Is there such a thing as too tsundere? Just from looking at a character alone in their personality and mannerisms, it basically a judgment call based virtually all on opinion and preference, so it really doesn’t mean that much. But when you start to factor in the story and setting, you can begin to see what feels appropriate and what does not. For a series like Dantalian no Shoka, Dalian’s nature seems to conflict with the given story and setting. Her strong tendencies to act like a stereotypical tsundere character seem misplaced and I’m beginning to feel her character, and perhaps the series, may begin to suffer as a result.
When did I begin to notice this when she was already a tsundere since the first episode? The main reason is this episode overemphasized that character trait, especially around a ‘rival’ love interest in Camilla and when teasing Huey. The previous episodes featured a diverse personality for Dalian, showing a range of emotions, responses, and actions that seemed to help build some depth for the anime’s heroine. But the third episode seemed to fling all that character development to the side for some shallow comedy and predictable, yet empty conversations. She seemed to be a different character in this episode than before. Her tsundere tendencies overshadowed her former richer personality, which is a shame since she seemed to be in control of her attitude in the first two episodes, especially around sweets and pastries.
So why do I think Dalian is too tsundere for Dantalian no Shoka and it may end up damaging her character? Well, Dantalian no Shoka felt like a fresh, original anime given its setting and story. Being set in a rural manor in post-war Europe has been done a few times recently but has always been a personal favorite for me. The architecture, clothing, interactions, and so forth are usually so well detailed and performed that it creates a genuine atmosphere and absorbs the audience into the show. The story revolves around mystic and powerful Phantom Books which each provide something interesting each time a book turns up. That and the story is not character centered, meaning we’re focused on these books rather than the characters, which is a unique set up for this anime. Given these two pioneering elements of the series, I expected all the characters to have a high level of originality, too, and for the most part, Huey and Dalian fit that description nicely. Dalian’s tsundere habits in the first two episodes failed to irk me in any significant way and I felt this would be a character that I’d grow to enjoy. But in this episode, she crossed the threshold for me.
The ultra-tsundere Dalian in this episode felt shallow and forced, which is why I feel her character may begin to suffer. Dalian felt like a fairly original character, especially considering the fact there aren’t many talkative girls like her in anime who also passionately love books. She liked to tease Huey in the first few episodes but she provided detailed and accurate information when needed and genuinely felt the need to help him in his adventures revolving around the first two Phantom Books. In those two episodes, she was fantastic. But in this episode, her jealousy drowned out her former personality. Her conversations with Huey and Camilla increasingly became a parade of clichéd lines from former tsundere greats. They were all predictable, tossing out a rude comment to Camillia or Huey whenever she detected any sign of friendship between the two friends. It never lasted more than one line since Dalian would be immediately and effortlessly won over by anyone who mentioned something sugary. But then she’d give a backhanded compliment and then be off to selfishly satisfy her sweet tooth without a sincere thanks to anyone who made it possible. It’s textbook tsundere: a syndrome we’ve seen time and time again. And because it’s an element that lacks originality, it gives Dantalian no Shoka a bit of a stale taste, much like those rehashed and recycled generic anime are deemed unwatchable by the masses because they’re basically reruns of a former series. The tsundere trait is not damaging when it was used as a minor character trait, which actually helped with the chemistry between Huey and Dalian when the series first started. No, it becomes a problem when it’s the dominant characteristic because then Dalian begins to lack any significant distinctiveness, development, or originality. She’ll begin to lose that special aura around her if she continues to act and think this way and just become a character that’s cute to look at.
Hopefully, Dalian reverts back to the way she was. Her personality in the first two episodes showed intelligence, distress, and pleasure, all while gelling well with the other main lead in Huey. She made the conversations enjoyable to listen to with clever dialogue and helped progress the story along or showed what either character was thinking. I was impressed with her character then. Now, I’m beginning to have second thoughts since she failed to reproduce the same effect. Her tsundere habits were too prevalent and she felt like a different character. Maybe this was just a minor change due to the introduction of Camilla and Dalian grows as a result. If so, then I’d enthusiastically welcome that change. If not, then I hope Dalian does not become stereotypical tsundere #01072 and becomes as forgettable as stereotypical tsundere #00834 or that dreaded stereotypical tsundere #00566.
I probably missed this in the first episode but I’m not sure what Huey does for a living. It seems he’s following in his grandfather’s footsteps of managing and tracking these ancient Phantom Books but I’m not certain on that. He inherited his grandfather’s mansion and fortune, so he’s wealthy and isolated now, so maybe he doesn’t need a job. But what did he do before? He was a pilot in the Great War, we know that, but not much else about his past. And is he going to continue to work or can he live comfortably off his grandfather’s legacy? Maybe he can get paid for solving all these book mysteries. Whatever the case, I hope to learn more about Huey in the next few episodes since his past is as secretive as anything else in this anime. It’s too bad the only method we have, right now, is if Dalian inquired into his past or pressed for more information but she’s too busy munching on sweet pastries and drinking sugary tea. Wonder if she’ll get cavities in a future episode…