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Dantalian no Shoka – 09

「黄昏の書」 (Tasogare no Sho)
“Book of Twilight”

I hope no one gave up on Dantalian no Shoka, because if you’ve stuck around through a somewhat uneven run you were rewarded with by the series’ best episode – a glorious burst of GAINAX ingenuity and a treat for the eyes.

While I’m sure this chapter was adapted from one in the novels, I’m still thrilled with the style and flair GAINAX brought to adapting the story of a medieval village under attack by giant man-eating insects called Baziumu. The sudden post-OP switch from the standard “pretty but conventional” animation to a pencil-sketch, storybook style was jarring at first – and there were a few moments of puzzlement before the reality of the situation set in. Huey and Dalian were in fact inside a book, interacting with the characters – a young shaman’s apprentice named Ira (dubbed “Lady Eyebrows” by Dalian), her Grandmother, her sweetheart Tito and the rest of the townsfolk.

Ira (Kobayashi Yumiko, as always more convincing at playing young girls and boys than any other adult seiyuu) is a freckled young girl who gathers herbs for her shaman Grandmother (Kyouda Hisako) and sells her medicines in the village. Word comes that a nearby fort was destroyed by Bazaimu, and the village head Gianni (Ugaki Hidenari) begs for “Elegans” the magical potion they hope can stop the insects, giant winged mantis-like beasties that descend from the sky and consume all. It can’t stop them – in fact the only ones who can are the two strangers who’ve arrived in the village. They’re from another world, and in fact so are the Bazaimu – they’re actually bookworms, brought on by a spell of rain in the English countryside. They’re attracted by the books in bookseller Tito’s (Terashima Takuma) cart, and Huey and Dalian call on the power of a phantom book to destroy the bugs. And like in any good storybook, they lived happily ever after.

It’s a rather simple fairy tale, really, but it’s really brought off with spectacular imagination by the team at GAINAX. For the first time in a while this gives the impression of an episode that no other studio could have pulled off in the same fashion. They wisely choose a simple visual look to fit the story, and the effect really does make it seem as if a storybook has come alive on screen. I can easily see this not being to everyone’s tastes, but one of the things I’ve always loved about GAINAX is their fearlessness. No other studio has been as willing to take risks, mess with winning formulas and throw curve balls at their fans. Dantalian isn’t going to join the rolls of their hugely popular and legendary shows, so this is a safer environment for experimentation and won’t cause a major controversy. But this studio has never shied away from controversy, and even welcomed it – so I doubt it would have mattered to them either way.

It’s slowly becoming clear why this property appealed to GAINAX – it’s odder and more idiosyncratic than it appears at first. I get the sense that we’re just barely scratching the surface of the novels in these thirteen episodes, and the quality has certainly been somewhat inconsistent. For my part I would have liked to have seen a little more effort at telling a larger story and tying the episodes together. But in spite of that there’s a quality to this series that I really enjoy – a keen and fierce intellectual streak and a disregard for sticking to the tropes too closely. In hindsight I really wish this would have been two cours, because I could have seen this material taking on real power if that larger story had taken shape.



September 9, 2011 at 10:52 pm
  • September 9, 2011 at 11:01 pmTJsama

    Wow, the animation reminds me of Tengen Toppa Episode 4. I wonder if this is a Gainax thing.

    • September 10, 2011 at 12:10 amGuardian Enzo

      Yeah, that was pretty much the type of controversy I was referring to! Man, what a shitstorm that caused, though it didn’t bother me at all. It’s GAINAX for crying out loud!

      • September 10, 2011 at 12:43 amClick

        Well, I actually do think TTGL 4 was a bit weak compared to the other episodes, but only because the atmosphere and story-telling felt completely… weird I guess. Also, I don’t think it’s completely fair to cut GAINAX some slack just because its GAINAX :P. I mean, if J.C. reused animation like that (which really did seem to be a style change), the rage would be a billion times greater, lol.

        But anyways, this is Dalian! Just sit back and enjoy the lolis!

      • September 11, 2011 at 2:26 amTJsama

        Well, the animation variations that Gainax did for Panty & Stockings were the best IMO. Suddenly making the animation style (looked like they’re a bit lazy) different this time made me hesitate to watch it. Since it’s Gainax, sooner or later it will be watched even by me =D

  • September 9, 2011 at 11:09 pmricz

    Well I don’t like this kind of graphics
    But they did a good job of portraying that dalian and huey are inside the book

  • September 9, 2011 at 11:17 pmKabayongtao

    Dalian looks really pretty inside the book.

  • September 9, 2011 at 11:21 pmThousand Mistress

    Good episode as always.
    That white flower is just a bit LOL, holding it carelessly would lead to death~

  • September 10, 2011 at 12:05 amClick

    As usual, Dalian delivers in style and finesse. And maybe it’s just me, but I can’t shake off the feeling that GAINAX is using the animation in Dalian to carry out experiments rather than using it to improve the source material. But you know what? I’m actually rather okay with it; GAINAX doesn’t neglect the story and manages to do what they do best. Although sometimes I may think that the story may get a bit plain (like in episode 3), Dalian never stops evolving and being cool.

  • September 10, 2011 at 12:30 amx

    This was a fun episode with just the art alone. I felt like I was watching a different anime XD. Dalian is great as ever. Took me a while to figure out what was going on. Though it was rather obvious once the girl ran to the town expecting disaster. Only four episodes left, wish there were more…

  • September 10, 2011 at 12:55 amsatuors13

    I started to give up on this Show LAST 2 EP was Stupid… (hope this one does not disappoint)

  • September 10, 2011 at 1:35 amTSouL

    Anyone noticed Dalian said Sou-desu (yes in Japanese) instead of Yes (in English) at the beginning!!!

