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Dantalian no Shoka Half Season Review

So, what’s Dantalian no Shoka?

Short Version: It’s an anime about this guy who takes books out of this girl’s chest.

Long Version: It’s an anime about one guy who takes books out of one girl’s chest, and another guy who takes books out of another girl’s vagina. Sorry, there are no images of either girls, the second guy, their chests, or their vaginas in this post.

:(

The OP feels like Sis Puella Magica mixed with Scarborough Fair. And the two guys shout “ARE THOU MANKIND” while thrusting their hand into the first girl’s chest or the second girl’s vagina. Finally, there are these really smart children who throw a book away and then become Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Maurice Ravel, Arnold Schoenberg, Mahatma Gandhi, Adolf Hitler, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin, Ayn Rand, Niels Bohr, and my great-great-great-great-grandfather.

Also, the first girl, Dalian, says ‘yes’ a lot and it’s really annoying, but I don’t blame her as she must be in a lot of stress from having her chest pierced every other day.

Uh yeah that’s all

OK fine there’s more :(

Hugh Anthony Disward was a little boy who once visited the ‘Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian’, where he met this pink-haired girl who just stays in the library and stays there and never does anything else, what a loser. I would add more references to Kuro-Usagi but I haven’t watched that and I probably won’t watch it, even though I think its concept is similar to Dantalian no Shoka’s, what with guys doing stuff to some girl’s vagina to get power and books and strength to fight an opponent because there isn’t a better way to get power or books or strength. But seriously this post isn’t even NSFW so I’ll stop. This blog isn’t NSFW! Not a single image here is NSFW except for that once where some stupid blogger decided to link to another image and the website didn’t like hotlinks and inserted a picture of a lemon party instead, which was pretty shocking.

Anyways, fast forward after a War to End All Wars and Hugh Anthony Disward, or ‘Huey’, is now an (presumably British) Air Force Lieutenant with nothing to do. Unlike most other anime characters nowadays, Huey is neither a blithering idiot nor a jobless commoner – indeed, he is much respected by many people, including his subordinate, Armand Jeremiah. What kind of name is Armand Jeremiah?! Almond Jesus would be a better name. OK, I’ll stop. His grandfather is the Lord/Duke/Viscount/Count/Person/Guy/Dude/Old Man/Count/Knight/Sir Wesley Disward. He was a bibliophile, and collected vast amounts of books – enough to even rival that goat’s grandfather’s. Wait wait don’t leave I’ll stop

Anyways, now that ‘Wes’ has died, Huey inherits all of his estate, including his vast collection of books. However, upon investigating, he discovers a life-sized doll in Wes’s house! No, of course it’s not a life-sized doll, it’s a girl. I really don’t get why all main characters think that a short unmoving girl must be a life-sized doll. Either that, or Gosick was the only anime that ever did that and then suddenly EVERYBODY COPIES FROM IT DURR HURR. Except I really don’t think Kujo got books from Victorique’s chest/vagina so I don’t really kn-OK I’LL STOP JEEZ GOSH

Anyways DAMN YOU THESAURUS

The crux of the story (get it? Crux? The image on top?) lies on its episode-by-episode nature, similar to Gosick’s arc-by-arc. However, while Gosick’s arcs are usually rather long (two-three episodes), every single ‘case’ in Shoka is only an episode long (sometimes /less/). Both start slowly with its big overarching story, but gradually become faster. Gosick can do that with more reservations since it was two cours in length (that reminds me, I still haven’t started watching the second cour even though I have all the episodes ): but Dantalian can’t – it’s only 13 episodes long, and the overarching story still hasn’t started yet! Also, did you see what I did with that face and that bracket and I’ll stop now.

Each story is completely independent of every other story (besides episode 1, which you probably should watch first to understand why people are taking books out of girls’ vaginas), which is a nice touch – perhaps watching it in non-‘chronological’ order would leave a different impression than watching it chronologically. In fact, it’d be interesting if the episodes /aren’t/ in chronological order, and that Episode 2 is actually 5th in the series, or that Episode 3 is actually the 8th, or that Episode 6 happened before Episode 1. Nevertheless, I doubt that will happen – there’s nothing to justify it, no bloody murder in the past, no dark childhood past. The only thing that remains a mystery is the pink-haired girl who just stays in that library all day doing nothing. I mean, what a loser.

