「ラジエルの書架」 (Rajieru no Shoka)
Dantalian no Shoka continues to nibble around the edges of the truth, giving us tantalizing glimpses of the deeper reality behind the episodic stories we’ve been given so far and the characters that drive them.
At the heart of this episode is the first world war, glimpsed in the OP and strongly hinted to be an important part of Huey’s past. As he learned to fly his Sopwtih Camel, his Captain and hero was Ilas (
Nakata Jouji Hayami Sho). As usual we don’t get a lot of explanation, but there’s more to Ilas than the stereotypical pipe-smoking Tommy officer. He and Huey share a love of flight that’s only made clear later in the episode.
The other important bond the two men share is a connection to the world of phantom books. Through a flashback of Ilas’ meeting with the yomihime Raisel (Yahagi Sayuri) we get a little lesson in the birth of phantom books, and why wars are such a fertile birthing ground. After his introduction Ilas reappears at the stick of a Fokker tri-wing, now shooting down British pilots for the Germans as “The Faceless Phantom”. Though we don’t know it at first, he’s actually died and been brought back by Raisel and her keykeeper The Professor (no sign of Mary Ann) in order that might continue to write his poems borne of the fear and madness of war. Huey finally puts an end to this as a kind of act of mercy, and as he has no further use to them, Raisel and The Professor dispatch Ilas to the next world.
As with so many episodes of this series, there’s an air of deep sadness that pervades affairs here. Huey and Ilas both harbored a love of flying from the time they’d read about the Wright Brothers flights as children, yet they’ve found the chance to fly only as killers. It’s no mean act of symbolism when Huey calmly discards his Victoria Cross (the highest military honor in Britain) by giving it to a very young Armand at the close of the episode. The sense here is that even if capable of doing good, phantom books are born of evil and inherently evil themselves. Huey’s innate kindness has always been evident in his brief scenes with the pink-haired yomihime as a child, so there’s no telling the kind of trauma he lives with as a result of all the men he killed during the war.
What we still don’t know is how Huey became involved with phantom books and demon libraries in the first place, and whether it was mere chance that brought he and Ilas together. Likewise we have only a taste of The Professor and Raisel, but combined with the events of the sixth episode it’s enough to be pretty convincing that most keykeeper-yomihime combinations aren’t as responsible as Huey and Dalian. But as so often, we’re only dancing around the edges of the truth and these characters’ real feelings.
With only one episode to go, it seems very unlikely that we’re to see any real exploration of these questions in the anime. The preview gives no clues as to what the finale will hold, but I think it would be foolish to expect anything really enlightening or definitive. Some of it is the frustration of living in the one-cour world of anime that currently dominates, but there’s a great deal that can be chalked up to the choices GAINAX made with the adaptation as well. It’s too bad – I can see the germ of a fascinating and powerful story here, though whether even the novels ever really get at it I don’t know.
Two other questions: did they really have one-handed power slams in 1917’s version of basketball? And in 1903, what bombs were more dangerous to a British child than working in a coal mine?