The Mystic Archives of Dantalian - Reviews

Alt title: Dantalian no Shoka

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ThatAnimeSnob's avatar
May 8, 2012

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.

3/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
4/10 characters
4/10 overall
onesecond's avatar
Nov 19, 2011

 

 

Story

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.

Animation

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.

Sound

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.

Characters

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.

Overall

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.

6.5/10 story
8/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
7/10 characters
7.3/10 overall
tollie01's avatar
Sep 28, 2017

Right, it's confession time for me. If you have been reading my reviews than you may have noticed that I tend to rip the anime a new one. There is a reason for this though and it has to do with the fact that I can't turn my brain off when watching anime. I can't ignore the stupid shown in the anime and this is a problem as most anime are very stupid indeed.

In this case I'm not talking about a 90 pound girl catching a multi-ton cruise missile and throwing it back. Yes, it is stupid but it is a stupid that I'll allow. It's anime. Things like this are normal here and I'm pretty much fine with it. It annoys me to be sure but I will not rant about it.

So, having explained this lets rip into this anime shall we? Just a heads up: There will most probably be spoilers. The more I hate an anime the more spoilers there will be.

ART: Art is fine. It did what it had to do and looked good doing it.

SOUND: No complaints from me. The music did what it had to do but nothing stood out for me. Voice acting is good but I expect nothing less from anime.

CHARACTERS: Main character is Hugh. After the death of his grandfather he inherits his estates. He has a strong moral code due to his upbringing and military service.

Dalian is a mysterious young girl who lives at his grandfathers house. She loves reading and eating sweets.

Shadow Books are powerful books written through the ages that can unleash devastating powers. Some books are never meant to be read.

STORY: When Hugh received word of his grandfathers' death he also got a letter to take care of the Mystic Archives of Dantalian. This fabled library of books is legendary but at his house he finds a lot of books but not the Library. He also finds a young girl, Dalian, reading in the basement. As he spends more and more time with her he discovers that she is much more than meets the eye. She is the fabled Library itself and chooses him as her keeper. Together they set out to find and contain Shadow Books.

RANT: While I liked it more than I expected I can't help but be disappointed by this anime. What this anime desperately needed was direction and here is fails. Most episodes are basically one-shot stories and are pretty much self contained.

They go somewhere, investigate, find a Shadow Book and its owner. Fight a bit, win and leave. This is perfectly fine and the subject lends itself perfectly for it. Mushi Shi is a series that did this too and to great effect.

During these episodes you could have focused of the relationship between Hugh and Dalian. Yoy could have watched them grow and expand to where ever it leads. Along the way they meet some recurring charaters and it would have been fine.

Most of the anime is just this and I liked it. The characters were entertaining. The comic relief guy that dropped in every now and then was funny. The stories about the Books were interesting. I was happy and content.

Then episode 6 rolls around and fucks everything up. A libricide officer shows up and the entire episode follows him. He ALSO has a Library and he is part of an organisation that hunts down Shadow Books and destroys them. Not only that but he is actually chasing ANOTHER guy who ALSO has a Library who goes about tossing around Shadow Books like they are candy.

This one episode throws everything build to this point out of whack. Hugh and Dalian are NOT the only ones. There is an entire world out there with organisations and people working in the shadows with secret agenda's and shit and I WANT TO KNOW! And you don't.

You get this one glimps into this amazing world only to have the door slammed in your face. After this episode you go back to Hugh and Dalian doing their thing. Libricide officer fucks off to wherever and secret shadow man disappears for a few episodes.

They all appear again for the final 2 episodes and they reveal that the Libraries all know eack other. Dalian is the Black Library, Libricide guy has Silver Library and bad guy has Red Library.

You may notice a colour scheme here so you can imagine just how many others are running around. Unfortunately this is the anime's biggest failing. They have you glimps this huge world but don't do anything with it. Best way is to just keep doing one-shot episodes and save the world building for a second season.

5/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
7/10 characters
6/10 overall
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tinytine's avatar
Aug 13, 2011

watched up to episode 4

So far so good. Can only really comment on the current story line which seems to be more episode based than a whole underlying ultimate story. Each episode is pretty much about an incident/event which is caused by a phantom book, and is usually resolved with the power of another magicl book.

The colouring and drawing makes the anime seems dark and mysterious but the characters are drawn well and still animation like.

I particularly like the songs and music in this anime, it is beautifully played.

So overall, so far as of episode 4 I would definately recommend. 

8/10 story
9/10 animation
9/10 sound
8/10 characters
8/10 overall
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Crua9's avatar
May 30, 2020

The overall of the show takes the same format as the detective shows, but with mystical crap. This is it's biggest downfall. It doesn't put itself out there as a a detective show, but it puts itself out there as a story building show with mystical crap.

While there is some things that go from 1 episode to the next. 99% of 1 vs the next is a contained story. After the main persons GF is introduced, you can literally jump around to pretty much any of the episodes and not miss anything. 

The only people I can recommend this to is those who like the detective format. Where you know they will get the bad person, where there is bad in the world, and so on. But 99% of what is being done is pointless to the overarching story. 

IMO this was marketed wrong and it presented itself wrong. The trailers and everything was pushing it to be something like The Ancient Magus' Bride. That might of been my fault since I was looking for a replacment since those shows were pretty much over. But at the end of the day, as you can tell I don't like detective shows that follow the format. And this is more than less one

3.5/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
7/10 characters
3.5/10 overall
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