Dantalian no Shoka – 9

I always like it when an art style drastically changes like this (and only for an episode, too).  For one thing, it’s amazing to watch an anime series through the eyes of another director/staff and see what they do with the material.  It also enchants you, catching you off-guard and grabbing your attention by providing the same anime but in a completely different and unfamiliar style.  And episodes like this also infuse a bit of vitality, a jolt of energy, or something lively into the series for doing something strange like this.  Not my favorite or best episode in the series but one of the more eye-opening, especially artistically, of the anime.

The art style used in this episode, I’m not sure how to describe but at least I have screenshots, felt appropriate for Dantalian no Shoka.  It’s the kind of style that you’d find in an anime that is experimental or deviant, focused on storytelling and character development rather than entertainment and fanservice.  The animation, too, was spectacular, especially the smaller and sometimes overlooked motions like pulling out a pistol or a face with swirling emotions.  And the use of colors and lighting, two powerful characteristics of art that are often underused and unappreciated in anime, in this episode were brilliant.  Sure, at times the artwork and animation lacked detail or seemed uneven, but the overall appearance of this episode was nothing short of impressive.

In addition to the artwork being radically different, the story of the episode (and the storytelling for that matter, too) were also unlike any other episode.  The episode seemed to center on Ira, a young sage-in-training, rather than our heroes Huey and Dalian.  That’s nothing new considering we had the Hal and Flam episode earlier, but this one involved our heroes as secondary characters, and they weren’t relevant to the plot of the episode until the final half.  Their duty remained unchanged, searching out another powerful book and protecting those who had been affected negatively by it like any other episode.  But rather than following the duo again like we’ve done numerous times already, we saw short snippets of their adventures as we watched Ira’s story.  As it would turn out, and probably apparent to most who follow this anime, it turns out it WAS Ira’s story, and Huey and Dalian were visitors to this world by opening the book she lived in.  Pretty neat, huh?

This is the first example of seeing Huey and Dalian enter the world of a book, a pleasant and distinctive trait to this episode.  That extra detail offers an explanation to the altered art and animation, especially when we see the style return to normal when they exit that illusory realm.  But this detail is something fascinating and perhaps very significant.  I never imagined seeing Huey and Dalian walk around inside the world of a book and to interact with the characters and story like they were ordinary people and events.  And it didn’t seem to require the aid of any Phantom Books like everything else to date.  It seemed like Dalian holds the power to enter the world of any books she wants without any ritual, sacrifice, or effort.  Could this be one reason why she loves reading so much?

Personally, I believe Dalian enters these books frequently.  I have no real foundation for this but it just seems like it’d be something that Dalian would do.  She seemed to have a decent time in that world, adventuring around with Huey and rescuing Ira and the villagers, and this one would probably be the worse of her experiences since she needed to save the story, not just the physical paper but the actual concept of the story in the book, from being devoured by some sort of demonic bookworms.  I’m sure Dalian enters most every story she reads (probably not any horror ones) and adores all these new encounters, explorations, and experiences.  Living in a book like that sure beats reading it and maybe that’s one reason why Dalian loves every book she gets her arms around.  Would love to see more of this detail developed, especially if this art style returns.

Pretty soon we’ll be seeing all three Libraries meet each other.  That should be exciting since each has been unrivaled in power in each of the times we’ve seen them.  Seeing them together, perhaps even battling each other, would be a sight to behold since they’ve likely never faced a powerful opponent like another library.  Their personalities, too, from Dalian’s quick rude behavior, to Flam’s unruly attitude, to Rasiel’s… well, evilness might be the best choice since we’ve only seen Rasiel for a minimal amount of time and she was being evil, would make for some interesting conversation.  They all seem to have an aggressive or negative approach toward others, so seeing how they talk and act around the other Libraries would be intriguing.  I’d love to see Dalian try to counter remarks and rebuttals from Flam, especially since she always comments on people being improper or stupid.  And we haven’t seen much of Rasiel’s personality either, so you figure she’ll reappear sometime soon.  Hopefully it will be sometime before the approaching finale.

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  1. #1 by Hogart on September 11, 2011 - 8:02 AM

    I wondered if I had stepped back into Kemono no Souja Erin. I enjoy it when art styles shift as well, especially to a style that uses detail to accentuate things, rather than to trying to make things photorealism (anime’s been going the way of video games lately). The use of shadow and lighting was great here, and I loved the way they captured a lot of the little character movements. It might not have been the prettiest animation, but it sure sold the “storybook” feeling right from the first minute.

