot of sense (and now Lia herself is a poet? Am I forgetting something?), and the first part of this volume was one long fight scene, I’m liking this series more and more.
French history keeps coming up and smacking me in the face, and I like the way things are tying together. The plot still feels somewhat intangible, and I’m still not sure what all this stuff means and where it’s going, but I must say that history says this story doesn’t have a happy ending. The best part of this volume was the last… third or so, where Robespierre enters the picture. Eventually. Not right now. I was actually surprised to see Madame du Pompadour and he interact, because she passed away long before the revolution. So did our friend the King in this story, his grandson was beheaded… so maybe we won’t actually see the revolution, even though that seems to be the aims of the poets.
The fighting, as long as it was, is at least significantly more interesting. The poet’s attacks are more solidly based in wordplay now. In this case, their attacks are based around bladed weapons which form circles, the letter “s”, and the infinity sign. The weapons themselves, as well as their spells, are powered by… er, palindromes. The palindromes get lost somewhere in the French->Japanese->English translation, but the notation at the end explains that many of the poet’s lines are well-known French palindromes, and several times the actual French palindromes are used in the dialogue, so it winds up being okay.
Nothing more about the aim of d’Eon and what he plans to do, but Nell’s role looks like it’ll be explained at the beginning of next volume, which is fine. I wish the explanations came a little faster, but I’m really getting drawn into the story, and the art is also quite lovely.
The plot really picked up in this volume, yay! I like this series, and it is extremely well illustrated, but I was going to have to start disliking it if it kept being a series of monster battles chapter after chapter.
Madame de Pompadour is introduced in this volume. I just read about her in the book Sex With Kings, so it was a little weird seeing her pop up in a manga. She’s mentioned a few times, but she’s so famous I thought maybe she’d stay behind the scenes. But that was not the case. She fits well into the story.
We get some more alchemy vagueness about… circles and ranks of poets, but most of the plot momentum comes from d’Eon’s sudden resolve to do what was right by both he and Lia even if it meant betraying his country, the fact that Madame de Pompadour doesn’t know how her daughter is connected to the poets and the revelation that she wouldn’t hesitate to kill her if it was best for France, and something else involving Madame de Pompadour at the end of the volume.
Actually, there’s a distinct lack of monsters in this volume save for the very beginning and the very end. There’s still lots of vague and confusing stuff as well as a lot of symbolic crap that I’m having trouble connecting the dots between. But that’s okay, because most of what’s going on is pretty clear, and I’m glad there’s a lot more going on now than the lone fights between Lia and the poets.
This one still continues to be pretty “monster-of-the-week”-y, but there’s something I like about it all the same. It’s kind of like eating sugar cereal. I know it’s no good for me, but I can’t stop myself.
We get to hear a little bit more about the Chevalier Sphinx, and there’s some possible movement in figuring out what or who the poets are, but it’s nothing terribly interesting or unique so far, and everything’s still really bogged down in obscure references that don’t seem to amount to anything. d’Eon and his sister are pretty likable characters though, and I like that the King of France has the princess at stake… and the art’s still really pretty. There’s enough to appreciate that I can overlook all the filler. It’s not doing anything particularly poorly at this point, and it certainly doesn’t suck, but I don’t think very many people are going to like reading it, either.
Interestingly, I picked up the Absolute Sandman 2 right around the time I read this, and I was impressed to see the historical d’Eon referenced in one of the stories. He apparently taught one of the characters to cross-dress. I was pleased I caught the reference this time around, so at least this manga’s good for something, even if it is just making a great comic even better.