Dantalian is the Victorian era based story of a boy named Kujo meeting a girl who reads many books named Victorique and they team up to solve mysteries concerning the supernatural.
… Hey wait a second, that’s not Dantalian I am describing; that’s Gosick! Damn these shows are identical in their premise!
… In fact all loli detective shows are so much alike.
… In fact all loli detective shows ever made aired at the same year. I hereby name 2011 the year of the loli detectives.
Damn anime industry, I know you are running out of ideas but copying each other so soon and so obviously will be your death. Variety is the spice of life or did you forget?
Ok, back to describing the anime properly. Dantalian is the Victorian era based story of a boy named Anthony meeting a girl who reads many books named Dalian and they team up to solve mysteries concerning the supernatural. What we have here is a library full of demonic books that bring into reality their contents. Anthony doesn’t think much before he decides to befriend the girl and prevent the evil knowledge of the books from spreading.
The production values look good; GAINAX is a studio with big pockets. There is a lot of detail given to the Victorian setting of the show and the special effects are abundant. The character designs look generic and the soundtrack didn’t strike a chord with me despite trying to be all sad and mysterious. The detail to shading shows various quality drops as if they eventually don’t bother adding layers of shadows or even smooth character outlines.
Story-wise Dantalian is episodic, as well as extremely rushed and messy. Too many things happen too fast and with too much telling instead of showing, so my enjoyment was very low. I mean the storyboard is about introducing a whole new cast in each episode, explaining it, as well as developing and find a conclusion all in just 18 minutes of duration. There is absolutely no time to get to bond with the story or the characters. The episodic missions create an information overflow and by the time you learn something new, it is already almost over and you are left with no reward for bothering to follow through and understand it. No time to build tension or drama or sympathy at all. I like how they are trying not to repeat the exact same things each time, like NOT fighting a cursed book on episode two, or NOT having to fight the cursed book on episode 3. That is still hardly enough to give a rat's ass about characters and storylines who come and go in one episode.
Character-wise, we have cop-outs of the typical boy-loli duet. Having aired so close to the similar Gosick, Kamisama Memo-chou and Milky Holmes makes them look completely boring right away. I mean five minutes after they meet and she is already going tsundere on a guy who lies defenceless at her feet. How original! The cast on later episodes ain’t any better; five minutes after you meet them they start to die and the rest just disappear. I find it impossible to like them.
Action-wise, the show is completely random. Monsters appear and Anthony fights them by reading books he plunges out of the girl, after shoving his hand deep inside her. And for some reason the monsters are sitting still for several minutes as he is chatting with Dalian and then reading fairy tales and mystical passages that somehow banish them. LOLWUT??? As cool as it looks at first, it is completely ridiculous and unexciting as there is no choreography or enough duration to even bother to care about it. But at least he also carries this normal looking gun that he uses before he goes for the books. You know, in case he can kill a monster with more conventional means before he has to start READING BOOKS in the MIDDLE OF A BATTLE with MURDERING FREAKS. But it’s not like it matters what he is doing since the monsters are just sitting still as he does his stuff. As for fighting in more conventional ways, well, he is easily owned by a normal human guy just because he doesn’t freeze while he is reading poetry. Completely retarded. Not even the era means anything after awhile, since all of a sudden there are cars and airplanes.
My impressions are not positive. It is just an episodic and poorly written loli detective show with added magic for kicks. It also tries to pass for sophisticated by adding passages from famous works, as well as mystical theories and ghost stories, yet all that mean nothing if you are not made to care. And I didn’t, since without proper duration to each case and further developing of the stereotypical duo, this anime is a flop just like the rest of its brood.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (atmospheric)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (detailed)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (atmospheric)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 0/2 (episodic/rushed)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (dull/open)
CHARACTER SECTION: 4/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (none or messy)
Catharsis 0/2 (none or messy)
VALUE SECTION: 2/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 0/3 (the episodic missions kill the replay value)
Memorability 2/4 (a bit memorable for its artwork but that’s it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
Art 1/1 (looks nice)
Sound 0/2 (left me no impressions)
Story 0/3 (episodic boredom)
Characters 0/4 (forgettable cop-outs)
Dantalian no Shoka is set in post World War I England. Hugh Anthony Disward is the keykeeper of the Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian, an otherworldly library which is embodied by the magical being Dalian, who takes the form of a young raven haired girl. Together, they investigate incidents related to phantom books, books containing knowledge and power beyond human reach, which if misused, may bring about disastrous effects. The series starts with Hugh driving through a scenic English countryside, with the series’ fantastical theme playing in the background. He is travelling to the mansion of his recently deceased grandfather to inherit his grandfather’s estate, and where he will take his first steps into the world of phantom books. The question is will you want to follow?
