Dantalian no Shoka – OVA

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As OVAs go, this one definitely falls into the “unaired TV episode” category.  But in this case, that’s not a bad thing.

When I watch Dantalian no Shoka, there are always things aside from the story vying for my attention.  First is the music, which is some of the most beautiful to grace any anime soundtrack in recent years, most especially the gorgeous OP.  I’m also thinking about its place in history, and that’s especially the case with this OVA, possibly the last anime we’ll see of the franchise.  I can’t help but wonder if Dantalian represents the true last creative gasp of GAINAX, the first anime studio I ever loved and one that will always hold a unique place in my heart.  Medaka Box has the feel of a studio that’s given up, and GANIAX’ involvement in the Evangelion films has been reduced to nothing more than a licensing partner.   While Dantalian isn’t necessarily a classic example of the old-school GAINAX template, it is wildly creative – with gorgeous backgrounds, stunning juxtapositions of surreal and classical imagery and occasional bursts of pure GAINAX style (though not in this episode).  So the thought that this OVA could really be the last hurrah for GAINAX as a studio that matters is one that fills me with a great deal of sadness and makes watching it a bittersweet experience.

Dewey-eyed nostalgia aside, this is a very solid episode of Dantalian – but in no way does it distinguish itself from an episode that might have aired in the TV series’ continuity.  For those of us who yearned for resolution to the many unanswered questions of the series finale that’s a bit of a disappointment, but it was awfully good to hear that music and gape at that stunning artwork, and to be back in the company of Huey and Dalian.  They have a great chemistry together, though her tsuntsun can feel like a bit much at times – Huey generally dishes as well as he receives, and has a way of putting Dalian in her place without appearing to do so.

Mysteries were inconsistent during the TV series run, as is the case with most anime that rely on the mystery format, and I’d rank this story somewhere around the middle of the pack in terms of interest level and originality.  We have a creepy old manor in the woods, with the old Lord of the manor who died mysteriously leaving a young daughter behind – both staples of the Dantalian catalogue.  We also have a Phantom Book – it wouldn’t be Dantalian otherwise – in this case, the “Deep Green Book”.  A fire has resulted in the death of Sergeant Cavallos, Lord of the Manor, and twenty servants – and his daughter Florence lives alone in the mansion the locals call “Briar Rose”.  But something’s amiss here, and it runs deeper than creepy ghost stories to a tale of a possessive love gone wrong.  We even get a guest shot from a Buddhist phantom book that wards off evil, complete with Huey chanting sutras.

Really though, as was the case with all but the best of the mysteries in the series, most of the pleasure comes from the art and music, listening to Dalian say things like “Only fools and smoke like high places” and watching she and Huey verbally tussle over who’s going to carry what – and who.  Dantalian no Shoka is a very atmospheric show – it has a vibe to it that’s quite unique, and consistently pleases no matter how strong or weak the supporting storyline.  I would have loved much more focus on the pink-haired incarnation of Dalian who lives inside the Dantalian, and on her relationship with the child Huey – but alas, that was not to be.  We’ll have to settle for this one final episode, and if you were a fan of the series there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy it.

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  1. L

    Just read the same post in RC. Sometimes I forgot you are a staff there too GE xD.

    Yes, a shame we didn't get any more reveal about the setting of the series. Still. it's a good last hurrah for the series though.

    And Cras Numquam Scire is as amazingly beautiful as always.

  2. J

    Why do you think this is GAINAX's last hurrah? The studio *has* been pretty quiet lately, but I don't see any reason not to think GAINAX can still deliver solid masterpieces.

  3. First, almost none of the great GAINAX creative people are left. Second, they really haven't done anything important since TTGL, in my opinion. Hanamaru Kindergarten was entertaining but basically a trifle, Panty-stocking was a risk but a failed one (IMHO of course) and Medaka Box just screams "surrender" from every cel. I don't know where the spark is going to come from, and I don't see any evidence that the potential still exists.

    Even Dantalian, as much as I like it, isn't a classic GAINAX project – and it tanked commercially. The hallmark of GAINAX has always been original series, and they're almost completely reduced to adaptations in the last few years. It just doesn't seem like the same company to me.

  4. J

    Info on the studio staff's status is always appreciated, thanks.

    Damn, I knew TTGL's director had left, but I never heard since then from him. It's a shame like you say, but I guess we all move on sometimes; I wish those genius people the best of luck…

    …But man, I wish they'd stick together every once in a while to create a masterpiece or two ;(

  5. A

    Dantalian no Shoka struck me as a nice series, but one that could have been great, if they had more episodes to work with. Nice to see there's an OVA out, although I'm not sure when I'll get a chance to see it.

  6. T

    It's a damn shame this show didn't do better, as the only recent show I want a second season of as much as I do with this one is Kamisama Dolls. This one got hit worse, though, as it ended just as it seemed like it was about to get really super-interesting.

    Didn't even know there was an OVA 'til now. Gonna have to go watch it.

  7. Ditto to both, but I'd want that 2nd season for KamiDolls even more than Dantalian.

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