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Dantalian no Shoka – OVA

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「荊姫」
“Ibarahime”

As OVAs go, this one definitely falls into the “unaired TV episode” category. But in this case, that’s not a bad thing.

When I watch Dantalian no Shoka, there are always things aside from the story vying for my attention. First is the music, which is some of the most beautiful to grace any anime soundtrack in recent years, most especially the gorgeous OP. I’m also thinking about its place in history, and that’s especially the case with this OVA, possibly the last anime we’ll see of the franchise. I can’t help but wonder if Dantalian represents the true last creative gasp of GAINAX, the first anime studio I ever loved and one that will always hold a unique place in my heart. Medaka Box has the feel of a studio that’s given up, and GANIAX’ involvement in the Evangelion films has been reduced to nothing more than a licensing partner. While Dantalian isn’t necessarily a classic example of the old-school GAINAX template, it is wildly creative – with gorgeous backgrounds, stunning juxtapositions of surreal and classical imagery and occasional bursts of pure GAINAX style (though not in this episode). So the thought that this OVA could really be the last hurrah for GAINAX as a studio that matters is one that fills me with a great deal of sadness and makes watching it a bittersweet experience.

Dewey-eyed nostalgia aside, this is a very solid episode of Dantalian – but in no way does it distinguish itself from an episode that might have aired in the TV series’ continuity. For those of us who yearned for resolution to the many unanswered questions of the series finale that’s a bit of a disappointment, but it was awfully good to hear that music and gape at that stunning artwork, and to be back in the company of Huey and Dalian. They have a great chemistry together, though her tsuntsun can feel like a bit much at times – Huey generally dishes as well as he receives, and has a way of putting Dalian in her place without appearing to do so.

Mysteries were inconsistent during the TV series run, as is the case with most anime that rely on the mystery format, and I’d rank this story somewhere around the middle of the pack in terms of interest level and originality. We have a creepy old manor in the woods, with the old Lord of the manor who died mysteriously leaving a young daughter behind – both staples of the Dantalian catalogue. We also have a Phantom Book – it wouldn’t be Dantalian otherwise – in this case, the “Deep Green Book”. A fire has resulted in the death of Sergeant Cavallos, Lord of the Manor, and twenty servants – and his daughter Florence lives alone in the mansion the locals call “Briar Rose”. But something’s amiss here, and it runs deeper than creepy ghost stories to a tale of a possessive love gone wrong. We even get a guest shot from a Buddhist phantom book that wards off evil, complete with Huey chanting sutras.

Really though, as was the case with all but the best of the mysteries in the series, most of the pleasure comes from the art and music, listening to Dalian say things like “Only fools and smoke like high places” and watching she and Huey verbally tussle over who’s going to carry what – and who. Dantalian no Shoka is a very atmospheric show – it has a vibe to it that’s quite unique, and consistently pleases no matter how strong or weak the supporting storyline. I would have loved much more focus on the pink-haired incarnation of Dalian who lives inside the Dantalian, and on her relationship with the child Huey – but alas, that was not to be. We’ll have to settle for this one final episode, and if you were a fan of the series there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy it.

September 5, 2012 at 5:52 pm
13 comments »
  • September 5, 2012 at 6:33 pmgandalf8

    I think the last paragraph of your review perfectly sums up everything I felt when I watched this episode. The story and mystery has never been the things I look forward to when I sit back to watch an episode of Dantalian no Shoka. Instead, I just like to soak up the atmosphere of the setting in late 19th-early 20th century England, accompanied by that amazing soundtrack. Sometimes I wondered how amazing this series could turn out to be if the story and mystery aspects were more polished, but I guess that is a question that may never be answered as the anime wasn’t exactly a breakout hit, so a second season now is just wishful thinking at best. I also thought the way they portray how Huey fights by using Phantom books just feels very confusing and doesn’t convey any sort of method or strategy is involved. It just looks like after he analyses what sort of powers this weeks Phantom books are, he takes out a book to counteract them, and the enemy just holds of their attack long enough for him to start reading the book he just pulled out.

    Nevertheless, as a whole I would say I definitely enjoyed watching the series and this OVA. It would never make into my favorite anime list anime time soon, but the combination of its detailed setting, wonderful atmosphere and amazing soundtrack will ensure it remains in my memory for some time yet, and sometimes that’s all an anime has to do in my books.

  • September 5, 2012 at 7:36 pmflCer

    Enjoyable!

  • September 5, 2012 at 7:51 pmsealouse

    Aw yeah. Definitely reminded me of how much i miss the show. like you mentioned at least we got that OP (and ED) out of it.

  • September 5, 2012 at 8:07 pmDa5id

    • September 6, 2012 at 2:24 pmDa5id

      She lost…

  • September 5, 2012 at 10:47 pmD-LaN

    Ah yes good ol’ Dantalian no Shoka creepy @$$ ED.

    And the show still retain its penchant to kill off a chick tht appear every episode…. and she kinds has it coming. Incest in all the wrong way round. Wht ppl do in the name of love…..

    Lol Dalian and her tsuntsun line is always fun to hear. The best line is the one abt making Huey to carry her.

    Overall: enjoyable. And I think I’m better off reading the LN.

    • September 6, 2012 at 7:51 amAni_BEE

      I didn’t get incest out of daughters obsession but some rather warped abandonment issue and procession needs. She became twisted with know one to love her or talked to for what I’d assume most of her life isolated in that “castle”. This Briar Rose wasn’t left to sleep through her isolation.

  • September 6, 2012 at 5:38 amYes!@

    What I always wished for this series was to let Dalian fight on her own and Huey on his own. Without the fist rape; they seem to be capable enough to hold thier ground. If I remember correctly there was an episode in which Huey uses a gun, so he is more than a book worm. I also was expecting some action inside the Libreria Mystica, so indeed is more like a missing TV episode than an actual OVA in terms of plot. I don’t feel that this is the last we will see of them. keeping the faith :)

    • September 6, 2012 at 12:12 pmGuardian Enzo

      Huey used a gun several times, and he was a fighter pilot – he’s definitely skilled in the ways of physical violence.

      I’d love to have seen an ep inside the Liberia – that’s the most interesting part of the premise for me. I’m skeptical we’re going to be getting any more anime out of Dantalian, but we can always hope.

  • September 6, 2012 at 7:47 amAni_BEE

    I was lovely to watch after all this time. Considering the episodic nature of the series this could have run longer with original book stories as well. ;)

  • September 7, 2012 at 6:17 amThe Moondoggie

    Man, I missed this show. I’d wished they’d do a season 2.