Sunday, November 13, 2011

Anime Review: The Mystic Archives of Dantalian

Only a couple more summer shows left to review, I think the number of summer shows I have reviewed speaks volumes about just how much free time I had this summer (or how I had time to read a 300+ page book each week to review). Like many other shows airing this summer, I checked out the manga before the show aired (the manga and the anime are both based on a series of light novels which may be finished) and funny enough the manga engrossed me more than the manga for Kamisama Dolls or Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth did yet out of those three series the anime version was my least favorite.

The Mystic Archives of Dantalian (Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian or Dantalian no Shoka)

 Summary: Hugh Anthony Disward (Huey) has returned from the battles of World War I to discover that his grandfather has passed away and that he has inherited his large estate and title and so returns home to check it out. Once there he finds his grandfather’s ward, a young girl named Dalian who isn’t quite whom she sees and has an interesting connection to the Mysterious Archives of Dantalian that Huey has spent years searching for.

The Good: Most of the time the lead character(s) in a show are the protagonists because they are the ones who do things and move the story along which is a good thing, it's a very boring story if you are simply watching things happen to characters. Huey and Dalian are more observers than doers however yet they don't feel like dull characters, they have interesting chemistry together and the plot of each episode still moves along well. Huey is also not the dumber-than-the-audience sidekick that often comes up in mystery(-esque) stories and it's refreshing to see a character be completely unfazed by whatever happens and be able to deal with it easily. 

The Bad: A show, no matter if it’s episodic or plot heavy, needs something to tie together all the individual stories and show just why these stories were the ones focused on. It seemed like Dantalian would do this based on the opening, there are several other bibloprincesses and their key-keepers shown so I thought they would help tie it together but nope, they showed up too late and their presence didn’t do anything for the story. There is no overarching theme or connection between the episodes, except for the first and the last ones they could probably be viewed in any order, and like Blood-C I only watched it every week with the hope that it was an anime with a slow start and that I would enjoy it more by the end which sadly did not happen. 

The Audio: It’s probably not the first time it’s been done but this is the first time I’ve heard an anime theme song in Latin which was interesting, partially because I didn’t even recognize it was Latin until I saw the title (I’ve studied Latin for three years but the singer just sounded so different from Church Latin songs). The ending song might have been a nice one but the imagery freaked me out enough, more on that below, that I just skipped through it to the preview most times. Nothing about the actors voices stood out to me, they worked but they just worked, I didn’t feel like they gave the show any extra emotion or such.

The Visuals: There were two things about the art in Dantalian that interested me. First there was the fact that Danlian’s character design was actually changed quite a bit (the image at the top of the page shows the anime designs, here are Danlian and Huey's manga designs which I believe are closer to the light novel's designs)which I’ll admit was a change I liked. The other interesting thing was how there were a lot of photographs with a filter over them (a bit of grain/noise, maybe a blur as well) used as backgrounds. Gainax is known for doing strange things and I could see this trick working really well for a horror series but in the end it felt out of place here. The ending sequence was really freaky however (live action almost Dali-esque imagery) but it had no connection to the series in the end so I was rather confused by it as well.

The show was a swing and a miss for me sadly and it sounds like a lot of the structure it was lacking (that I thought it needed) is a holdover from the original novels which also don't have a very structured central plot line. I would read more of the manga if I could find it (even if I think manga! Dalian is much less cute) but for the moment I think I'll spend my time reading and watching other shows. For those who do want to check it out however it can be found streaming on crunchyroll (originally it was streaming on NicoNico but if you don't have a subscription there you can only see the first episode).

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