Oh boy, another episode of Dantalian no Shoka! This means that we can prepare for much the same of what we’ve watched earlier, except divided into two parts, a format best utilized in comedies.
The first half of the episode dealt with a childhood acquaintance of Huey running into him and Dalian at a bookstore. The two get to talking before returning to her place for tea and scones, the promise of which makes Dalian perk up after the inevitable spat of jealousy. When the three arrive at the friend’s house, she informs them of a rival teacher who used a Phantom Book to make her students exponentially more intelligent, naturally letting it get out of hand before shutting them in her schoolhouse.
Dalian and Huey go to retrieve the book, which the children relinquish without a fight, something all too reminiscent of the Village of the Damned for some reason. Huey burns the book, and the three carry on with their lives having learned nor gained nothing.
Our second half is a bit less anticlimactic, though just as filler-ish. Two burglars disguised as benefactors of Wes hold Dalian and Huey hostage while looking for a book. The two fail in turning up results, and we learn that they’re part of a large fencing ring. But before we can get too excited at the prospect of defending the estate from a drove of marauders, the burglars get eaten by a rare African cactus. Yep.
If it doesn’t seem like I have much to write about this episode, it’s because I really don’t. There is nothing to gain from watching this, except reinforcement in the ending being one of the strangest, most wonderful EDs I’ve come across in quite awhile. It’s a decent watch, but you won’t ever feel that your time wouldn’t be better spent doing anything else.
Ultimately, Dalian and Huey fail to click on a deeper level. While I’m not asking them to get together by any means, I would like there to be some sort of freshness to their interactions, rather than parroting what’s been done by several other people with similar dynamics. The art and sound direction are still superb, even if the lack of a cohesive narrative or episode-by-episode growth harm it overall.
And it’s not like they can’t with what they’re given. Dalian has served as the gate to Dantalian’s Library, and Huey was a World War I pilot, which was as good as a death sentence. What wouldn’t they have to talk about regarding their various experiences? But no, we get nothing of the sort, just a half baked perpetuation of the snarky girl constantly playing the foil to the male lead. Dantalian no Shoka doesn’t need to go this route by any means, since the two are on equal footing in pretty much every regard emotionally and mentally.
There are series that have managed an episodic format well, while allowing for characters to develop easily. Probably the best example I can think of is ARIA, if I’m permitted to keep suckling that teat for examples. Each episode has only a superficial connectivity with the others, yet you can feel the world of Neo Venezia develop around the undines, and the undines develop to match the world around them. It’s surprisingly skillful storytelling for something that doesn’t have much of a story, and I could easily see Dantalian doing a decent job in the same vein, albeit with a much darker tone.
I doubt it’ll get better, but Dantalian no Shoka can with what it has. It doesn’t have the Blood-C problem of overextending itself with what it has, it’s just restraining what it has to make something wholly mediocre and ultimately with little worth. Sure, you may hear me say that the opening and ending are pretty good, but those have little weight in the matter.