Though I had already seen Pokemon and Spirited Away, I would consider serial experiments lain my ‘first’ anime, because it was the first show I sought out because it was anime. In October 2004, I worked my first job as a one-week temporary employee, for which I received the seemingly massive sum of around $350. I don’t remember what else I purchased with that bounty, but one of my first priorities was lain, which I think I ordered from Half.com (and which, I learned a couple years later, was bootleg!).…
I’ve been in a bit of a nostalgic mood lately, looking back at my experience with anime and reminiscing on my development as a fan. So, I thought it may be interesting to start a series of posts outlining that evolution.
Like many fans my age, Pokemon gets credit as the first anime I ever watched. Actually, video games probably sparked my interest in Japanese media in general. As a huge Nintendo fan, most of my favourite games have always been Japanese, and even as a child I enjoyed reading about the people who made the games I enjoy, which made me amenable to other pieces of popular culture to cross the Pacific.…
Yesterday, I watched Jurassic Park for the first time in a solid twelve years or so. It was a favourite film of mine as a child, and also one of my family’s the most memorable theatre moments, at least for my parents. Little five-year-old me was apparently so terrified I almost crawled over the back of the seat, but I still got my parents to take me to see it multiple times after that (they’d learned their lesson, though, and we sat in the back row on future visits). On VHS, I watched the film constantly, bought lots of the toys, and overall it was a defining film for my childhood.
So, when it came out on glorious blu-ray, I had to watch it again. I did have some apprehension, though – often, things I liked as a child don’t stand up to an adult’s more refined taste. Luckily, Jurassic Park stood the test of time brilliantly, and I found I still love this film. I still get excited at the sight of dinosaurs, and I found that I appreciate the film more than I did as a child. Things I didn’t care about then, like character motivations or plot structure, impressed me this go-around. For exmple, I didn’t used to really understand, or care, why the guests were brought to the island, that Malcolm occasionally hit on Sattler, that Muldoon seems obsessed with the raptors, etc.
On the downside, I also noticed a few flaws, but they were mostly minor things. For one thing, genetics does not work that way! Also, that tyrannosaur really gets around. He shows up seemingly out of the blue during the stampede scene, and again during the finale comes out of nowhere indoors to surprise the raptors. How did neither the raptors nor the humans notice a giant tyrannosaur coming in through the back door? Were tyrannosaurs stealth hunters? The CIA needs to get in touch with that thing!
The film looks great on blu-ray, and the special effects still impressed me. It helps that many of the dinosaurs were animatronic, rather than computer animated. I’m far from the first to say this, but most films just look a lot better when there actually is something in front of the camera.
Of course, now I’m also curious about the novel. Michael Chrichton was my favourite author when I was younger, but I haven’t read anything of his in years. Just another thing to add to my backlog of books, I suppose.…
Damn it, Gainax.
That’s the three-word version of my review of The Mystic Archives of Dantalian. To expand a bit, I did actually enjoy the anime, though that makes the disappointment of the last episode worse. To start with the good, though, the art was well-done, the animation fluid (a few static scenes excepted), and the music was excellent. I really liked the opening and ending sequences. Others have described the show’s atmosphere as its strongest point, and I agree. Edgar Allan Poe would probably approve. Really, all I wanted going in was Gosick with a better plot, and that’s what the first episode or two seemed to promise. A similar atmosphere but with an adult, competent protagonist in Hugh Anthony Disward and a more tolerable tsundere (or whatever word you want to use) in Dalian. Add an interesting premise with the phantom books, and as long as the writers come up with a competent plot, we have an excellent series.
Unfortunately, the plot’s the problem.
Up to the last episode, Dantalian‘s main problem was simply that it didn’t really go anywhere. Gainax took an episodic approach, which is fine, and most episodes held my interest, though there were a couple serious missteps. In episode three, for example, there’s a half-episode story about a group of children exposed to the phantom book The Book of Wisdom, which turns them into a bunch of geniuses. Their teacher (who gave them the book originally) leads Hugh and Dalian to a shed where they’re all hanging out discussing philosophy and politics and such, and they tell our brave heroes that they plan… not to do anything. Because plotting to take over the world or whatever would be futile or pointless or something. So, they’ll just continue to hang out and keep to themselves.
I guess that episode did subvert my expectations, but it hardly makes for a satisfying story and is the most flagrant example of episodes that fail to progress anything. Again, though, most episodes are good enough to at least make Dantalian a B-level endeavour. That is, until the finale.
In episode eleven, we briefly meet the Red Biblioprincess Raziel and her keykeeper, who’s just called the Professor. In the twelfth and final episode, they plan to create a zombie army in London by using newspapers as phantom books to turn the readers into zombies. Several problems come to mind. First of all, the whole idea seems silly and rather cliché. Second, they’re assuming everyone or almost everyone in London will read their newspaper. Third, what’s their motive? I don’t have a clue, and here’s where the episodic approach falls apart. This story arc really needed at least a couple episodes to develop.
Fourth problem, there’s a small flaw in the plan. As one NicoNico commenter sarcastically despaired, “If only newspaper could be easily destroyed by fire or liquid…” As it turns out, Hal and Flamberge, another keykeeper/biblioprincess duo, show up and do destroy the newspapers with fire. These two had an entire episode (ep. six) devoted to them, but that was all we’d seen of them so far, so their appearance (and quick disappearance) seems almost random. As for the Professor and Raziel, after seeing their newspapers burn they just give up and go home in about as bad an anticlimax as I’ve seen, on par with the genius kids from episode three.
We also get more of the Madokami look-alike, but honestly Gainax lost me if they ever explained what place she’s in, what relationship it has with the real world, or who she is. Hugh also gets to have an Evangelion moment (think Shinji sitting on a chair introspecting).
All that said, I’d still probably buy a Blu-Ray release, if it comes out in the US. It’s pretty enough to look at to justify that. I’d also be willing to try out the light novels the show’s based on. For now, though, it’s time to start on the new anime season (oh yeah, and I was one of the proud few who finished and enjoyed Cat God, but I doubt that’d be worth a separate review).