Tag: Mystic Archives of Dantalian

Anime Autobiography – In the Modern Fashion

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In 2010, my university career ended with a whimper, and I entered the “real world.” Actually, I just continued at the job I already had and spent most of the next year or so wondering what to do for a career. It was a somewhat depressing time, in a way, but hey – I still had my Japanese cartoons.

Now, at this point I’d seen enough that fewer and fewer shows offered really new experiences for me. Most of the shows I saw in 2010-11 stood out because they excelled at something that I’d already seen elsewhere. I also find it difficult to say much about some of these shows because they’re so recent that I can’t quite contextualise them yet. After reflecting on how to go about sharing my experience from these years, it occurred to me that the most significant event is probably a shift in how I watched anime. So here we go – how I watch anime in a modern fashion.…

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The Mystic Archives of Dantalian

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).

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Oh, the Things I Watch

So, armed with my new subscription to Crunchyroll, because like the rest of my generation I’m impatient and can’t wait a week for new anime episodes, I’ve set to watching this season’s new shows as they come out. What do I settle on first?

Yeah, Cat God. I know it wasn’t that long ago I declared moe dead to me, but this show pushes too many of my buttons. I can’t resist catgirls. I love shows like Oh, My Goddess! and Spice and Wolf with goddess girlfriends/roommates/traveling partners/whatever. I love shows dealing with the supernatural in general, really.

The show’s pretty average, actually. Episode 1 was too chaotic, but episode 2 fixed that. The jokes aren’t too bad. The animation meets par, but won’t blow anyone away. Call it ‘Mostly harmless’, I guess.

I think I can redeem myself by also watching Gainax’s new show, The Mystic Archives of Dantalian, this time via Nico Nico’s streaming. All I really want from the show is Gosick but with better writing. Two episodes in, I have high hopes. I can tell I’m not the only one, since most of the discussion I’ve seen of it so far has been praise for not having the annoying habits of other shows, and Gosick in particular. Dantalian has, of all things, a competent protagonist, a girl with a sharp tongue but not unnecessarily bitchy, and mysteries that don’t require not just a suspension but outright termination of disbelief.

I especially love the show’s artwork and atmosphere.

I’m also using Crunchyroll to continue Hanasaku Iroha from last season, and for Fist of the North Star for some old-school action.…

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