「幻曲」 (Genkyoku)
“Phantom Score”

Episodic anime is a tricky proposition. In the absence of an overriding plot, character development can sometimes be difficult, and making the audience feel truly involved is more difficult. Some series like Natsume Yuujinchou overcome this by making their episodic tales heart-warming and relatable. Emotionally cooler shows, like Mushishi, do so by the sheer brilliance of the writing and the magnetism of the lead. Dantlian no Shoka, lacking either of those qualities, has settled into a kind of detached purgatory – usually enjoyable but rarely memorable.

I like the characters here, especially Huey, who clearly has hidden depths we haven’t seen. He carries a lot of pain with him and he’s seen some terrible things. The problem is, we haven’t seen those depths – bar some brief flashbacks with the lilac-haired Yomihime. Dalian is too one-note to really engage the audience – all tsun and no dere – and no one else is around often enough to carry the load. Dantalian carries itself at a kind of emotional arms’ length from the audience, and because the stories – though generally good – lack the jaw-dropping brilliance of a Mushishi caliber series there’s really nothing to bring the audience fully on-board. This member of the audience, anyway.

This week’s “Phantom Score” is an absolutely typical example of what this series is. A good story, interesting and somewhat thought-provoking, but capable of generating only a modest emotional reaction. The subject of artificial humanity is actually fertile ground for Dantalian, and the show feels very comfortable in exploring the case of Christabel Sistine, the odd young violinist Huey and Dalian meet in the park with her friend Dallaglio Hayward, who fixes Huey’s violin. When Christabel begins to play a crowd gathers quickly, and Dallaglio whisks the girl away with the promise to return the violin later.

As it turns out Christabel isn’t a real girl and Dallaglio isn’t her friend, he’s the inventor who created her – an artificial human capable of playing the two surviving sonatas by fictional Milanese composer Guillermo Baldini. They’re phantom scores, with “Utopia” effectively making listeners slaves by sending them into bliss so powerful they’ll do anything to hear it again, and “Twilight” – which brings a rain of death, destruction and despair. Naturally there are nefarious businessmen, Kendricks (businessmen fare very poorly in Dantalian no Shoka) pulling Christabel’s strings for their own gain, and the tragic death of Dallaglio and Christabel that occurs as a result is sad, no doubt. But it’s sad from a distance, as if it were someone else watching a really sad show and then telling you all about it.

I like this series, but I’d really love to love it. It has style, it’s extremely smart and literate, the OP is beyond beautiful and it offers an engaging premise. But Dantalian no Shoka – at least the anime version – is a tease. It only lets you see so much of what it is, occasionally (such as last week’s bookworm classic) shows you brilliance, but always pulls away before you can get too close. With two episodes to go there are some tiny hints that we may finally get inside Huey’s pain – the flashback occurred in the postscript this week, and we appear to be getting an appearance from a regular character in the novels – Raisel, the Red Yomihime that was responsible for the shenanigans in the bombed-out village in episode six. Perhaps, just perhaps, Dantalian is going to start bringing it all together and start showing us what’s really happening in Huey’s head.




  1. Maybe it’s teasing us to read the actual manga. I wonder if the piece played in the episode is an actual song or something they composed for this episode. I would love to hear the full version of “utopia.”

  2. Wow, I really love classical music, speccially the violin so this episode suited really well. The sound of a violin can bring happiness to anyone, how that musician managed to create a piece to bring desparation is a mistery to me.

  3. I liked this episode. The VA for Dallaglio needed to work on it but Dalian’s change of tone when explaining to Christabel that no one would fix Dallaglio was very well done, much like explaining the family pet is dead to a child and was the connector for me. Christabel’s VA was also not bad at all.

    The real problem to me was why Dalian would not allow Huey to heal Dallaglio or if the healing boook could only beused in certain circumstances or required a rest period

    Zaku Fan
    1. They covered that actually. Each book can only be used once. Granted I would assume there are probably also other healing books, but I think it’s a plot hole we just kind of have to overlook.

  4. I liked the scene where Dalian threw an insult towards Huey in the book-store, then Huey and the Clerk just stared at her for like 3 seconds and then just carried on their conversation.

    But anyway, I still find this enjoyable whilst seeing it’s obvious flaw with it’s episodic nature and lack of attachment to the events. It tells short tales and I’m genuinely happy to see it getting released each week

  5. Since the LN is still ongoing, I hope we can expect a season 2 with more development since I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of this series. There’s also dangling plot threads that still need to be brought together eventually which I hope they spend more than 2 episodes rushing over.
    This leisurely pacing of building the character background is frustrating as we are detached from these characters and their motivations. And as we watch Huey, with an obviously interesting backstory, get pulled into these incidents, it’s like being a observer that’s watching another observer watching something that is just mildly interesting to him but not really because obviously something more interesting has occured. Problem is we have no idea what that is.
    So while Gainax has managed to create a top notch production it just really leaves me out in the cold.

  6. Woah, that’s exactly how I feel about this series: it’s certainly good, but I’d like to love it. The stories aren’t bad, some are divine, and you can notice that Dalian and Huey are mostly observers while the characters deal with their own problems. That’s very interesting and leaves the viewer reflecting upon what happened by himself, such as in this episode. I don’t think episodic series necessarily need to shower you with a waterfall of emotions, but there’s something lacking with Dantalian no Shoka. Maybe it just wasn’t made to be a masterpiece.

  7. I found this episode to be somewhat more interesting than the others. I always liked the idea of aritfical being possessing sentinence. That and the amazing violin/piano duo BGM made this episode very enjoyable to watch, even with the lack of character /plot development.

  8. I agree that this show is quite interesting but has some problems. I’m a bit disappointed by the lack of overlapping story arc. The mini arcs are interesting but in the end too insignificant because they have to be handled in 20 minutes.

    The show is actually often quite sad, with a lot of on first glance completely likable characters dying rather tragic deaths. The problem is really the episodic nature, which makes characters dying in the same episode they appear and of course makes it all seem somewhat “meh, that person hardly had five minutes screentime before his sad end. Just another side character gone.”.

  9. Nakahara Mai really did nail Cristabel’s role. The way they portrayed Artificial life as growing and developing was an interesting difference from what I’m used to seeing.

    The subdued feel to Dantalian is one of the reasons I enjoy it. Yeah, it’s no Epic Tale, but it does, what it does, beautifully.

  10. I have to say I REALLY loved this episode. Though I wish there was more interaction between Dalian and Huey, but the storytelling of Cristable and Dallagio was made nicely (well, in my opinion anyway) The part I loved the most was when Dalian was explaning to Cristabel that Dallagio could not be fixed. Someone give her an Oscar, because that was a really heart-rendering speech. I also wondered why at first Dalian and Huey did not use a Phantom book to heal him, but then I remembered the thing about how one phantom book could be used at once… or something like that. I need to rewatch this entire series once it comes out on DVD.

    Though the villians were cliched, the ending was bittersweet in that Dalian did not get to collect the Phantom Scores, however, the way it ended with Cristabel playing the Twilight score was beautiful, though I would rather have the scene where Huey and Dalian were running away to be in motion rather than the still shots they showed us.

    I have to say, this series has not disappointed me – though I hope for a second season with more Dalian/Huey interaction. We all know that despite her remarks, she cares for the guy.


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