Dantalian no Shoka – 11 Review

The historical precision of this episode needs to be praised for finally acknowledging that at the beginning of the 20th century reading wasn’t an invention needed for understanding texts.

Dantalian no Shoka presents itself this week with another rather lacklustre episodic story that could’ve been good in another parallel universe where this series doesn’t have to tell the story in one episode. But aside from science-fictional mind-games this episode did also have some point that were simply wrong no matter how detailed they would’ve constructed the story. Yeah, Dantalian no Shoka doesn’t seem to end up as a really good series that’s worth remembering.

Synopsis:

The episode starts in England 1917 with Huey making the acquaintance of Ilas in the Royal British Air Force. The scene then switches to a later point of time when Ilas is flying for Germany against Huey and his other former comrades as someone called “The Faceless Phantom”. As Huey and Ilas face each other Huey manages to avoid being shot down barely due to luck. Later Ilas is sitting in a bar and is talking with a mysterious barkeeper about his anthology of poems about the war and flying. As he’s drinking Ilas remembers the bombardment of Paris as he suddenly finds himself waking up in a bedroom greeted by a girl who tells him about phantom books and how his anthology is basically an “egg” of a phantom book.
Ilas then thinks back to his past as he was working the coal mines as a boy. One day he “instinctively” read about the Wrights and that’s where his passion for flying found its starting point. Huey had the same reason to love flying as he explains to Ilas in a basketball-game (which happened in 1917, I assume, just so that you know when what’s happening). Back to the part where Ilas changed sides, Huey and his comrades are faced with a monster made out of clouds that Ilas had created. But Huey using the unfinished Phantom Book of Ilas manages to banish the cloud-monster and is then able to shoot Ilas out of the sky. As Ilas crahes down in a park he’s welcomed by The Professor and The Anti-Dantalian-Girl who are deeply disappointed by Ilas’ failure but are also intrigued by Huey’s power. Seeing that Ilas is of no use to them anymore, The Professor reveals that he had revived Ilas after the bombardment of Paris using a Phantom Book and kills him therefore for a second time. Later back at the British Air Base Huey burns Ilas’ poem-anthology as Armand delivers a letter to him giving Huey the last push for the decision to abandon his military career. As he goes he gives Armand his Victoria Cross with the words “I don’t need this.”.

The iconic male-friendship-scene that’s needed every time to tell you how close these two dudes are because words aren’t enough to express cheesiness, it seems…

Review:

Dantalian no Shoka has definitely gone downhill from a point where I hoped it would be good to a point where it’s hopelessly considered boring by me. These episodic stories are pointless and uninterestingly told with characters that never go beyond their one-dimensional portrayal offered by the short time they appear on screen.
Before I go into the story, I want to say that this episode was a complete mess technically as far as scene-cutting goes. It jumped around in three timelines without making it difficult to follow them and like that the story just seemed out-of-place. One could definitely have the feeling of watching a recap-episode here instead of an episodic story. Not only does it feel like the story is jumping around, it also feels limited like we see only the essential parts of the story but not enough to feel involved.

Seemingly the phantom book that revived Ilas was also a book about surviving plane crashes unscathed…

Storywise it was (of course) the story about a phantom book again and the perspective concerning phantom books did kinda change in this series, I think, although it could’ve been just my understanding of it in the first place instead of anything the series has done itself. What it now comes down to is not that a phantom book is harmful as its user doesn’t understand to use it right, no, now a phantom book is only evil witchery making the world a worse place just by existing. In the first episode I had thought that the phantom books link to Stan Lee’s “With great power comes great responsibility” combined with a sense for aesthetics. Instead we get now these books that aren’t books anymore but – weapons. Weapons can only harm no matter for what reason one wields them and that’s how phantom books are now perceived: dangerous weapons. When Ilas is writing a poem anthology that is strong enough emotionally to become a phantom book, he’s not enriching the world of literature, he’s giving birth to a dangerous weapon instead. That’s why Huey is burning, at least that’s what the series is about although one could argue with a glimmer of hope that it was a purely sentimental act of Huey to burn the book. Anyway, the notion of the “phantom books are bad” trope is strengthened by the way Dantalian hides the phantom books while this Anti-Dantalian-character seems to encourage the existence of phantom books by helping them being created for example. And you can do the maths as for what that means when the former is the good one and the latter one is bad as far as the series is concerned.
But the real story presented here is chaotic and like I said it feels like we see only snapshots of the whole story because trying to summarize what the story is using only this episode is nigh impossible. So, Huey is part of Royal British Air Force and meets this dude who thinks himself Hemmingway or something claiming to read the thoughts of other people by seeing them fly which he then writes down as poems. And since flying in that time wasn’t really a public transport service but a way to wage war mainly, he writes about war basically. And so later… he’s in Paris, why? Well, don’t know, bad luck, I suppose since he not only is there but also has a wife there (which we never see in that episode) and then… BOOM! Bombardment! Ilas dies and… well, is brought back to life without remembering his death. Why? Well, it’s a phantom book, these things can do every kind of shit that seems implausible to a reasonable mind (despite what The Professor was saying about how magic and science are the same). And this lack of explanation revealed one doesn’t have to go far to find the next case of it: Why is Ilas fighting for the Germans now? It just doesn’t make sense when one is trying to follow the logic of this episodic story. Not only did it seem like the episode this week was too episodic but it just seemed – incomplete, like some parts of it were missing.
And this experience just enhances this sense of disappointment with this show. At every step of the way it felt like there was something special to be found here. The series showed an interesting style and some nice ideas but these episodic stories seem so short and pointless as if we’re just looking at the surface of the whole thing for the entire time and never going deep enough to get a feeling for the world Dantalian no Shoka is trying to show to the audience. The Light Novels may be greater but worse than not showing the entirety of the Light Novels’ story is the way this series makes these stories a simple and uninteresting experience that doesn’t inspire anyone to look for the Light Novels. There’s no depth to be found in this series and one stands alone when the question arises whether there’s really more to this series than what we’ve seen until now.

