Dantalian no Shoka – 4

What really completes Dantalian no Shoka is not the elegant artwork or the spectacular characters but the ever-unpredictable Phantom Books.  Each book offers a slightly different style and emphasis for each episode, depending on the content of the book and who holds it in their hands.  The Phantom Books add just enough mystery and enchantment to each episode to bring it above ordinary stories in originality and intelligence but are balanced enough to avoid being overpowering in the story and drowning out logic and reason.

Another example would be to think of the perfectly seasoned entrée.  If the story were the meat on the plate, the core of the meal, then the Phantom Books are the spices that enrich the taste and bring new and delightful flavors for the customer to enjoy.  It’s that additional element to the dish that completes it and makes it such an enjoyable experience.  And that’s similar to how I feel about the Phantom Books in Dantalian no Shoka.  Every book adds innovative elements to enhance each story.  And the fourth episode is a terrific example.

The Phantom Book in this episode happened to be the Book of Soul Exchange, a manuscript that holds the power to reanimate a corpse in exchange for a living soul.  The book, however, was not the main focus of the episode but it still played a vital role.  In the story, the Phantom Book was used by Paula, a devoted fanatic of the beloved author Lenny Lents, to extend the writer’s life until he finished the extremely popular Crown of Dog Days books (related to the anime, I wonder).  However, a soul was needed to fulfill the exchange and imprisoned in the barn basement resided Lenny’s love, Leticia.  Paula used the Book of Soul Exchange to continuously revive Lenny’s corpse and forced him to work on his novel until it satisfied her every desire.  While the Phantom Book only had a minor spot in the story of this episode, it added a unique and inventive flare to the episode that kept it interesting.

Without the Phantom Book, the story could have remained the same except have the author and lover be trapped and remove all scenes of death and revival.  Of course, then it’d be eerily similar to Stephen King’s Misery (the snow, anyone?) and other stories that follow similar themes.  With an almighty magical book, whose powers included boundless revival or even one soul exchange, then it would be the same as before but with death and revival scenes.  Again, nothing original to differentiate it from the rest and to grab out attention.  But the Phantom Book changed all that.  By requiring another soul to fulfill the ritual and needing to redo the ceremony daily, we were able to witness a cycle of death necessary for Lenny to finish his masterpiece.  It also added a bit of mystery, with the flux between Lenny appearing to be both alive and dead several times before the magic was explained.  It drew our focus away from the story revolving around Lenny and Paula, trying to find a rational explanation for this bizarre behavior, rather than finding a way to save Lenny and Leticia.  And the Phantom Book delivered a beautiful ending which was able to release Lenny and Leticia from that frightening torture, as well as deal with Paula.  So while the story could have survived without the Book of Soul Exchange, the inclusion and use of the Phantom Book improved the story by providing new elements and shaping the story in a more engaging and original way.  And that’s what we should expect from all the Phantom Books from now on, especially when the central storyline appears (any day now…)

The scene with the typewriter, during the middle of this episode, was impressive, both from the perspective of the story and how it was directed.  Seeing Lenny alive and well, sitting at his desk in an empty study, was not shocking and I figured the scene would end quickly, especially with Paula in the corner spying on the trio.  But the differences in the verbal and visual communication, what was being said and what was being written, I thought was outstanding, especially with how astute it was and how it advanced the plot.  Coupled with the autograph, verifying the authenticity of the writer, was another bit I found both suspenseful and exciting.  In regards to how well it was done, the scene perfectly showcased all the characters putting up a front to get what they wanted.  Huey and Dalian came for information and learned more about the situation at the snowy mountain retreat.  Lenny, pretending to be respective and obedient to Paula, wrote out a distress note to the two, unsure if they were even able to help him.  And Paula, appearing to be a welcoming hostess, did her best to keep the whole operation hidden from outsiders by monitoring the conversation and actions of the three sane characters.  With the use of the various shots and angles and the expressions and voices of each character, the scene was truly split in two, with one ending the phony interactions between the characters and one that set the real situation further into motion.  Very well done for a scene of that magnitude.  Perhaps we should come to expect this, too, in future episodes of Dantalian no Shoka.

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  1. #1 by Myst (@Detetiv) on August 6, 2011 - 5:58 AM

    They sure did a clean up of this episode… No bloody walls/face hanging. I enjoyed they made the fan older for the anime. I have to double check about the signature part if that was in the manga… Hope they show chapter 1 soon so I can understand it! It seems they are going backwards cause I believe this is chapter 3 & 4.

