Anime of Tomorrow
Dantalian no Shoka (review)
Final impression – a pleasant diversion (7/10)
Summer 2011 (12 episodes) (title literal translation – Dantalian’s Bookshelf) (alternate title – The Mystic Archives of Dantalian)
In 1920s Europe, Heward “Huey” Disward is given a large mansion and library as inheritance by his late grandfather. He is also given a key to which he does not know the lock it opens. Living in the mansion is the library’s keeper, the lolita-fashion-wearing Dalian. She explains that as the library’s new owner, it is now Huey’s duty to track down books that have gone missing from his grandfather’s library. These books are dangerous items that hold forbidden knowledge that can easily be twisted towards nefarious ends. In order to fulfill his new role, Huey makes a contract with Dalian, giving him access to the library of cursed books she holds locked in her heart. Thus begins his mission to tie up the loose ends of his grandfather’s book obsession (and help a bunch of people along the way).
In my experience at least, Gainax just doesn’t seem to do very much middle ground. They’re either filling my recycling bin with the likes of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt or gracing my all-time-best list with gems like Gurren Lagann. So I’m pleased to say they’re finally starting to fill in the middle of their spectrum with titles like Dantalian no Shoka. I’m also happy that it’s weighted towards the good, rather than the bad, because when it comes to Gainax, you just never now what you’re going to get until you start watching. The concept of using works of literature as tools to move the world in fantastical ways, while a little dull at times, is nonetheless fascinating. Through this, we get treated to quite a few wonderful views of pride, love, generosity and humility among other traits of the human condition. Additionally, the banter between Dalian and Huey never gets old and is an example of well-orchestrated comic relief in an otherwise serious setting. But while Dantalian no Shoka is certainly a fresh idea, it is hindered slightly by the all too common problem of having an annoyingly nebulous conclusion.