    Besides that, keeping Dalian and Huey in the background was a good choice, they should have done that more in this series. They aren’t strong enough characters to take center-stage all the time, they’re more like Issac and Miria. Dalian was less annoying this time and more sentimental, which really helped build her character.. shame it was this late in the series.

    I’m also happy they broke their mould for the story.. I was getting sick of “demon book of the week” stuff, and this changed things up from the usual weak and anticlimactic morality plays to something that really helps distinguish the series and it’s characters. It’s not like there’s a plot to move forward, so some character growth really hit the spot.

    • #2 by avvesione on September 11, 2011 - 12:31 PM

      You know, I never thought about Huey and Dalian being like Issac and Miria but that’s a great comparison for this episode. Having them play minor, yet vital roles, was one aspect of this episode I loved, since they were important to the story but not the story itself. And it was a nice change of pace from what you called “demon book of the week” format with the whole episode pretty much Huey and Dalian staying home on a rainy day and taking care of the library. Glad they were able to do something like this since I already voiced my opinion on how my interest was waning from this series a few weeks ago.

      I’ve never watched Kemono no Souja Erin but I do like the art style I saw when I did an image search. Might have to check it out in the future.

  2. #3 by zammael on September 11, 2011 - 2:23 PM

    Easily one of my favorite episodes, other than the one about Flamberg and her arrogant handler Hal. The animation style reminded me a bit of Magical Girl, but not as good, and maybe closer to Demonosune.

    More of this, more backstory, less runaway book of the week, please.

    • #4 by zammael on September 11, 2011 - 2:27 PM

      I meant Kemonozume. Can’t edit. Memory FAIL.

    • #5 by avvesione on September 11, 2011 - 5:10 PM

      This episode and the one with Flam and Hal have been two of my favorites (if not my two favorites). I just wish there was some progress before and after these episodes so the series had a sense of direction and accomplishment. That’s the one flaw with this series and unfortunately it’s a massive one. I’d love more episodes like this but I want them to build off each other rather than have everything be stand alone.

      And I guess I’m the only one who can edit/delete comments on here. That’s too bad =P

      • #6 by zammael on September 12, 2011 - 4:17 PM

        Are we wrong to expect more from this show, if it’s mostly bottled episodes with hints of a larger backstory that eventually falling into place for a overall plot?

        • #7 by avvesione on September 12, 2011 - 7:22 PM

          I don’t think it’s wrong to expect more from a show like this but light novel adaptations usually have weaker overall plots when compared to manga adaptations (not 4-koma) or original anime works. I think when we saw the art style, characters, and setting, we assumed it’d be story-heavy, especially with all the books and book themes in the series but it turns out we’re wrong.

          Not a bad anime, though, just a disappointing plot. That speaks extremely well for the other aspects of the anime, which I feel are unappreciated right now (I realize I’m partially to blame for this and probably will address it as my subject of this week’s post).

  3. #8 by Myst (@Detetiv) on September 12, 2011 - 2:36 PM

    The artwork reminds me of that episode of Aquarion with the different artwork & has has Okami qualities to it.

    • #9 by avvesione on September 12, 2011 - 7:15 PM

      Never watched it and tried to do an image search and didn’t find anything.

      Sucks that I can’t think of anything that it looks similar to like you, Hogart, and Zammael have said. Guess that’s an excuse to watch more anime!

  4. #10 by Myst (@Detetiv) on September 13, 2011 - 5:59 PM

    Well I was referring to Okami the game. The full title of the anime I was talking about is Sousei no Aquarion, there was a episode with a different artist… made the facial features weird. Love how they made the new artist work into this anime, the artwork does seem out of place when you first watch but at the end it all makes sense. [Oh I found a wonderful art of this episode, I think it may be by the episode artist- http://www.gainax.co.jp/index.html%5D

    • #11 by avvesione on September 13, 2011 - 8:02 PM

      Yeah, I liked how the new art style had a meaning to it, rather than just randomly switching things up for a change of pace.

      Thanks for the link to that image. Might save it for a wallpaper in the future. And I’m going to keep an eye out for more of that artist’s work since I really like that unique style.

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