|Awesome characters, amazing animation and soundtrack, intriguing plot||Plot had major holes, story wasn't always cohesive, lack of information|
After hearing that Gainax was picking up the adaptation for the popular light novel, we were stoked. Not only is Gainax an amazing animation house, but from what we’ve researched, the light novel is one of the more interesting ones available currently. We were expecting incredible animation, sound and voice acting on Gainax’s part and they delivered. Unfortunately, we felt that the plot was lacking, which is a constant issue with animated adaptations of light novels.
Dantalian no Shoka is the tale of ex-military fighter pilot Hughes Anthony Diswald (commonly known as Huey) who receives a letter from his deceased uncle and finds a Biblio-Princess residing in his uncle’s home. Dalian, the young girl, reveals that she houses over 99,000 Phantom Books and that Huey’s uncle was in the process of collecting the books in order to keep them out of the hands of people that shouldn’t have them. The duo then embarks on an adventure full of wit, sarcasm, action and zombies. Yes, zombies. What Huey wasn’t expecting is that other yomihimes also reside throughout the world and they all seem to know all about him. And what’s the deal with the girl in the Bibliotheca?
When you turn on Dantalian no Shoka for the first time, the first thing that awes you in the animation quality. Gainax didn’t pull any punches with this one. The backgrounds are gorgeous, the character’s actions are fluid and the action is amazingly choreographed. Everything, from the way the light hits a character’s face to the gentle movement of Huey’s ever-present trench coat, was perfect. They even took the time to put in the details of rain hitting the roof of the house or dust billowing in the air as Huey’s car races down a dirt road. It really made us feel and believe that we were in the suburbs of London in the early 1920’s; the fashion was incredibly accurate and gorgeous to look at and the buildings all had an air about them that made them feel like someone really took the time to craft them carefully. Everything was perfectly done, even in the episode where Huey and Dalian venture to another world and the animation drastically changed. In that episode, it looked like a watercolor painting, but everything was cohesive and fun to watch.
After oogling the backgrounds, you’re drawn to the characters. The animation for them was superbly done and the voice actors really brought them to life. From Dalian’s indignant attitude when first meeting Huey to her witty-yet-biting sarcasm, the voice actor really made Dalian come to life. The fact that Huey was able to not only be gentle, but keep up with Dalian in terms of both intelligence and wit was something that really drew us to him. It’s rare to see a male lead that is not only able to take the verbal abuse of his female counterpart, but to be able to be just as witty while still carrying that air of a badass? It’s almost unheard of! As the series progresses, you can see Dalian start caring more for Huey than just her Keeper. Although it’s a subtle change, it’s something that really shows the viewer that there is more to these characters than just sarcasm and hunting down Phantom Books. Some of the supporting characters weren’t quite as fun to watch. Every time Armand made an appearance, we’d want to wring his neck until he turned blue, but thankfully he only made appearances in a handful of episodes. The other yomihimes and their Keepers had an air of mystery about them and though we didn’t like them nearly as much as Dalian and Huey, we were intrigued and wanted to learn more about them.
Once you get past the pitfalls of a few of the characters, there’s the soundtrack. Gainax really pulled out all of the stops with this, which we really admire. Sure, there’s the few battle themes that get repeated during certain parts, but overall, it seemed like they had a fairly varied soundtrack. In one of the episodes where Huey and Dalian meet a young woman who is a violinist, we were blown away by the quality of the music. They obviously composed music specifically for that episode and brought in an extremely talented violinist to perform them. The result? Some of the tunes were heartbreakingly forlorn while there were other tunes that made you feel like you were the happiest person alive while listening to them. Overall, they killed the soundtrack (in a good way) and it’s one that we wouldn’t mind adding to our collection.
Then you finally get drawn into the plot. At first, it seems incredibly interesting and at the end of the series, it still is. However, there’s a few major pitfalls in the way the plot was introduced. We spend the first ten episodes simply hunting down Phantom Books, not necessarily knowing much information on them, but at the end of the series we find out how they’re made. We never found out what Huey’s connection to the girl in white that resides in the Bibliotheca is, but we do know that he’s been searching for her for years and wants to rescue her. The only thing we learned about Han and Flamberge is that Flamberge lost her memories of everything and that they’re hunting the Red Princess. Overall, there’s a lot of questions remaining about the characters and their history, but also about the Bibliotheca in general. Why is Dalian the “other self” for the girl inside the Bibliotheca? Was Huey destined to become a keeper? What will happen after he rescues the girl from the Bibliotheca? Although the episodes were all really fun to watch, this lack of information left us frustrated and craving more coherence in the plot. It’s because of this reason that we had to dock what could have been an amazing series a good chunk of pointss.
Overall, Dantalian no Shoka was an action-packed series with a good amount of folklore, magic and intrigue. Huey and Dalian are the best leading duo we’ve seen in a long time and despite the plot lacking some information (which is common with light novel adaptations), it was an awesome show. Because of the inconsistencies with the plot and information given to the viewers as well as a few of the characters, we’re giving this show a respectable B grade. It’s definitely worth watching for the animation and characters, but don’t get your hopes up for a consistent, coherent plot.
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