Posted by psgels on 1 October 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews




I feel that episodic series tend to be dismissed for the wrong reasons. “It has no story”? What do you mea, these series are filled with stories? Personally, I find that an episodic series needs to have two elements in order to really succeed:
1) Strong episodic stories.
2) Something to tie the show together.

Dantalian no Shoka has nailed one of them.

Basically, this is a show that explores various people who were given strange powers through what this show calls “Phantom Books”. These stories start off a bit clumsily, but amongst the episodes there are some real gems to be waiting. Some of the people highlighted are well fleshed out and portrayed, and when it wants to, this series can really create a great atmosphere to support them. These stories are all varied, interesting and aside from a number of duds here and there, succeed in telling their story. I’d say the ratio of episodes that don’t work to the ones that do is about 1:2.

Ironically, the main characters are some of the least interesting characters of the series. They feel more like plot devices that the show needs in order to be able to move from story to story than actual characters most of the time, and their development is just shallow, and they fail to really tie this series together or give it a satisfying conclusion. Especially Dantalian herself is just an annoying brat who spends every episode randomly insulting people and not really doing anything at all to contribute to the story.

Standalone though, the episodic stories and characters are more than enough to make this one worth watching. On top of that, Ganiax threw in a lot of eye candy as well, with some gorgeously animated action scenes (oh, ad Osamu Kobayashi also pays a visit to do one episode). The main couple is annoying, but this show has more than enough to make up for it.

Storytelling: 8/10 – An excellent array of strong individual storylines, though this series’ attempts to tie them together doesn’t really work.
Characters: 8/10 – Dull major characters, minor character.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Gorgeous visuals, animation that isn’t afraid to try out stuff.
Setting: 8/10 – A bit far-fetched at times, and the phantom books in the end are just mcguffins, but when you look at each episode individually, their settings are well fleshed out and described.

Suggestions:
Kino no Tabi
Kuchuu Buranko
Shigofumi

11 Responses

  1. Avatar Roldan says:

    Shouldn’t character be more 6 or 7? If the main characters can’t shine then there’s not much worth any character.

  2. psgels psgels says:

    Roldan: I found the rest of the cast to be good enough to make up for that. Especially because the main characters allowed them to.

  3. Avatar CJay says:

    Yeah this feels like a really high score seeing on how many not so good episodes there were.

  4. Avatar Suzushina Yuriko says:

    It’s quite interesting to see that at the beginning, you were praising Huey and Dalian’s characters, and now you think that they’s incredibly dull. I still think Huey’s an excellent protagonist and Dalian is tolerable, though.

  5. Avatar Petit says:

    For me, Huey and Dalian were always dull, and have been dull since they walked onto the screen.

  6. Avatar Fadeway says:

    It’s a flaw of the 10 point scoring system, that very, very few shows ever get a score below 7. Just pretend that scores below 6 don’t even exist, and then that 8 becomes a 3 out of 5.

  7. Avatar Tan-Tan says:

    Dantalian No Shoka is something difficult to understand for those who do not appreciate knowledge and literature.

    Look at it like you do with Penguin Drum. Dantalian is intentionally not character-driven but of meaning and symbolism. They don’t exist to entertain you but to deliver a message.

    Not all anime should be the same, so screw you all lol. Like seriously. Bland is the least of what I’d describe Dantalian. It has tinges of Kino No Tabi but the message tends to be more subtle and that’s why it’s more thought-provoking.

    Bah to you all :u I’m disappointed with psgel focusing his criticism on the characters too much too. As for the plot not linking them together, so what? It’s episodic. There’s a bigger plot behind everything but that wasn’t the focus.

    *grumble grumble sigh*

  8. Avatar Petit says:

    A story has to be character-driven. If it were lit/symbol driven, it would be a documentary, which Dantalian is not (and even doc nowadays contain main characters). True, not all anime should be the same, but that should not be an excuse for poor storytelling and character execution. And don’t relate Dantalian to Kino no Tabi. Kino shouldn’t even be part of the conversation: it is on a whole higher level of storytelling and characterizations and symbology that Dantalian has never even dipped its feet into.

  9. Avatar mds says:

    “a story has to be character-driven”

    that single sentence, It destroyed and negated all your whole argument.

    Have you read the original material,by any chance? No,isn’t it?
    I considered the depth of symbolism in the original material is as high as Haibane Renmei’s.

  10. Avatar Mushyrulez says:

    There are anime (stories) which are character-driven, and anime (sometimes characters) which are story-driven.

    In Shoka, the stories are what matters. The main characters seem like plot devices? They /are/ plot devices. That shouldn’t be a bad point – though I agree that the characters /could/ be fleshed out more, perhaps allocating time to that would take time away from the focus of the show.

    Also, whilst some episodes may have sucked to us, to another, it may have been golden – that’s the beauty of episodic series. Even if some (or most) individual episodes bore, everybody has at least one episode that personally appeals to them.

  11. Avatar Aaron says:

    Personally, I found the anime to be a love-hate situation. I absolutely love the art, the music and the themes it deals with, but overall, it’s a very cliche story that seems bland. In order to enjoy this anime, you have to look at it for the symbolism and subtle undertones. It has a lot of commentary on how people use power, knowledge, and also makes numerous allusions to fables and stories we pass around.

    Even the ending shows that the intention of the show was never to be a coherent, standalone story; it is more a piecemail of intense symbolism. I really had a hard time enjoying the stories themselves, however, the artists freely experimented with various mediums and different moods.

    As of right now, I’m watching the 9th episode and I’m impressed with how the transformation sequences are often noticed by the nearby characters. It’s certainly clear that this is an anime which was trying to be poetic and artistic. In that regard, it certainly is, but it isn’t a good anime in its own regard so much as a series of very different pieces of poetry and artistic license.

    As an anime, it was a disappointment. As a series of very intriguing ideas and imagery, it was an incredibly intense series. As a final note, the imagery and ideas are not orchestrated in any particular order, but each piece is art in its own regard. I am strongly inclined to take this anime as the work of artists and musicians, not storytellers.

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