This has proven itself the most interesting episode of Dantalian since the first, mostly because I think it just doesn’t handle establishing its characters well. Dantalian no Shoka is a series that thrives on surprise and the unexpected character-wise. It just hasn’t worked in the past with other characters introduced having no fanfare, or even a sense of belonging in the world. Nobody is set in a routine, they just seem to sit on the sidelines until they’re called into the plot of the episode for whatever reason. To a larger extent than the visuals, the world just feels artificial, like an elaborate stage production with robots as actors.
However, as a nice surprise, this episode completely bypassed that problem by placing the setting in that of a storybook, with what feel like real consequences. There’s an actual story this time around as well, one that’s infinitely more captivating than Dalian and Huey’s escapades.
So basically, Dalian and Huey are transposed into the world of a storybook, where everything feels more fluid and natural. Because of an infestation of insects in the book, the story is simultaneously plagued by giant killer insects. The apprentice to a village shaman of sorts is brought into the conflict by guardsmen, who want to persuade the shaman to help them in their losing battle against the bugs. She refuses, instead pointing her apprentice to a tree with poisonous leaves that could help them fight the bugs.
On the way there, the apprentice is attacked by one of the insects, which is dispatched in a timely fashion by a conveniently placed Huey. The apprentice learns that the bugs can’t be fought by conventional means, yet refuses to back down in her effort to help save the village, even when said efforts are proven fruitless. After being saved by the two yet again, she accompanies Huey and Dalian to the makeshift refugee camp, where the villagers have retreated to in order to escape the silly looking insects.
Finally, with the help of a Phantom Book, the insects are exterminated, cleansing the infestation from that book with what I assume is that very same Phantom Book. At the end, as Dalian looks through with fondness, she sees the apprentice with the man that she loves, ending the episode on a happy note.
Once again, this was an effective episode of Dantalian no Shoka, at least in comparison with the last few. There was less faffing about, and much less overall bullshit. And for a show with only a few episodes left to showcase its talents, that’s always a good thing. I wish there was more to say about this other than the fact that I like it, but there just isn’t. If it would allow the fantasy bits more clout, I have confidence that things would go much better.