My interest in Dantalian no Shoka is disappearing. While the episodes are still entertaining and have well written dialogue and content, the complete absence of a central story has carefully gnawed away at my fascination and patience with this series leaving me dissatisfied with the series overall. Like every other anime, it needs a strong backbone to provide the series structure and direction. But Dantalian no Shoka has no such foundation to base the series off of and this missing piece is a blatant weakness. Presently, the entire series is a string of random, yet exciting events with no clear progression or development between them. I am almost reaching the point where I’ll finish each episode and ask myself, “So what?”
But even if I reach that point, I don’t plan on dropping Dantalian no Shoka. The lack of story is indeed irritating at this point but it’s not enough to warrant dropping an anime of this caliber. The artwork continues to impress, the characters are appealing, and the use of Phantom Books throughout the series are both illusory and wonderful. The action is more than I had expected and the comedy, while only mediocre in my opinion, supports an underappreciated side to this talented anime. And many other anime this season are struggling in the story department this season, too, so it’d be wrong to single out this anime for having a poor story just because it’s the best of the bunch. But even with all these positives or cases for the anime, they still cannot overcome the unsightly and cavernous void of where the central story should belong.
It’s ironic that an anime so focused on books and stories would be the one without a story. From some basic research and information provided by commenters (thank you) there isn’t much of a central storyline in the light novels or the manga, at least right now. But that isn’t an acceptable excuse for the anime. When it was decided to adapt this into an anime, the writers should’ve collaborated and designed a story to tell in the allotted amount of episodes. An anime original story may have been decent here, especially if they tied elements from various chapters together, but it seems they’re content with abiding by the source material rather well. I imagine the staff just picked up a copy of the manga, thought “Hmmm… this looks a lot like a storyboard, don’t you think?” and then used that to produce each episode without any thought on what the next or even future episodes might like. That would explain the incoherent order the series has been progressing in these past few weeks. And the preview for next week only helps confirm this idea.
Now, with all that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a miniature story arc conclude the series. The anime is already halfway over with no sign of a plot, but we have been introduced some character who will likely make appearances in future episodes. I imagine there will be some story involving the three libraries and their keykeepers: Dalian and Huey, Flam and Hal, and Rasiel and the Professor (who I still want to call the Eyepatch Pair). And maybe Melgar, too, for good measure. These characters seem to have some more depth and detail to them and their relationships than any of the other forgettable characters of the series. The few episodes revolving around this bunch of character will be the closest to a plot this anime will likely ever see. Hopefully there’s something more, but at this point, I doubt it. And even with a story of any form in place, the series still has other problems to address that have resulted from the lack of a story so far in the series.
Character development has been severely deficient in this anime, mainly due to the lack of connectivity between episodes and the absence of times for which the characters can actually mature. Sure, we’ve been given some character information, such as Dalian’s love for sweets or Camilla’s attention toward fashion, but there have been minimal scenes where characters grown and change due to events, circumstances, or influences. An explanation for this issue lies in the fact that there are partially no scenes where these developments can occur since each episode focuses on solving the stranger’s problems without ever considering themselves. And the reason for none of these scenes being available is due to the lack of a central story providing progress and direction for the series. Huey and Dalian are exactly the same now as they were at the end of the first episode. They haven’t changed at all since then. And the same can be said for everyone else since their introduction. The only one who’s remotely shown any change is that personality floating in the library within Dalian, who feels indecision between staying or leaving her serene world. This, too, is another area that needs drastic improvement in the anime. I’d love to believe the anime will eventually get around and correct these mistakes but I have no reason to believe the anime will do such a thing given its current pattern.
Is it just me or are Phantom Books common knowledge around England in 1920? They seem to turn up everywhere and most people seem to know what they are. It’s strange since most can’t read these books but everyone seems to know, or at least be aware, of their awesome and magnificent powers. Maybe it’s the work of Rasiel, the library who wears her lock on an eyepatch, and her keykeeper who trek across England and provide Phantom Books to those who desire them. But it’s strange that Phantom Books are such common knowledge among people in English society. You’d figure they’d be featured in conversations, newspapers, and staged plays, with how popular and predominant they are.