Dantalian no Shoka – 04
「換魂の書」 (Kan Kon no Sho)
"Book of Soul Exchange"
It’s hard to believe that the author of Dantlian no Shoka, Gakuto Mikumo, is also the author of the eminently forgettable (an opinion I confess is based only on the anime, not the light novels) Asura Cryin’. There are frequently moments when it feels like this series is genuinely profound – and that’s not a word I toss around much when it comes to anime.
In contrast to last week, which was really all about (successfully) making the regular cast come alive as characters, this week was all about the story. And it was easily the most interesting of the four mysteries Dantalian has offered so far, dark and ugly and sad and even a little deep. As for Huey and Dalian, once the story was in full swing they were really observers more than participants, and indeed had no direct bearing on the final outcome other than to be our eyes and ears on the scene.
It’s always dangerous to try and read too much into the motives of a writer, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Umerura-sensei was making a little comment about the nature of fandom with this piece. Dalian is a fujoshi, apparently – a huge fan of a yaoi love story – “Crown of the Dog Days” – by a young writer named Lenny Lents (Hino Satoshi). But Lenny died after writing the first two novels in the trilogy, not before having left behind a letter to Huey’s Grandfather pleading for help. Dalian is only too eager to investigate, clinging to the hope of a resolution to the trilogy.
As bad as Dalian is, the real dark side of the otaku image here is Paula Dickinson (Takayama Minami). If you’ve read Stephen King’s “Misery” or seen the adaptation you have some idea what to expect from Paula, but Annie Wilkes has nothing on this yandere – Paula makes Yuno Gasai look like Yune from Ikoku Meiro. Through the phantom Book of Soul Exchange “Ras Alhague” she’s found a way to keep Lenny alive and under her thumb – by killing him and his lover Leticia Serkis (Satou Rina) over and over, with each exchanging places among the living with the other. For the flaw in the soul exchange is that the deceased can only be resurrected for one day before their body begins to decay. With this brutal form of blackmail, Paula – posing as Lenny’s wife – intends to keep Lenny around until he writes an ending that satisfies her fujoshi sensibilities, with her favorite characters alive and paired off and none of that icky hetero love.
This is a pretty grisly scenario, and the sheer horror of it is brought off beautifully here, along with the depth of Paula’s depravity. I’d forgive you if you felt the resolution to their situation was a bit of a deux ex machina, but I’m happy to forgive it because I’m a big fan of poetic justice if it’s done as well as it is here. As I said it’s risky to assume too much about what an author intended, but I can’t help feel a statement is being made about taking fandom to an extreme – and this is an area that GAINAX has some experience with as well, it being a favorite topic of Hideki Anno’s.
With two very solid and dramatically different episodes back-to-back, I can’t help but be encouraged about Dantalian no Shoka and where it’s headed. As a little bonus, both thematically and visually this felt more like GAINAX than any of the earlier episodes. I was especially struck by the animation in the final scene with Huey and Dalian driving home, which had an absolutely classic GAINAX look to it. I’m happy with this show being what it’s been the last two weeks, but if GAINAX put their own stamp on it so much the better as far as I’m concerned.