I think Shoka’s director is trying really hard to add a lot of symbolism, but I don’t realize the meaning of most of it. It’s obvious Huey’s a Christian and that might have something to do with something (Christian due to the cross on his mother’s dead bed. I RHYMED ok I understand this isn’t the time for that), but most of the other symbolism just flies past me. What do the shields and crests mean? The geographical locations? The books’ origins? I’m sure somebody else could figure this out easily, but in case you haven’t noticed, none of my posts are particularly deep nor insightful, none of them pull an anime apart at its seams to reveal its inner structure, its meaning, its soul. Nope, I’m fine with talking about

I STOPPED

WOOHOOOO

:(

Man, I have like 2500 words of notes here but none of them are useful, so I guess I’ll summarize them all up for a giant text-wall of unconnected thoughts. I’m assuming you’ve already watched all episodes now, so spoilers (not really, what could be a spoiler for a series like this) – if you still have problem deciding, just scroll down to the bottom.

I wonder if Martin Geese (Estella’s butler) knows about Phantom Books too? Originally, I thought that only a few select individuals would know about them, but it seems that not only are they common knowledge, but many people are able to easily acquire them (easily meaning not taking 10 years of hard work and labour)

Estella said ‘She has the body of a child.’ to Dalian. SHE’S ONE TO TALK

In the episode where Camilla was introduced, Dalian and Huey were in a bookstore, but Dalian spoiled all of the books Huey wanted to read. This means she’s either read a shit-ton of books (as she doesn’t even own those books) or she’s an…

*sunglasses*

INDEX.

I really don’t like how references seem to be so unrelated to the story at times, either. During the Viola Duplessis story, there was absolutely no reason for Dalian to talk about the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter besides to demonstrate how she’s read over 9,000 books (more like over 900,000, by the way – and maybe she didn’t even read those, but the pink-haired girl who’s assumedly inside her did), which was completely out of character – she usually says things like that only in a dramatic situation in which it has a lot of dramatic weight and the like. Talking about the Six Degrees of Separation had no real purpose either – However, it is nice that stories are taken from all cultures (besides Canada. Man, the creators of Dantalian no Shoka don’t read enough Canadian folk tales about… uh… maple syrup) – I studied La Traviata for music history! (And also lol, Violetta is Viola and Alfredo is Armand, but the similarities stop there).

When Huey reads a book passage, time seems to stop – yet, when Hal extracts a book from Flam’s vagina (I thought I stopped), Mabel says that he couldn’t possibly read it in time. It’d be nice to have two perspectives while Huey is reading – both the visual accompaniment to his dramatic delivery of the Phantom Book’s contents and a shot from the antagonist’s point of view at them. Using the reading of book passages is still a particularly interesting way to ‘fight’ – though I suppose it is used in other stories such as Ao no Exorcist, nothing has been this direct-from-book. Nevertheless, when I think of some person who holds an immense number of books, whether it be in her vagina, chest, or mind, I immediately think of Index – whether Shoka’s book-reading was taken from Index or an original idea is now impossible to confirm.

Yet, because of Shoka’s immense library of books (you’ll realize Shoka means bookshelf, and so ‘bookshelf’s immense library of books… maybe library’s immense bookshelf of books makes more sense), it’s unlikely that anybody will be used more than once. Unlike, say, Zatch’s spells (by the way, for those wondering why Huey can read books not in English, Kiyomaro was able to read Zatch’s spellbook because it was MAGICAL and MAGIC can do anything. The more scientific explanation would be that the spellbook somehow invoked the meaning of the book in his brain, and he was then able to translate it into English, which he read the book in (the English was then turned into Japanese because Japanese suck at English)) Dalian can basically conjure any book to solve a problem, and there’s really no ‘strategy’ involved. This feels a lot like a deus ex machina to me – they’ll find a solution out of anything, and even when they can’t really find a solution out of something, they still escape – when those burglars burglared into their burgers, Huey and Dalian somehow broke out of their ropes with seemingly no explanation other than ‘Huey’s a lieutenant, and obviously lieutenants can do things like that’.

Finally, to conclude this segment: using the Carillon as a Phantom ‘Book’ was simply amazing. I have not watched many anime that think outside the box to this extent – indeed, I was going to mock Shoka for thinking so straightforwardly with its books until that episode came out. Simply spoken, that was the most original episode of this season (Penguindrum aside, as I /still/ haven’t started that).

