Dantalian no Shoka – 1

There certainly is action and adventure in Dantalian no Shoka and, with those elements skillfully interweaved with this fantasy background in post-WWI England, the story comes together as a solid and original anime.  But after the events of the first episode, there’s still some mystery behind what the whole series will be about.  Will this anime have a strong central story that progresses over the course of the season or will we end up starting a different book each episode and experiencing new treasures and adventures each time?  Or will there be something else?

What appeared to be the central story in the anime was introduced in the first half of this episode when Hugh Anthony Disward (Huey) met Dalian in the basement of the mansion.  In order to inherit the mansion from his deceased grandfather, Wesley, Huey needed to take responsibility over the Bibliotheca.  Sounds like a decent story to center an anime around but it appears that step had already been finished before the episode ended (and this is me assuming that the Bibliotheca in the letter referred to Dalian).  During what seemed to be the final moments in a battle against a mythical dragon, Dalian accepted Huey to become her Keykeeper, complete with contract and ceremony.  By using the key left behind by his grandfather, Huey opened the gorgeous lock on Dalian’s chest to open up an unseen word of protected masterpieces, just what was needed to dispel the dragon from this material world.  And just like that, Huey has taken over responsibility of Dalian.  So unless there’s more responsibility required for Huey, what I thought would be the main story in the anime had already concluded before I realized it.  So then what story remains for Dantalian no Shoka?

The other story point in the first episode of Dantalian no Shoka seems to be one that will survive deep into the season.  The mysterious Phantom Books that Wesley partially amassed over his life hold outlandish and dangerous powers between their covers.  We witnessed the true power of one book, unleashing frightening beasts, murderous performers, and the mystical dragon.  And there should be numerous other books of similar peril, too, both within Wesley’s collection and outside his mansion.  Perhaps other demonic books are causing problems elsewhere in the English countryside that require extermination by Huey and Dalian, which would certainly provide a plot for several episodes, if not an entire season.  And I could see the responsibility of the Bibliotheca in the letter referring to Huey to become some sort of ‘book police’ to manage and return any stolen tomes from Wesley’s collection.  The action and adventure provided by this first book could certainly be replicated each episode by each novel’s powers, too.  And there will be more books, too, that’s guaranteed given the details provided in this first episode.  This style could be the storyline for Dantalian no Shoka but it is based on many early assumptions and we would need to wait to see what happens in the next few episodes before accepting this story as the main one for this anime.

Another possibility could be that Dantalian no Shoka wants the main storyline to be about the life and interactions between the two main characters, Huey and Dalian.  Dalian is a beautiful and mysterious lass who seems to have extensive knowledge over the Phantom Books, the Bibliotecha Mystica de Dantalian (or Mystic Archives of Dantalian for those who enjoy only switching between two languages here).  And the nature of her existence was brought into question when Huey became her Keykeeper and she was able to summon a powerful book from her body.  Exploring her character will take several episodes and probably be developed over the entire season.  But not to be out done is Huey, who has a rather rich history himself.  We learned he was a pilot in the Great War and has an interest in inheriting his hermit grandfather’s mansion in the serene English countryside.  In addition to that, we had that flashback scene to start the episode where Huey, as a child, was in the Bibliotecha Mystica de Dantalian (also known as the Labyrinth Library) talking to a mysterious girl, whom we later saw within Dalian during the Keykeeper ceremony.  Both individuals have dazzling backstories to explore and their interactions together in the present could be used to create a meaningful story for this anime.  But I doubt the anime could survive on these stories alone and the cast of the anime would begin to feel lonely, cooped up reading books in the basement of this isolated mansion.

Or perhaps the story will be a combination of these plot pieces and come together to form a coherent and enjoyable story.  And, of course, there is always the possibility the central story has yet to appear, meaning this episode was used to set up the relationship between Huey and Dalian and introduce the concepts of the Bibliotecha, the Phantom Books, and the mechanics the magic obeys.  Whatever the story is, there are already signs it will be spectacular, especially with how this episode was executed from its dexterous storytelling to enthralling action.  I’m already curious to see what fantasy and adventure await us next week.

Aside from the story, which still remains a mystery to me, I do have several praises for Dantalian no Shoka, followed by a few concerns.  Given that this is another historical European anime, a setting which I adore, one figures that the artwork must be excellent to help bring out the importance and magnificence of the setting.  This first episode certainly did that but I am a little worried we might be spending most of our time in the library where the charm and beauty of the setting might be lost by mountains of unorganized books and dim, but appropriate, lighting.  At least the artwork is beautiful throughout.  The music strengthens the setting, too, feeling appropriate for the era and complimenting the scenes at hand, be it peaceful or dire.  The animation during the action sequences was nothing too spectacular but it was never dull, either.  And I was enthusiastically pleased with the amount of action, adventure, and fantasy in this first episode.  The cast seems very minimal right now, so I hope it expands soon to introduce other characters to add some variety.  They just need to be careful with whom they add as characters since Huey and Dalian seem to have some chemistry between them.

