I decided to read this after watching most of the anime version. I dropped the anime from lack of interest. I wondered if the manga version would be more interesting. And it is. Because it is completely different. (I'll go into those differences later, for those who are interested.)
In a highly fantastic and gothified 18th-century France, a mysterious woman prowls the Paris streets by night. Called the "Sphinx," she wields a sword, and destroys demonic creatures. She happens to actually be dead. Her true name is Lea, a murdered young woman, whose discontented spirit is inhabiting her
brother, D'Eon. Most of the time, D'Eon is himself, working directly under the king. His day job as a policeman is a cover for his secret mission to root out the evil occult ring that killed Lea. But occasionally, he must don a dress and wig and allow his sister to take possession of his body to carry out her part of the mission.
There is a heavy supernatural and occult element. It draws from almost every religion and cult to create a mish-mash mysticism that is used predominantly by the baddies, but also exploited by Lea and others. It's rather hard to follow what's going on with that aspect. The crime ring seems bent on taking over France (which is why the king is especially interested in the case). People who are gifted as poets (which is a supernatural skill) are recruited by them, and eventually become bloodthirsty monsters who wreck havoc. (Which is where Lea steps in, to kill them.)
D'Eon often feels weak and timid compared to his sister, who is so ruthless. Even Robin, his young, faithful, pistol-wielding assistant, seems a more qualified fighter. He is also devastated to see ordinary people turned into monsters after receiving the gift of poetry.
There's a noticeable amount of horror. People are turned into dragonish monsters. Demonic rats attack. Creatures morph. We find bodies of women who have been sacrificed and beheaded. Some other gruesome violence. Not the worst stuff out there, but certainly not for little kiddies either.
There is a lot of action. I felt there was too much. Not so much the level of violence, but rather the length. Some battles went on for WAY too long. There was one that took up half a volume. There is also a lot of puzzle-solving and French word-play. For instance, the characters are trapped within a dimensional cage, and can only escape when they can solve a particular puzzle. But I as the reader couldn't solve it. It's something that only the characters could solve. So the reader can only sit back and watch, rather than be an active participant in the puzzle-solving.
What I enjoyed most about the manga was the art. It's very gothic and dark, and in the style of a fantasy-thriller. Many pages have more black than white. Thick lines are used. But it's not very rough, or even slashy. Lea looks like a beautiful goth-loli doll; D'Eon is cute. Surprisingly, the characters have very emotional faces. The style of the world the story takes place in is fairly unrealistic. Some of the characters wear clothes in keeping with the period. But Lea looks like a girl from the late 19th century, and D'Eon's police uniform looks like something from the early 1900's. The more eccentric characters dress like medieval or gothic joker types. So as far as historical accuracy...don't look for it here.
I haven't finished the manga (haven't gotten my hands on the final volume yet), so I can't yet say whether it ends well or not.
A decent manga. Has awesome art and cool style. Not historically accurate, but the artificial setting is interesting. I felt a good amount of emotional connection and sympathy with the main character (D'Eon). However, some of the the action sequences were interminable. And the puzzle-solving and mysticism went over my head. Some horror and violence, but not enough to drive me away. I'd recommend it if you like gothic art.
So what are the differences between the manga and the anime?
First off, even though each has a large cast, the only characters that the two share are D'Eon, Lea, Robin, and the king. That's it. The rest of the anime characters were manufactured.
The anime borrowed the concepts of:
-setting in 18th-century France
-brother who has his murdered sister's soul residing within him
-this brother working for the king to suppress a mystical cult that uses poets.
That's pretty much all that the anime takes from the manga. The anime uses a realistic setting and art style. So realistic, that I find it bland. Much more of the story occurs in the palace, there are more characters, and a love interest is added (there was practically no romance in the manga). Overall, I thought the anime was stodgy and stuffy, like the period drama it had been converted into.
Mercifully, though, the mysticism is much less complex. And there's no problem-solving. But I felt the horror was scarier (no monsters, but rather zombies, go after our characters; and when you slash their lead-gray skin, mercury comes pouring out).
The anime is shoujo, the manga is seinen. Two different style and storylines. If you like one, you might not like the other....