To be honest, Episode 5 felt completely out of touch – it felt so fake and absurd, just like one of Yukko’s delusions. It tries to feel suspenseful, but fails because of the previous humour in the episode, and if it was trying to go for a dramatic ending, it completely failed, creating one of the hilarious episodes of this season. I have no idea what the director was on for that episode – it switched between so many different moods you can’t even mock it anymore. It’s funny how Dalian accepts Phantom Books as being magical things but doesn’t believe in magic – until, of course, the Count came. Seriously, having Phantom Books is one thing (besides, if the authors are so plentiful and there are so many books, why have virtually no Phantom Books been written in modern (e.g. 1700s, 1800s) times? There’s too much reliance on the ‘old is magical’ law – although Dalian does admit that a Phantom Book, when used properly, is just an ordinary book – it’s the knowledge that kills.), but putting magic in there too… it’s simply ridiculous. It’s like Index – it’s one thing to have magicians, and it’s something entirely different to have more magicians that call themselves scientists. :/ Magic and science are basically the same, aren’t they?

To conclude this ramble: nobody’s stupid in Dantalian no Shoka. Not even Camilla, who would become an air-headed character in any other show – after all, she’s a teacher, right? This blend of intelligent characters and diverse plot elements allow Shoka to add in many valuable concepts – for example, that having too much knowledge isn’t always good. The main story device is unbelievable, but after overcoming that, everything else just makes sense.

The OP, which I mentioned briefly during the introductory sentences, sets the entire mood for the story – with the exception of Episode 5, which was just stupid. It’s not often that you hear an OP so chillingly stately – and in Latin too! What’s up with that. The ED was just creepy and inappropriate, though – I wonder if it has more symbolism than just being a creepy ED?

The music otherwise isn’t Nichijou-tier brilliant, but it does its job – high strings, folk-like chants (very English of them!), and acoustic guitar strums to fit every mood. It also knows when to not have music, such as during serious conversations. The opening motif is nice and memorable – also very similar to Madoka’s three-note-motif’s ability to invoke images of… well, Madoka. Interestingly enough, Shoka seems to be the composer’s first job – a nice start to what will most likely be a good career.

Shoka does say interesting things about insanity – it’s really a tale of insanity, as all who come into contact with Phantom Books gradually become insane, from Conrad to Estella to Paula to Mabel. Although the ending of the Crown of the Dog Days arc was just completely stupid (they don’t develop tolerance after merely a few thousand deaths, as natural selection doesn’t work here – they’re just reborn again and again. The only way they could have developed ‘tolerance’ is if there was something in the normal human body that could ‘resist’ death in, say, a one-in-a-thousand chance, but if that were true, people wouldn’t be dying… more of a suspension of disbelief thing in here though, seeing as Phantom Books are entirely ridiculous anyways :P However, poetic justice is amazing. Wow. The prayer by Huey and Dalian at the end just sealed it all spectacularly.), it does raise a very interesting point that has no doubt popped up in possibly every Dantalian no Shoka 4 post, ever (however, I accidentally don’t follow any blogs that are episode-blogging Shoka that I don’t have a huge 100+ post backlog on so :v). Should we hate a series for killing our favourite characters off in a bad way, or love it for introducing those characters in the first place? Do we love a series /too much/ when we start hating bad things that happen? Or does Twilight just suck?

Is Hal being on a motorbike while still with pilot glasses a symbolic connection between him and Huey? No, probably not :/ But him pulling books out of Flam’s vagina probably is, and Dalian’s chest (presumably her nonexistant boobs) suddenly becoming hairy and becoming a hole probably means something too. Unfortunately, I am not Freud, I am not the producer, and I don’t understand these things anyways – all I know is that feminists might start raging. I sure wouldn’t want a book being pulled out of my vagina. I also don’t have one.

The plot-writing for Shoka is spot-on at times and just feels off at others. Episode 6 was definitely on the ball – the first sign that something was wrong was how, even though the war was over, Mabel still says that there’s not enough men to act as a policeman, and how there are still so many brothels. Yet, making her so suspicious from the start was a bit of a ‘what-are-they-thinking’ decision – at least her motives weren’t straightforward ones (by modern accounts).