The premise and setup of the series show great promise. The early 20th century is a suitable period, when superstitions and belief in the supernatural was more common. The idea that historical books possessed of magical properties gives room to incorporate a wealth of lore into the plot. Adding to this mix Gainax’s polished rendering of the visuals, which communicate a vibe of mystery and a dark atmosphere, Dantalian no Shoka might have proved to be an exceptional series.
Unfortunately, the series doesn’t quite deliver. My main disappointment was with the lack of depth in the plot. The series is episodic, and while this is not categorically fatal to a strong story, the producers didn’t quite manage to handle this element in the best way. The individual stories might be taken to be tied together by a loose theme of human nature and desire, where the characters attempt to use the powers of the phantom books achieve their goals, but usually for one reason or another, bring about tragedy instead. However, this theme isn’t well developed. For a large part of each episode, the viewer is left guessing at what at all is going on, which is a good technique for mystery, but not the best way to quickly develop a compelling story. When the revelation is made, the explanations are rushed and usually clichéd, lacking a convincing background. The same can be said for the central characters of each story. They are not developed enough to get the viewer involved in their stories, which makes it difficult for us to be affected by their eventual fate.
There are hints at a larger plot, but this only happens in the background. We are introduced to two other keykeepers and their partner “libraries”, or yomi hime, as they are called in the story. There is the morally ambiguous pair, keykeeper Hal, and his partner Flamberge, who destroy phantom books, because Hal regards them as unneeded items in the world. And there is the more obviously evil pair, the Professor and his partner Rasiel, who have an as yet unknown agenda. They collectively appear only in a quarter of the total number of episodes, and their characters and stories are unexplored for the most part. We’ll have to rely on a second season – if we get one – to develop this angle of the story.
Gainax has done an admirable job with the visuals. The colours used effectively paint the story in an aura of mystery. The actions sequences are also well rendered, and flow smoothly. But sadly, after the first two episodes, the number of action scenes drops significantly. But viewers can still enjoy the backgrounds. While not exceptionally memorable, the setting of early 20th century England is quite charmingly reproduced with a good level of detail. Some of the backgrounds appeared to me to be recreated from real pictures, and I quite liked the effect, though you may or may not agree.
The opening theme is an enchanting piece, which is also used to rather good effect in creating the image of a fantasy setting in some scenes. It was one of the main factors that gave me high expectations for the series, which the series sadly, did not match. The overall soundtrack also did its work to set the mood for each scene.
The voice acting suitably carried the personalities of the characters, and I thought Dalian’s character was made nicely distinct by the delivery of her verbal quirks, though some might find it too cutesy for their taste.
One refreshing aspect of the series is the dynamics of the relationship between Hugh and Dalian. In most shonen series, where the female lead is bossy and overbearing, the male lead is usually dragged along at her pace all the time. But here, Hugh is portrayed as mature – fitting for a veteran pilot – and is well able to keep up with Dalian, even occasionally adding a few jibes of his own. It felt somewhat like the relationship between Lawrence and Holo in Spice and Wolf, without the sexual overtones. Hugh can also hold his own in a fight, which makes him a nice break from a stock character overall.
On the downside, besides what I mentioned about the characters in each story not being sufficiently developed, the main characters are also hardly developed, even over the entire course of twelve episodes. The viewer get close to no information on Dalian’s past, and only one episode of when Hugh was serving in the air services. The character’s impassive reactions in most of the stories also mean that we rarely get to understand their thoughts.
Dantalian no Shoka distinguishes itself from the usual fare in a number of ways. The time period it’s set in is not too common. The darker themes of the stories are also not something you get every day, and are more sombre in the sense that the main characters are not all powerful, and can be counted on to always save the day. In fact, the reverse is probably true for this series. There is also a nice change to the dynamics of the main characters’ relationship. But the flaws in the series mean that it doesn’t quite take itself completely out of the realm of the usual. It’s not something that I would call amazing, but I wouldn’t say it were mediocre either. I was probably more disappointed than I should have been because the first episode really got my hopes up. If you have time on your hands, go ahead and try this series without too high expectations, and you might find yourself pleasantly entertained.