    • #2 by avvesione on August 6, 2011 - 2:37 PM

      Is it going backwards? For someone like me who hasn’t read the light novel, it’s hard to tell since everything has been episodic so far. Maybe they’re getting all these minor chapters out of the way first and then going into the main storyline for the remainder of the season?

      • #3 by redmaigo on August 6, 2011 - 3:36 PM

        I read the first light novel and this story wasn’t in it. It is actually a story from the 3rd light novel (according to Wikipedia). I haven’t even read the manga yet.

        • #4 by avvesione on August 6, 2011 - 3:49 PM

          So this story was episode 4 in the anime, chapters 3+4 in the manga, and from the third volume of the light novel? I’m actually kinda curious now to see how similar/different everything is between the various forms of media since none of the timelines match up.

        • #5 by redmaigo on August 6, 2011 - 4:00 PM

          Some light novels are just anthologies of stand-alone stories and mini-arcs with a vague continuity that weaves itself throughout each book. The Suzumiya Haruhi novels are like that. Which is why the anime is so scattershot.

  2. #6 by Myst (@Detetiv) on August 6, 2011 - 10:57 PM

    I did a double check on the manga… This is sort of the first chapter… I say that cause it’s about 26 pages in. The light novel so I’ve heard that each chapter can be read by itself. Here’s the bits I picked up on that differs…
    The part where the mailboy gets scared out of his wits by Huey covered in oil [Kinda wanted this]
    Talk about Hurston family/Beasts of Ashwell [whatever that means].
    Huey’s author death talk to the barely hitting her 30’s wife [looks more like a young mistress]
    Huey spots him in the window -> Smoke coming out [anime]
    No such luck on signing her book it would seem
    Infiltration talk -> Nope let’s just skip to infiltrating the barn!
    Open the door & find wife butt naked chained -> Make Dantlian trip
    Have author’s flayed face hanging on the bloody wall by a nail -> no such luck [anime]

    • #7 by avvesione on August 7, 2011 - 12:04 AM

      Ah, thanks for the information. Doesn’t seem to be anything major, just a few details changed like nudity and excess gore (might’ve been censored?). And perhaps they took out the talk of infiltration to fit other scenes in the 24 minute window given. I do wonder about the Hurston family/Beasts of Ashwell, though, since maybe that’ll happen in a later episode.

  3. #8 by Myst (@Detetiv) on August 7, 2011 - 12:16 AM

    @Awesione: that would be great to find out about that bit cause I’m still puzzled since that’s what they opened the manga with. In the first volume this episode lasts about 3 chapters in the manga. So whenever the next volume comes out there will be new info pertaining to the episodes.

  4. #9 by Snippett on August 7, 2011 - 5:21 PM

    I pretty much have the same take when it comes to not liking this show because it turned out to be episodic. This is pretty decent episode, most violent, and intense by far. However, I didn’t like how didn’t show any character development except for Dalian being almost a full blown tsundere. Animation, characters and interaction, I have no problem with those. I just really hope that they will give us a real plot.

    • #10 by avvesione on August 8, 2011 - 9:21 PM

      Yeah, I think once the main plot shows up that the series will really take off. It seems like they’ve just been explaining the mechanics behind the books, introducing characters, and establishing the setting in these first few episodes but they’ve lack direction and real development. We haven’t really built up on anything yet. At least these most of the episodes have been entertaining so far.

  5. #11 by Olexijl on August 7, 2011 - 11:46 PM

    Well, i enjoy this anime very much. Do you believe a keykeeper is a hard job? I would be the one, especially with such cuteness and intelligent like Dalian.

    However Dalian seems to me a character they need to develop a little more. And Huey is a mystery too.

    What i really like on this anime is OP and ED music.

    So, if someone need to download: http://www.mediafire.com/?t01ybphhh1usvkc

    These have covers in it, and are tagged correctly.

    • #12 by avvesione on August 8, 2011 - 9:24 PM

      I think most people would agree that Dalian and Huey are underdeveloped at this point, especially considering the nature of the show is character- and story-driven.

      And to answer your question about the difficulty of being a keykeeper, I’d imagine it’s pretty tough. You have some set responsibilities, such as controlling summoned Phantom Books and are usually in a life/death situation, too, for both yourself and your partner. There’s quite a bit of pressure for keykeepers.

  6. #13 by tsurugiarashix on August 8, 2011 - 9:11 AM

    Keep fangirls away from the rifles is all I can add, lol.

    • #14 by avvesione on August 8, 2011 - 9:26 PM

      Aw, but what about Dalian with a rifle? Imagine how adorable that’d be! She was a much better fangirl than Paula, both in knowledge about the series and her personality toward Lenny. Kinda fun to see her enjoy sometime so much, so I hope we see that side of her again soon.

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