Another episodic story that doesn’t improve my opinion of this series. Bad storytelling-mistakes and the strange decision to let this story seem that incomplete take away much from the enjoyment one could get from this story. As next weeks episode seems to be the last one of this series, one is hard-pressed to say what good this series has done until now. Right now, Dantalian no Shoka is just this: forgettable.

Episode-Rating: 4,5/10

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on September 25, 2011, in Anime, Dantalian no Shoka, Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. It’s a shame really. One of the things the got me really interested about Dantalian no Shoka was Huey’s involvement in World War I. Now that we get an episode about Huey’s past we get a clumsily pasted together episode. It’s as if the guys doing the video editing fell asleep on the job and forgot to insert a big chunk of the story.

    I was laughing in the last quarter of this episode though, everything just stopped making sense and Gainax stopped caring. It was so bad it was funny.

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    • Yeah, World War I is definitely one of the historic settings that isn’t talked about often enough. People always like it more to take WWII because it’s so easy to paint the usual “good vs. evil”-picture with that war and WWI is usually imagined just as this landscape of mud and monotony. But there are some interesting things to be found in that setting… anyway, I would say like GOSICK (even if that was more in the vein of “alternate history”) this series didn’t really make use of its historic setting. And the literature-part is also underwhelming considering this is a series about magical books.

      The storytelling and scene-cutting in this episode was just miserable… It was chaotic, confusing and implausible… It really stopped making sense at some point, things just happened as they happened without any logical explanation. And the strangest moment of this episode in my opinion was when this episode was tied seamlessly to the first one. It was simply… weird. I makes sense hypothetically as a storytelling-device but since it was so badly told it was just a rather bizarre experience.

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  2. I started watching Dantalian No Shoka with such interest – the demon Dantalian, the archangel Raziel – both keeper of libraries and secrets, it could have been such a great concept. But the episodic format did mess it up – and of course every male is a blonde which (maybe its me) but made them very difficult to tell apart. I followed the episodes but really was just interested in who the “Anti-Dalian” girl was. For Dalian’s proper English “Yes”, the Anti-Dalian had the german “Ye” – same tone of speaking too. Does anyone know how many episodes are left? So bummed that everything has only one or two more to go – even Ao no Exorcist…

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    • and of course every male is a blonde which (maybe its me) but made them very difficult to tell apart.

      What, they did this to remind us that the story takes place in the “exotic Occident” with its blond-haired people 😉 . You’re supposed to watch this thinking “OMG, this is so totally Not-Japan!”. As seen with the historic knowledge generally shown in this episode, they didn’t really aim for the “history knowledge prize” with this…

      For Dalian’s proper English “Yes”, the Anti-Dalian had the german “Ye” – same tone of speaking too.

      Well, the German was quite good except for this sign in the restaurant, that wasn’t proper German. And that Raziel says “Ja” with the same intonation as Dantalian says “Yes” isn’t quite right either because German has a different intonation in that regard. But it’s not like I care about how good a series can handle its foreign-language-parts, as long as it gets the intended message across, I’m fine with it.
      And making Germany automatically evil in a WWI-based story isn’t nice either… they should’ve at least added Austria to the list ^^ . WWI isn’t that black&white anyway, that’s one of the reasons nobody likes to make series about them that try to keep a good&evil point of view.

      Does anyone know how many episodes are left?

      It will end this week so only one more episode that will unsatisfyingly end this episodic atrocity.

      So bummed that everything has only one or two more to go – even Ao no Exorcist…

      Well, Ao no Exorcist’s anime-original content is as bad as expected, I guess and the rest? Some series are so basically flawed that I wouldn’t expect them to be better, even with more time. For example Dantalian, I mean, they could’ve added twenty or so more of these episodic stories but with the style the series adopted for portraying its story it won’t get better no matter how often it’s repeated.

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  3. I agree, this episode was a mess and left me really confused. Unfortunately, Dantalian No Shoka as a whole was quite a confusing affair in the sense that it left me with way more questions than answers, like chunks of the series just went missing in action. It’s really quite a shame, it had such a nice first episode..

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