「叡智の書／月下美人」 (Eichi no Sho / Gekkabijin)
“Book of Wisdom/Queen of the Night”
I’m certainly not the first person to point this out, but one of the refreshing things about Dantalian no Shoka is that pretty much everyone in it is smart. It’s expected of Dalian given the function she serves in the story, but it applies to the rest of the cast as well. Huey, Camilla, even the villains have all been smart, if not necessarily wise. It certainly spares us a lot of cliched moments of people doing stupid things and asking stupid questions. And it’s nice to have an anime respect me enough not to try and explain everything somebody says.
I suspect I’ll be in the minority in stating that this was my favorite episode of the three so far, but it absolutely was. While the story has been interesting and stylish from the start, this was the first time I felt strongly connected to events and characters on an emotional level. Primarily I think this was because the dialogue was superb. The banter between Dalian and Huey was top-notch, but Camilla (the very busy Noto Mamiko) provided a welcome addition to the chemistry. Refreshingly, she also appears to be extremely clever in addition to cute and quirky – but her bright visual appearance and carefree personality are a nice contrast with Huey and Dalian. And I liked the way she took Dalian’s abuse – with a good-natured condescension that both earned Dalian’s respect and pissed her off all the more. To give Dalian her due, though, getting off the “You should be happy to hear that, Huey” and then jumping right into “Come, Spinster” was a zinger double-play of superb style.
I guess it’s inevitable that people will bring up Gosick again now, especially with Camilla added to the cast. I’ll admit the chemistry between the three of them – with Camilla in the Avril role – was reminiscent. But Camilla is no Avril, Huey is no Kujo and Dalian is no Victorique. The other two are not under Dalian’s thumb nearly so much, for one – and the overall tone of the series remains very different. Though there was much more warmth and humor this week, Dantalian remains darker and far more unsentimental than Gosick. And rather than formula, it proved itself this week to be quite unconcerned with traditional story structure at all. The first tale, of the Book of Wisdom and the children of the damned (or whoever they were) ended up as something quite different than I expected. Armed with the knowledge of the phantom book, what will they do with it? If taking over the world is too boring, then what? Tough luck – we’re not getting any answers, as this was left completely open-ended. A bunch of kids who, all of a sudden, think they know everything? Sounds like teenagers to me.
The second tale was a juicy little morality play that I rather enjoyed. Full points to GAINAX for including Dalian’s reference to “Journey to the West” as regards the pig and the monkey – and even more for giving the audience enough credit not to explain it. The love of esoteric knowledge is clearly important here, and as someone with a brain full of minutiae just waiting and hoping for an opportunity to be played like a trump card (usually fruitlessly) I appreciate that this author places value on knowing things just for the sake of knowing them. This is a story of books for people who love books, there’s no question about it. One suspects that in Dalian’s eyes, the worst crime the burglars committed was damaging the spine of her book, and that alone was enough for them to deserve their fate. And what a fate, dissolved in the stomach acid of a carnivorous cactus – but then, the whole notion of a “Queen of the Night” that blooms every 13 years with a flower shaped like a book, the pages filled with the memories of its victims, had the feel of a biblical allegory anyway.
Now that I’m really buying into these characters I’m pretty excited about where this show might go from here. I wasn’t sold on Dalian’s charms but her combination of snark and shyness hit just the right note this week, and I’m a buyer. I don’t know how involved Camilla will be but I hope it will be a lot, if for no other reason than to enjoy the hilarious send-ups of American clothing of the roaring 20’s (so far we’ve had Flapper and Cowgirl). The interesting premise has always been there, so you’re looking at a powerful combination for future development. I’m still not convinced this is a GAINAX show no matter what my brain says – the animation and character design look extremeley BONES-y to me, though we do get just the occasional bit of off-the-wall creativity to let us know who the studio is. And I’ll repeat myself – I absolutely love the OP. Every note and every frame is spot-on, and I love the way the theme was worked into the BGM at various points in various disguises during the episode. I can’t wait for the full-length version.