Ok, I just needed to say something about this anime. I finished watching it yesterday and to my eyes it's a piece of art.
The animation is very neat, perfectly resembles the time of the setting with beautiful backgrounds. I liked it a lot, it's classy. The theme itself felt a little scattered; it may not be a very well structured anime, but was gorgeous as a whole. The first chapter was great, a good introduction to the idea. The other ones were a little off; it was like the kind of series that never end and one can see chapters ahead without spoiling anything from the previous ones. Some may say that falls short, and it does, but something, I don't know what, caught my attention.
Character development is almost nule on the first 8-9 chapters. There is a lot of stuff that remains unexplained and makes no sense at all, also, the ending does feel a little cut down. So, what's so good about this series? To be honest, I think that the premise was very interesting and strong enough to drive a big show. The individual stories on every chapter were well made, and they deserve a medal on it's own. There were some good mindblowing scenes that compensate the fact that it was a kind of like a mash up of ideas. The sound was great: good seiyuu's, good soundtrack, good opening and ending. The complete story is very nice if you consider most of the chapters as extras and just take the important parts; the only let down is the finale, which is inconclusive. Consecuently, unless you're the kind of person that appreciates an anime for their value as an art project, I don't really recommend watching it, as you'll feel dissapointed and be begging for a second season after watching the last chapter. (Which I hope, someday will be made)
Subjective Overall: 8.5/10
Objective Overall: 7.5/10
Story: I'm disappointed because I really liked the premise of this series. I thought it had promise but fell short. It felt a little all over the place. The individual stories were nice but they didn't seem to mesh and give a overall plot. There were also too many ideas that were introduced and not paned out well. If there's a sequel that makes up for the what the series was lacking then that will be good but otherwise, it falls short. However, it definitely does have unique ideas and does cause you to think.
Animation: Really nice but can be a little scattered. I will remember Dantalian but not the others design-wise. The backgrounds and details were exquisite though.
Sound: I don't remember much. The seiyuus were ok. I liked the opening and ending though.
Characters: Same as the plot. The character relationships feel like they could have had more depth.
Overall: Interesting premise that falls short. It's not a complete waste of time but without an adequate ending, you'll end up being disappointed.
These days we take the written word for granted, but for the majority of human history this has not been the case. Over the millennia, those with the ability to communicate using these strange markings have been viewed with awe and suspicion in almost equal measure, and many believed that anything written was magical in some way. It's only logical then, that people would begin to think that certain works were holy writ handed down by a deity, held the secrets to immense power, or contained forbidden knowledge that would bring misfortune and death upon anyone who read them.
Eventually certain books were, for one reason or another, deemed too dangerous for the general public ...
Originally a light novel series by Mikumo Gakuto, Dantalian no Shoka (The Mystic Archives of Dantalian), takes place in England after World War 1. Hugh Anthony Disward (or Huey to his friends), returns to his ancestral home six months after receiving a letter informing him that his grandfather, Earl Wesley Disward, had been murdered by a burglar. According to the will, Huey can inherit the title, the estate, and everything contained within the mansion, but in return he must take over responsibility for the Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian, and look after Dalian as well.
Magical books have long been a staple of the fantasy genre, but unlike the majority of tales dealing with them, the main focus of Dantalian no Shoka is to seal away those works that were never meant to exist, or have fallen into the wrong hands. It's a reasonably simple idea that can work very well with an episodic plot (Mushishi, Natsume Yuujinchou and Mokke use a similar method), but sadly that isn't the case here. The straightforward premise doesn't seem to have been enough for the writers, who have very clearly tried to cram as much as possible into twelve episodes. The story can often get sidetracked or bogged down in semantics, and there is a tendency towards over-explanation and melodrama. In addition to this, there are several characters who appear to have been included just to show how "good" Huey and Dalian are, and because of these issues it can often seem as though the narrative has been cobbled together with hobnails and glue.
Now it may seem as though there's little of interest to be found in the story, but that's not actually the case. When the plot sticks to the point there's a surprisingly nice balance between the mystery and supernatural aspects, and there's a good deal of imagination in the way certain phantom books are used or affect people. The series also ventures into darker territory that suits the main theme of the show very well, but these occasions tend to be spoiled by some truly inane humour.
