Dantalian no Shoka Ep 01: The Harlequinade
Well finally after almost 2 weeks into the summer Anime season, one of my most anticipated series finally has its debut. Initially I was quite skeptical due to GAINAX doing the production as sometimes they do some changes that spoil some series(eg. Shikabane Hime) but it seems my feelings were wrong as this episode is word for word and scene for scene just like the novel, which is terrific.
It seems that the only change they have done is in the order of the episodes which is a good thing as it helps those who are watching this for the first time which lessens the confusion.
This episode is roughly an introductory episode which is also the novels 4th chapter.
The episode starts with the main protagonist, Hugh Anthony Disward or Huey as he calls himself, receiving his late grandfather’s will and proceeding to his grandfather’s mansion to retrieve his inheritance. He also inherits a special key which he discovers is not the key to the mansion but maybe to something else.
As his grandfather is a bibilomaniac or in layman terms a hardcore book collector, Huey anticipates that there would be tons of books in his mansion but when he arrives there, he discovers that all the shelves are empty and the whole mansion is covered in a very thick layer of dust, like no one has been taking care of it for a long time.
But as the floor too has a layer of dust, he finds a trail leading to the mansion’s basement where he discovers the location of all his grandfather’s books and a girl who he initially thought was a doll. As stipulated inhis grandfather’s will, he is supposed to take possession of the library called “Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian” and take care of someone called Dalian, he poses the questions to that girl.
She diverts the initial question about the library but reveals the fact that she was his grandfather’s friend. And when Huey asks about the whereabouts of Dalian, who he says out loud he thinks is a pet of some sort, she gets quite angry and chides him while revealing the fact that she is the so-called Dalian.
As she is quite hungry, they then proceed to the kitchen for a meal in which Huey falls into a servant role almost immediately. Whilst they are in the kitchen, they dicuss about the Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian and the vase/gourd(depending on how you want to translate it) world that is part of it. But before the discussion hits its peak, they are interrupted by an arrival of a carriage, which Huey says is his guide coming to pick him up.
It seems that Huey has been invited to a certain Henry Conrad’s House for dinner. In the carriage, Dalian reveals to Huey that their host could have been Huey grandfather’s murderer as both of them were involved in a small tussle over a certain valuable book. She also says that as their is a full-moon, the truth that whether Henry stole the book would reveal itself.
Arriving at the mansion, they soon discover that something is amiss as the whole place is very quiet and dark with many of the guests, including the servant sent to guide them, are dead. As they investigate the mansion, they encounter a knife-thrower, a lion and even find traces of a rampage by an elephant. Both the knife-thrower and lion tried to attack them, but Huey disposes of them with his revolver, which he says is a good-luck memento of some-sort. The interesting thing is that after they are shot, they are reduced into something like ashes.
But it seems that there is something to that appearance as Dalian reveals by rubbing the ashes between her fingers, showing that they are acutally made of paint. She further elaborates by saying that the book that Henry stole was a special phantom book called the Harlequinade which Heuy’s grandfather tried to seal up in the Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian but was unable to due to Henry’s greed. It seems that these Phantom books are very powerful, and if someone unworthy opens them, the book will wreck havoc on reality, just as what has happened in the mansion so they have to find it and seal it.
As they journey further into the mansion, they encounter the biggest obstacle of the night, a Dragon. Huey tries to fight it but is ineffective as his gun is unless against it and he gets injured protecting Dalian. Huey then proceeds to spout some cliche self sacrifice lines telling Dalian to use the window opened up by him to get by the dragon to find and seal the book. Dalian instead asks him to take out the key that his grandfather gave him and says that she has acknowledged him as the Key Warder. She then asks him to say the word of the pact, which is the key phrase of the series.
He then takes up the key, the lines of the pact appear on it and he proceeds to recite them, starting a special ritual.Immidiately after reciting those line, Dalian’s demeanor changes including her voice as she replies with《
No. We art the Realm — the Endless Realm within thine Vase/Gourd. This would be the key phrases that would be repeated throughout the series.
Huey then takes the key and inserts it into the lock, which at the start of the episode looked like it was dangling of her neck but in actual fact in her body, and opens the Library.
He retrives the phantom book 《Liber de Nymphis》 by the alchemist Paracelsus and uses it to vanquish the Dragon and then they proceed to seal the Harlequinade. The last few scenes is with them leaving the mansion with Dalian spouting some tsundere-ish lines and agreeing on following Huey.
This first episode is a great introduction to the series with GAINAX animating it superbly with very smooth and detailed action sequences. The color palate used by them really gave the it a noir-ish post WWI feel and the landscapes were very well drawn. The soundtrack is also very good with an ample use of strings and trumpets to give each scene more impact and the music is composed very well matching the period. One interesting part to take note is that of Dalian’s Clothes. For those who are not familiar with her clothes and because it was not so obvious in this episode, Dalian’s gothic dress is actually a combination of Armor and a dress. The only part that this was obvious is in the last scene where she extends her hand for Huey to hold, you can see something that looks like a sleeve but is in fact part of the armor on her, like a gauntlet or armored sleeve. In the action scenes when Dalian in moving, you can hear some armor shuffling which is the armor that she is wearing, this attention to detail shows how much they tried to follow the original. Hopefully in the later episodes they would elaborate slightly on her dress, which was actually explained in detail in the novel. Oh and I would want to add that the art style for the banners and CM pictures are done quite well and are unique and suits that era’s style.
Now for my favourite part, the seiyuus. Huey is voiced by Ono Daisuke, who to me can do almost any role so i have no gripes about him voicing this character. Well maybe he was casted to bring in some girl audiences but who can complain unless you are an ani-Ono fan. Dalian is voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki, who is a veteran seiyuu. Her slightly husky voice is always obvious regardless of the tone or pitch she uses. She uses a slightly higher pitch to voice Dalian mainly due to the fact that Dalian is of a small stature witch suit the character quite a bit and she spouts the tsundere lines with ease.
From reading the novel, Dantalian no Shoka’s story is like a bit of a mash-up between a few series, mainly Gosick, To Aru Majutsu no Index, and maybe a bit from Book of Bantorra and others. People will find it reminiscent of Gosick mainly due to the character design but the things that they do are completely different. The Index link is so completely obvious I think some Index fans may call it a rip off but i feel that they are very different. In Index, the books stored in her can only be used by her and the storage of them lead to other problems too but in Dantalian, at least someone, Huey, can use the books but only in self defence, which makes it more exciting and interesting, and it seems there is no negative effects on storing the books. The Bantorra link is very slight but it has to do with the role of Dalian and Huey in the series. It seems like Dalian has a schedule to keep, like to be at a certain time and place either to collect a book or let someone read a book, and these are with people who are worthy of reading those phantom books so that it would not affect reality and whilst on this journey, Huey is tasked with protecting her. Oh and this is a small spoiler, Dalian is not the only Bibliotheca in the series.
Overall I feel that this is one of the good novel to anime adaptations but it is still too early to say as with just the first episode so hopefully it will not disappoint.
P.S Another show with a MUST GET OST!!!