Dantalian no Shoka 09 — Story within a Story

Er, wait. Dantalian doesn’t really have a story to put another story inside. I guess it’s just the usual episodic story.

Why Should I Care?

One risk for a show with an episodic structure such as Dantalian’s is that the viewer will probably not be interested in all of the stories. This is compounded by the fact that Dantalian has no consistently strong characters: Huey and Dalian are impotent for most of the show. So much of Dantalian’s ability to maintain viewer interest depends on the characters in each of the short stories.

This week’s characters were decidedly lacking. We have the girl who will grow up to be a sage, the wise woman, some random soldiers, and the boyfriend. They do little to distinguish themselves beyond their basic descriptions. But it doesn’t matter, anyway: none of them have any influence on the plot. Does this mean we get an episode where Huey and Dalian do something? Of course not! (unless you count getting lost in a forest and reading a book as doing something)

Things just happen in Dantalian without rhyme or reason. Dalian and Huey wander around just because, and Ira gets dragged around by events and other people. The only “characters” we can claim are in control of the narrative are the book bugs. The story is not character driven, and the characters come across as mostly an afterthought. Is it plot driven? I don’t think so. We do get good characters and stories from time to time, but it almost seems like a coincidence. I would say that Dantalian simply isn’t driven at all.

The creators love anti-climaxes, and these have resulted in some interesting endings. But if the viewers don’t particularly care about the story in the first place (and if every other story has an anticlimactic ending too), an anti-climax will only make the story fail even harder than a traditional climax would have.

Allusions

  • Dalian mentions at the beginning of the episode that they are approaching the Michaux fortress. This is probably referring to Henri Michaux, a Belgian / French writer and artist. In case you thought Dantalian’s artwork became a masterpiece in this episode, it didn’t: all the pictures in this post are pieces by Michaux. I didn’t want to deface this site with screenshots from the episode: I can see what they were going for, but it sure was ugly. Also, note the bug-like objects in Michaux’s art.
  • The book Huey read mentions Abdul Alhazad, who is probably Abdul Alhazred, the Mad Arab, author of the Necronomicon in the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • Continuing the Arabic theme, we have Suleiman, the Arabic name of King Solomon, who hosts a court of…
  • Djinn. In particular we have three types: Marid, associated with the sea, Ifrit, particularly strong Djinn, and the Shaitan, unbelieving and hideous Djinn similar to the devil. It also mentions the Cabicaj, but I couldn’t find anything about them.

I figured I should include a poem by Michaux as well, since we seem to be on a theme. This one reminded me of Dalian.

Waiting

A mad being,
a beacon being,
a being erased a thousand times,
a being exiled from the far end of the horizon
a being sulking at the far end of the horizon
a being crying from the far end of the horizon
a thin being
an honest being
a proud being
a being who wanted to be
a being in the churning of two epochs which collide
a being in the deleterious gas of consciousness which succumbs,
a being like the first day
a being…

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9 thoughts on “Dantalian no Shoka 09 — Story within a Story

  1. I didn’t think it was much uglier than their usual art style and animation. In fact if the production is going to be half-assed anyway, I welcome them playing with art style shifts and such.. it helps keep away the boredom.

    I also liked the pacing and concept of the episode a lot more than the cheap “playing with demon books is dangerous mmmkay” they’ve been repeating ad nauseum. More boredom spared.

    Plus, if Huey and Dalian are going to be cheap walking plot-devices, this is the way to do it. Dalian’s obnoxiousness was kept to a minimum, and her and Huey felt like they had a purpose for a change.

    1. You know, I’m going to have to correct myself on the art style. I originally watched some low quality streaming rip, and it looked like crap. In retrospect, the segments with the usual art style also looked like crap. When I found a higher quality version, it looked great. I would go so far as to say that the animation was better than usual. I guess the lesson is that video quality matters. Still, the Michaux artwork looks better. :)

      They did try something new by going away from the dangerous book theme, I’ll give them that. Huey and Dalian did have a purpose, but for them, the struggles of the characters in the book were irrelevant. They only wanted to stop the books in their library from being eaten. As usual, they have little effect on the lives of the people they meet.

      Come to think of it, perhaps Dalian sees real people like characters in this book: as a story she can’t change, only observe from the comfort of her chair.

  2. From the story, its actually pretty obvious why Huey and Dalian are wandering around.

    The bugs are eating the story BUT they don’t know at which part of the story the bugs currently are. The fortress was obviously an earlier part of the story and the town a later part. Much like flipping through a book, they are simply travelling from the start of the book towards its end.

    Once they got to the town, they had to find out where the bugs were. As they were shown wandering the town before showing up in the wilderness, the words of Dalian hinted that they failed to find anything in town and Huey suggested the forest. Hence Dalian getting mad about trudging in the wilds for nothing (when what they sought was where they were earlier)

    1. That’s an interesting idea about them travelling from the start to end of the book, which I hadn’t thought about. It does seem reasonable to think that they’re travelling through the story, and not only through the physical world of the setting.

      It still doesn’t seem to me like Huey and Dalian have actually accomplished much, but this could actually serve as an explanation. They’re trapped in the story, and all they can do is turn to the next page.

  3. Since what I like most about this show’s art is the colors, this episode didn’t make me very happy.

    I thought it was boring, relatively well crafted, but boring. Ultimately the characters were all generic so it couldn’t be helped.

    1. Well, it could have been helped if they went with less boring characters? :)

      I guess that if you want to enter a generic fantasy world you need generic fantasy characters though.

  4. Lol. I am completely zoned in and out on this one, lol. Could not even remotely be interested in what was going on, so it a was a risk gamble. Oddly enough, they are delaying the OAV’s release. Not exactly related, but something is up.

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