That said, while there are some major issues with the storyline, Gainax have done a decent job with the visuals. There are several different art styles on display that reflect the nature of certain episodes, especially in aspects like design and colouring. There are also some rather nice effects that work well with the detailed backgrounds to create some very atmospheric settings and scenery.
There are some issues that need to be raised though.
For some reason the animation tends to be rather simplistic, and while this seems to fit with one episode in particular, it does become a problem during action sequences. In addition to this, there's a certain "stiffness" to the character movements that may be an intentional dig at British reserve, but it's more likely due to carelessness or time/cost constraints. The character designs are unoriginal and uninspired, and while the clothing is somewhat reflective of the period, viewers will be forgiven for thinking that Dantalian no Shoka is nothing more than a copycat of Gosick.
The opening sequence is a decent montage that features the more prominent characters, some rather pleasant imagery, and a little action, all to the tune of "Cras Numquam Scire" (Tomorrow is Never to Know), by Yucca (featuring Ono Daisuke), a hauntingly choral track that is slightly reminiscent of "Lilium" - the opening song from Elfen Lied. The ending sequence is a short film about a little girl in a horned mask and white dress, walking barefoot through the forest while dragging a large trunk, and alongside the music box stylings of maRIONnetTe and their song "Yes, prisoner", the overall effect is decidedly ... unnerving.
Dantalian no Shoka is generally well served in the audio department, and there's a nice variety of classically themed tracks available, although it should be pointed out that the majority of the series is actually devoid of musical accompaniment. The effects are well choreographed, but rarely overbearing, and it seems that a conscious effort has been made to emphasize the quality of the script and the acting.
For the most part the dialogue is pretty decent, although there is a degree of immaturity about certain conversations, and the explanations can sometimes sound pompous and overbearing. Then again, the latter may be nothing more than a reflection of each role, especially as the actors deliver some good performance throughout the series.
There's something puzzling about the characters as there's very little in the way of actual development, but there's also not much definition given to them either. Aside from being unable to write off the supernatural as mere superstition, Huey doesn't actually grow in any way, and Dalian remains the stereotypical tsundere loli for much of the series. There's also very little attention given to the supporting roles, in particular to the people using or afflicted by the phantom books, and one has to wonder if this was due to the attempt to cram so many different elements into the plot.
There's also the issue of Dalian's connection to the pink haired girl living in the "gourd", but that raises a lot of other questions, especially about Raziel and Flamberge, so if you really want to know, just ask (or Google it).
Aside from the similarity in the character design and the fact both shows try to wade through various mysteries, Dantalian no Shoka has surprisingly little in common with Gosick, but that's both a good and bad thing. The general lack of detail about the characters means that there's very little justification for their actions, and aside from Huey, the lack of any real back story means that many of the roles lack the necessary depth needed to take the story seriously. There's also a surpisingly pro-censorship message built into the narrative, and this isn't helped by the fact that the male lead is a lord, while Hal Kamhout, the Libricide officer, looks like a priest.
The biggest problem with the series is that it tries to do far more than it should, and because of that viewer's may be left with a feeling of incompleteness come the end of the anime. While the story is interesting up to a point, the morass of people and events mean that there are no outstanding moments, and nothing to really capture the heart. There is entertainment to be had from Dantalian no Shoka, especially for those who like shows laden with symbolism, but this is nothing more than a veneer of "intelligence" that overlays the shallowness of the series as a whole.
It's a shame that more effort wasn't put into making this anime work as the concept is actually pretty good. The basic premise is sound, and if Gainax, the writers, and director Uemura Yutaka had taken the show more seriously, then Dantalian no Shoka could have been something truly interesting and entertaining.
And for those of you wondering how an entire library can fit inside a person, here's an explanation from Sir Terry Pratchett's "Discworld Companion"
"Even big collections of ordinary books distort space and time, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned second-hand bookshop, one of those that has more staircases than storeys and those rows of shelves that end in little doors that are surely too small for a full sized human to enter.
The relevant equation is Knowledge = Power = Energy = Matter = Mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read. Mass distorts space into polyfractal L-space, in which Everywhere is also Everywhere Else.
All libraries are connected in L-space by the bookwormholes created by the strong space-time distortions found in any large collection of books."