Title: Dantalian no Shoka
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Summary: Hugh Anthony Disward inherits an old mansion and a personal library from his grandfather. In the basement of the mansion, he meets a mysterious girl—Dalian. She is a Dantalian and a gateway to “Dantalian’s bookshelf”, which stores the prohibited books of the demons.
Review: Dantalian no Shoka, my second favorite anime of the season. Many of you may think it is because it has a striking resemblance to Gosick, but I assure you it was quite a bit different. Dalian, the main attraction of the series, was a sharp tongued girl who never skipped a beat when it came to giving her opinion. Especially when it had to do with Huey and any possible love interests. Sounds strangely like someone from Gosick right? Doesn’t seem very convincing from what I said earlier about the series being different. This anime steered far from Gosick when it came down to the story and settings. The story for Dantalian no Shoka was a great mix of fantasy and adventure. The series took you to what felt like opposite ends of the world. Each book holding its own power and ability which made it seem as though you were dealing with something completely different each time. Even the constant use of the Dantalian Bookshelf didn’t seem repetitive. The characters and tales remained fresh and exciting to watch.
The art for Dantalian no Shoka was nothing special. It didn’t stand out from other anime, but in this case that wasn’t such a bad thing. There we of course a few select scenes that really stood out to me. When Huey initially reached into Dalian’s heart to retrieve a Phantom Book I was a bit taken back. The scene was magnificent and pulled me into the anime’s world. The overall character designs, shading, lighting, and scenery have become a sort of standard in today’s anime. What made Dantalian no Shoka stand out a bit more were the beautiful animations of each book. Instead of just changing the colors or making one beam shine brighter than another, the animations actually gave each spell its own personality. One thing that is a big bonus from me are the backgrounds. The anime managed to keep the scenery changing nearly constantly. Even the cities had their own unique look which made you feel that you were in a new setting. Places that were revisited would have different camera angles or rooms to give you a better idea of the layout. In terms of pushing for new environments Dantalian no Shoka did a brilliant job with the story they had. I found that a lot of the art can be credited toward the story progression the anime decided to take.
The story for Dantalian no Shoka on its own isn’t that great. A collection of magical books that have their own powers being abused by those who seek a better or different existence doesn’t seem that intriguing. However, Dantalian no Shoka managed to keep me watching for multiple reasons. For one the characters were quite fun to watch, and the stories for each book were well thought out. It wasn’t that all the books needed to be destroyed, some simply needed to be watched under careful supervision. I find it a lot better when a large collection of spells (or in this case books) don’t all hold the power to completely destroy the world. It starts to make you wonder why someone would create thousands of different ways to destroy humanity and not one to save it. Or how a single person manages to stop every single use of the book before things literally go to Hell. This new spin on things made this fantasy story a little more believable. On top of that, everyone who owned these magical books didn’t always realize it or know how to utilize them correctly. It seemed that most of the time the caretakers of the books happened to stumble upon them off dumb luck or simply because they are a fan of collecting rare books. The story progressed well and answered a lot of simple questions that I’m sure many audience members had. For example, how were these books initially created? In many anime today, you take for granted the creation of these mysterious books and that they have always existed in their fantasy realm. Dantalian no Shoka dove a bit deeper by giving a brief explanation on how these types of books come into the world and why there are so many of them. Another question that I didn’t really think about until the anime brought it up was, “Why not mass produce one of the books?”. When it comes down to it, these books are just a collection pages with print. So why not mass produce them? It seems only logical to spread out your powers a bit so you don’t rely on a single fail safe. Additionally the characters of Dantalian no Shoka were quite entertaining to watch, whether they be robot or human. Huey, the hero of the show, was easy my favorite of the lot. His cool headed personality and strong sense of honor made him an amazing protagonist. I’ve started to get sick and tired of the helpless main character that suddenly turns into a complete badass because his little girlfriend is in the slightest bit of danger. From day one when Huey pulled out his revolver I knew he was a character to keep. Instead of panicking at the face of danger, he shoots it. He didn’t need some sort of training or “born special” backstory; he was just awesome. Accompanied by the sassy Dalian, their tag team adventures were very fun to watch. I want to say that character development was good, but in all honesty it wasn’t. However, for this type of anime I found myself not caring so much about where any of the characters came from. The characters were all entertaining as is and didn’t need some mumbo-jumbo past to make them even cooler. The series focused on the present and did so well. The ending for Dantalian no Shoka is probably my biggest problem with the series. Although it literally ended in a blast and had some sort of resolve, but there are still so many unanswered questions. The ending to season one reminds me a bit of Kamisama Dolls in the sense both seemed to just be getting started. However, Dantalian no Shoka doesn’t seemed to have as much promise in coming up with a season two. I will keep my hopes high because this is definitely a series I don’t want to be cut short. Keeping me entertained for twelve solid episodes with a lot of great scenes and powerful mini-arcs says enough for the rating.
The soundtrack for Dantalian no Shoka was eerie to say the least. The ending especially could send shivers down your spine. The full version of the ending is much better than the TV size for the heavy drums and creepy singing. If you were to check any songs on the OST that is definitely the one to pick up first. The rest of the soundtrack isn’t as intense and mostly consists of heavy piano and violins. Easy to say that if you are a fan of classical it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick up. I’m not the biggest fan of most of the OST since many of the songs aren’t that varying, but they do fit the timeline and atmosphere of the anime.
Final statements: Even though I wasn’t a big fan of the ending, I still have hopes of a season two. The characters and story were both unique and entertaining to watch Although the art style can’t be considered eye candy, it did a good job and still met my artistic standards. It didn’t quite get the score I was hoping for when I started but still an impressive 7.8 brings it to a preferred watch.