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.