Also, it’s interesting to see that both anime I decided to blog this season have a very similar theme to initiate their stories.  Grandfather dies, leaving behind a strange, unknown girl that is eventually taken care of by a kind-hearted grandson.  Don’t know how often that happens but it seems to be just as likely in modern Japan as it is in post-WWI England.  And what’s nice is both seem to start off interesting and beautiful animes, at least in my opinion.  But what will be most interesting is to see where each anime goes from here and what their stories focus on.  Should be fun to see where and how both these anime finish given their similar starting points.

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  1. #1 by Myst on July 16, 2011 - 10:35 PM

    At least the first episode was not a “throw you in & try to make sense of it” unlike the first chapter of the manga… I wish Dalian did the ghosting parts when Huey was in the house. Sort of follows the last chapter of volume 1 this episode, but not all since volume 2 needs to come out. [Fixed error]

    • #2 by avvesione on July 17, 2011 - 12:38 AM

      I didn’t know about that, so I should be thankful they didn’t do anything like that and just leave us confused with a first episode. As for the ghosting parts, I’m not sure what you mean there, but if it’s anything that enriches the fantasy elements of the series, I’m all for that. Hopefully they can do it more in the next episode since that sounds pretty awesome.

  2. #3 by tomphile on July 17, 2011 - 10:48 AM

    It was a rather slow episode but I felt that the pacing was just right. We got acclimated to the climate of the show and we now know what to expect from it. A good move on the anime’s part, methinks.

    • #4 by avvesione on July 17, 2011 - 11:48 AM

      Yeah, the pacing wasn’t bad (it was kinda slow) but there was only one part I didn’t like. I thought they should’ve spent more time setting up the trip to Mr. Conrad’s mansion. It just kinda suddenly happened that they were in a carriage ride without any prior mention of visiting Mr. Conrad or even who he was. I’m sure that won’t be a problem in future episodes since they don’t need to set up the characters or setting anymore.

  3. #5 by zammael on July 17, 2011 - 3:51 PM

    Thanks for blogging this, Avvesione. I’m dumping God’s Memo Pad for this immediately, even if it reeks of the Gosick formula. At least Huey seems far more proactive and interesting as a character than that witless dunce Kujo. :)

    • #6 by avvesione on July 17, 2011 - 6:13 PM

      I’m not sure what you mean by the Gosick formula (I only watched the first 2 episodes) but this anime has a few things that put it above Gosick immediately. You mentioned the better male lead, which is one. The others are the satisfying action sequences, the wonderful music, and the use of fantasy elements, like the books and the dragon. Glad to hear so many people are enjoying this anime. Also, sad to hear you’re dropping God’s Memo. Didn’t think it was bad when I tested it.

  4. #7 by Myst on July 18, 2011 - 1:59 AM

    The only way I can explain is that she was watching Huey from the shadows & she states “This I ask of thee, art thou human?” to Huey who isn’t paying attention. [http://tinyurl.com/r-thou-human] It’s from Chapter 5 & 6 also titled Pop-up Book. I’m guessing episode 2 will talk about the key that is now integrated into his hand that I only found out from reading the specific light novel chapter. The part at the start with younger Huey makes no sense right now & it’s a anime-only scene. God’s Notebook isn’t bad… I think it’s better then the talking rocks or whatever they’re called in Sacred Seven.

    • #8 by avvesione on July 18, 2011 - 12:43 PM

      Yeah, I think the next episode will mainly go into explanations for the first half and then go solve a book problem in the second half. I’m sure Dalian will go over the key, what she is, and what they plan to do together, which should clear up a lot of confusion. Then, they’ll go back toward the source material by doing another chapter with a real story. Interesting they started off with the story in chapters 5+6 for the first episode, though, didn’t know that.

      Also, I didn’t think either God’s Notebook or Sacred Seven were bad. They just really didn’t interest me. That and I already have enough anime for the summer.

  5. #9 by Gratian on July 18, 2011 - 2:40 AM

    Nice way of reviewing the episode..I was wondering if you’re up for a link exchange :) I’d appreciate that.

    • #10 by avvesione on July 18, 2011 - 12:57 PM

      Sure, I’d be happy to do a link exchange but I sent you an email first.

  6. #11 by Myst on July 18, 2011 - 2:46 PM

    Yeah, I can’t find any manga/light novel chapters with a similar title for the next episode so it may be a anime only episode. True, I tumblr too much to watch lots of stuff… That & my small list of 3 new animes + suite precure.

  7. #12 by tsurugiarashix on July 19, 2011 - 5:54 PM

    This has already became a fast favorite of mine for a number of reasons. Hopefully, it will live up to my expectations since it seems to have a nice old-school anime-esque feeling attached to it.

    • #13 by avvesione on July 21, 2011 - 11:06 PM

      This is certainly near the top of the season for me, even after just one episode. I’m curious to see what the body of the series will be like, so hopefully that’s answered tomorrow when the episode airs. I’m glad to hear all the positive reviews for this anime from everyone and I’m hoping this ends up being one of the best of the season.

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