    • September 10, 2011 at 9:44 amGuardian Enzo

      I did notice that – but I don’t think that’s the first time she’s done that, was it?

  • September 10, 2011 at 2:23 amstainglass

    They had Osamu Kobayashi (BECK) do This weeks Dantalian. And if you check out gainax.co.jp this week, his illustration for the episode is showcased link image: http://twitpic.com/6i7tyx

  • September 10, 2011 at 3:23 amKael

    Man, this episode was fucking gorgeous. Almost every single shot had something to make it special visually.

  • September 10, 2011 at 6:32 amMegas

    This kind of animation take guts. Looks like GAINAX are slave drivers, but that’s the price of being ‘in a book’.

  • September 10, 2011 at 6:37 amccROAWR

    Amazing how they pulled it off IMO. The confusion at the start for me was great and had me predicting what on earth was happening. The animation was beautiful!

  • September 10, 2011 at 7:27 amZaku Fan


    It seemed that this episode expanded on Dalian’s personality. She treated the characters in her books as personal friends, giving them nicknames. Given what happened this episode, that may not be as crazy as it sounds.

  • September 10, 2011 at 7:32 amKentaiyoshimi

    Anyone else thought of “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” throughout the whole episode? I mean, it’s got a female protagonist, her main love interest, an old lady/shaman, a bunch of old men, a lady with attitude (Dantalian) and her hapless sidekick (Huey), and giant bugs attacking the village.

    • September 10, 2011 at 3:55 pmmrman

      Yeah, this episode gave off a strong nausica vibe.
      Maybe another reason why I really enjoyed it that much.

    • September 13, 2011 at 8:44 amPandorakun

      Even the art felt vaguely Ghibli-esque. (Or maybe it’s just me.)

  • September 10, 2011 at 8:42 amohyeah

    I thought this anime changed the art completely… you got me there Gainax! totally awesome! I hope Dantalian no Shoka will have more episodes…. probably, this is yet the best episode.

    The forest part was kinda funny. I mean, Dalian scolded Huey for going in the forest for no reason in particular. Honestly, I am wondering what was his reason. And the last part of the episode… when Dalian was totally pissed at Huey to the point of stating his “moronic behavior”.

    So yeah. Another great episode by Gainax.

  • September 10, 2011 at 8:58 amDjisas

    This episode is very much similar to Kemono Souja Erin tales, specially the simple art style invoking a fairy tale book and maybe even the ambiance…

  • September 10, 2011 at 9:13 amOdeus

    I loved the art style in this episode. It kind of reminds me of Usagi Drop if it were in a Medieval setting.

  • September 10, 2011 at 11:24 amCat

    i keep watching cuz i like miyuki sawashiro!

  • September 10, 2011 at 12:30 pmMMBinNC

    At first I thought that GAINAX had run out of money and they had to resort to these crazy depth-void animations. But as the episode went on I started to like it more and more. When Dalian said that they were in a book, it all made sense to me and…I LOVED IT. Perfect visual for a storybook, although the only question I have was to why they entered the book in the first place.

  • September 10, 2011 at 12:55 pmewok40k

    The possibility of action taking place inside a book dawned on me early, but it was when books making bait for the Baziumu that I was sure what happened.
    In extremis – insecti librifagi – exterminatus!
    I was positive that if there was a lifeform Dalian would hate it would be the bookworms…

  • September 10, 2011 at 7:37 pmInoriDisward

    Fantastic episode as always!!!

  • September 10, 2011 at 8:33 pmannamoss

    I liked it, esp at the end. the difference in graphics clearly helps the viewer know where the characters are. I liked it alot. :D It took a while to get used to but the storyline’s pretty interesting, but like you said, i wish there was an overall storyline, instead of 12 random eps of dalian and huey and 1 ep of other characters.

    The storybook graphics remind me of Gosick’s opening though. But dantalian no shoka’s storyline/episodes are much better. ;P

  • September 11, 2011 at 3:30 amHurvilo

    Luvly visuals, lovely episode! <3

    I get the feeling the good folks at Gainax will kickstart the climax of the series next week or the week after, much like they did with Panty & Stocking. Can't see why they'd bother introducing Flam and Hal (still my favourite episode) and that third duo if they didn't intend to let them return for the finale.

  • September 12, 2011 at 7:22 pmsealouse

    I’m not sure why, but it was just great. Maybe because it told such a complete story in a short amount of time. The art style helped a lot too.

  • September 15, 2011 at 10:39 pmChalryn

    I was certainly confused by the art style used for the majority of this episode, but I had an inkling that there was a relevant reason for it, which was pretty much spot-on.

    Honestly, though, this episode actually got me thinking that I wouldn’t have minded if the entire series was done in such a style — both the artistic style and the whole entering-a-book’s-story scenario. The art style actually reminded me of Kemono no Souja Erin‘s, which may have helped me to enjoy something that some others may not have, but on top of that, I think the interactive-book scenario seems rather fitting for, well, a series about books, haha. Oh well. They played that card for one episode, and I think it worked well enough.

  • September 24, 2011 at 9:22 amBen

    Kemonozume (http://anidb.net/a4392) *1
    ^- This. I don’t know if Gainax brought in a pinch-hitter for this ep, but the style is almost unmistakeably that of the director/key animator for one of the Kemonozume eps (sorry, I’m terrible with names). This ep was absolutely gorgeous in every way (watch it again, and pay attention to lighting) and the best animation I’ve seen in at least two seasons.

    *1 If you appreciated the visuals in this ep /at all/, you owe it to yourself to watch Kemonozume. 13 eps, each directed/key animated by a different person (group, in one ep) and yet managing to *not* seem like a mishmash of different styles. Utterly unique.