You could even say that she’s a… lock-her. OK FINE I’LL STOP FOR THE LAST TIME REALLY

Flam’s legs are also bound by chains. WHAT A STUPID FASHION DECISION. That girl with the giant lock on her arm that could be removed simply by moving left has stupid fashion too. Camille’s fashion is even worse. Yi should write a post about how horrible the fashion is but actually write about how it’s too intellectual for me to understand. :(

I feel like Hal’s a lot like Miroku from Inuyasha, doomed to die from his own power. Yet, Miroku eventually saved himself, somehow – Shoka feels too dark for that to happen. Flam’s voice actor is amazing, and the exchanges between her and Hal are hilarious, but although Hal’s insulting her as a piece of shit could just be friendly banter, it gets a lot more disturbing when you realize that Flam’s only role in the entire episode was so that Hal could pull a book out of her vagina – which he didn’t even read, but merely used as fuel.

I wonder if Huey’s going to remain the main character – the focus shifted completely towards Hal and Flam in Episode 6, and I can see them becoming the protagonists for a few more episodes before bringing the two teams together.

Huey’s a likeable guy – he isn’t /too/ creepy (compared to Kyousuke, /shudder), and he BACKWARD ROLLS. While Kujo’s the third son of an Imperial soldier, Huey /is/ a soldier. A damned good one. AND HE ROLLS EVEN THOUGH PEOPLE DON’T ROLL IN PLANES EXCEPT WHILE DOING A BARREL ROLL. Dalian’s not too annoying, either – compared to Victorique in Gosick’s first cour (still haven’t watched the second cour, need I remind you a second time? THAT’S LESS THAN A MINUTE, IT’S ACTUALLY 1/60th OF A M-I’m stopping now). As for why I keep on comparing Victorique to Dalian, etc. – her love of sweets is obviously completely copied from Victorique. Or L. Probably L. L’s cool. I wonder what her relation was to Wes – perhaps she sees Huey as a mere replacement for Wes, and that’s why she started being tsundere to him so quickly? It’s interesting how (similar to Fujimoto) Wes has such an impact on the story even though he’s dead, giving places for Huey to go and the like. Actually, not really – his role quickly diminishes. It’d be nice to at least have some flashbacks…

In conclusion, Shoka’s a very nice anime. It’s not awesome-tier like Steins;Gate or Tiger & Bunny, but it is a very good watch. It pays close attention to detail, too – since Huey has the key on his right hand, he shakes with his left, and the like. The art is nicely done, too – with a very J.C. Staff-ish feel with big eyes, etc. (remember, nowadays J.C. Staff is only good with art and in everything else IT SUCKS IT SUCKS WOW SO SUCKISH STOP SUCKING J.C. STAFF don’t quote me on this), yet commandeering light and dust in a masterful manner.

Definitely recommended.

tl;dr: I HOPED IN MY FIRST IMPRESSIONS THAT THEY WOULD COME UP WITH AN EXCUSE! THEY DIDN’T COME UP WITH ONE ;A; -2/10 dropped
P.S. You really shouldn’t use a slash for fractions – use a solidus instead.
P.P.S. If you’re having trouble deciding whether to watch this or not, this guy can help you.
P.P.P.S. DAT BARTENDER IN EPISODE 6 ;____________;

5 responses

  1. THIS POST SUCKS IT SUCKS WOW SO SUCKISH STOP SUCKING MUSHY!


    I do liked that guy on MAL with his badass reveiws.He is like…so badaas.And like…so awesome.He would be like…the perfect guy to invite to a birthday party.He is like…so alpha,that I am like…really jealous of him.

    Looks like Mushy’s manga reviews will remain superior to his Anime ones.

    2011/08/22 at 08:23

  2. :( but but but but but but but but but but I wish I was as badass as him. His anime reviews are superior to everyone’s because we’re not badass enough.

    2011/08/22 at 16:46

  3. I would have read more of this post, but I haven’t seen the anime yet, so I can’t comment on this post. OH WAIT I AM COMMENTING ANYWAY!
    Oh, and that badass guy on mal? Freaking awesome, and super badass to.

    2011/08/23 at 05:10

  4. Look at that big glass of… water… he’s drinking!

    2011/08/23 at 16:26

  5. Pingback: Shitsurakuen Manga Quarterly Review « O-New