If you have not listened to the music from Dantalian no Shoka, I suggest you search for: 澄んだ空気。感情的になり過ぎず、歌うように。 That track is amazing, on so many levels….
It’s been a while since I’ve done anything like a light novel review, and I felt that it would be nice to do one after a while. Other than translating, I probably spend most of my time reading. I used to read a lot when I was a little kid, but didn’t read hardly anything once I hit junior high up until at the very end of high school, so part of me thinks I’m just trying to make up for lost time. ^^ – plus nothing helps Japanese vocabulary and grammar studies than reading.
Lately (on and off), I’ve been reading Dantalian no Shoka. I grew to like the anime and around episodes 9, 10, and 11 (黄昏の書, 幻曲, and ラジエルの書架) I decided that I’d buy the entire series (8 volumes). (It’s a bit difficult to come by books, and I save money buying in bulk, so…) – After reading half of those, (covering all of the anime material and more,) I wanted to give my thoughts on the series as a whole: the light novels, the anime, and the series in comparison to others. Anyway, let’s get to it.
Dantalian no Shoka – ダンタリアンの書架 – Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian.
Dantalian no Shoka came on to the anime scene right after GOSICK, and I get the feeling at least anime-wise there was a romantic influence from GOSICK to Dantalian. They are set in the same time period, in between World War I and World War II, and both have a distinctive Gothic mystery element, so I suppose it was natural for something like that to happen.
I get the feeling that GOSICK’s watcher base was split between Dantalian and Ikoku Meiro no Croisée – one taking GOSICK’s mystery/occult portion, and the other taking, well – France. I didn’t like Ikoku Meiro no Croisée though, so that’s all I’ll say about it here. But after I breakdown and explain my impressions of both the light novel and anime versions of Dantalian’s characters I’ll make paralells to Kujou Kazuya and Victoriqué, and how those differences reflect on how both stories are told.
First of all, let’s take a look at the differences between Dalian and Huey from the light novels to the anime. I’d say that the differences between both versions are similar to the differences between PC-98 Reimu and Windows Reimu, essentially the same, but beyond a difference in looks, there’s a definite difference in emotion and character.
First, Dalian. I get the feeling that a bit of moe shine was added to Dalian for the anime. Not that I mind; the new design for her locket was cool and offered up a nice solution to the light novel Dalian’s lock paradox. Lock paradox because light novel Dalian has a giant box-like lock that appears to hang from the leather/iron brace around her neck and connect to her hip guards – over her clothing. Despite this, to actually clear the lock to open it, she has to take off a significant portion of her clothing, and the lock is actually embedded in her skin. (I just assume that there are slots in the lock so that she can slip her clothing around it properly.) The anime instead has a portion that looks like a locket, but when the key is inserted her blouse magically blows apart, and we see that the “locket” is actually the top portion of a large heart-shaped lock. I’m not entirely sure who designed that – but most of the clothing in the anime was designed by gothic/sweet lolita clothing shops (like Baby the Stars Shine Bright), so I wouldn’t be surprised if the lock redesign was handled in the same way. This all adds a bit of maturity and grace to Dalian’s appearance in the anime and makes her look older than her original “age” of 12-13. This change is important to the romantic direction that the anime takes.
Dalian is very different in the light novels. She is described as having a much more awkward appearance, a bit of a lisp, and the general behavior of a tiny dog that acts bigger than it is. At the same time though, her skin and features are described as doll-like, and along with the tone of her voice, more beautiful than any normal human being. By the tone of her skin (out of place in Britain), she looks “Eastern” or Asian. Her lock gets constant attention for being extremely out of place, and while Dalian wears a standard black and frilly dress, she is also heavily armored. Not counting anything else that might be under her dress, she has a leather and iron guard around her neck, iron plates around her waist and hips, gauntlet like protectors around her wrists and steel plated boots. In the light novels, she’s deflected attacks several times (like wonderwoman). The main thing to keep in mind about Dalian in the light novels is that while she’s beautiful, she’s more outlandish than beautiful, and that while she likes to bark and anyone and everyone, she never lets go of Huey’s coat.
Just to add, a large majority of the characters in Dantalian no Shoka mistake Dalian for Huey’s “wife to be”. “Oh, so you’re -that- kind of person. Don’t worry about it, I don’t discriminate.” Relatives that realize that’s not the case try to push Huey to marry. Haha. Jessica Elphinston is one love interest (~15-16).
^I feel a lot more sorry for Huey now. Remember all those times Dalian kicked him? She did it with these.
Remember the first episode of the anime, (Episode 00 in the light novels) when Dalian talks about the world in the gourd from the old Chinese tale, and how Dalian is “like” it? The light novels take it a step further and suggest that she is in fact that very gourd (explaining her Eastern heritage). We learn that it was only 300 years ago (from 1920-ish time) that she became a library, when she was owned by Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II who attempted to collect every grimoire in existence (I’m not sure how this ties into the anime finale, but I might have to read to the end of the series to find out – four volumes in and we’ve only met the girl inside the library once – definitively). “Dantalian’s Library” according to the light novels also appears to have more than the noted 900666 grimoires, including prophesies of other people’s lives (though you might consider the records of everyone’s lives one grimoire), and Dalian has used her library to transport large numbers of ordinary books. The library in the light novels is also less abstract that in it is in the anime, more wood and stone, and maze-like passageways in hexagonal shapes that all together from the center constitute a giant tower like the tower of babel.
Huey is more human in the light novel than he is in the anime. He’s actually not a great shot and only makes good use of the gun at close range. It’s probably been used to deflect attacks at the last minute as many times as it’s been shot. Huey’s number one expression in the light novels is “bitter smile”, he doesn’t like to consider himself a military man, and constantly uses phrases such as “all I did was fly” to refer to his service in World War I, despite the fact that he was rewarded special rank and was an ace. Huey is very protective of Dalian in the light novels as well, but his reasons and relationship with the girl in the library is masked. I think it took a while for the anime to get to this side of his character. Until episode 11 I just considered him the “awesome deus ex machina antithesis of (useless) Kazuya.” But Huey really isn’t an idiot, and uses his head quite often to solve problems rather than popping a solution out of the library. Lots of people die before Huey can do anything about it and the caveat of “life-saving magic works only once” makes him avoid it if he can help it.
What this all means anime vs. light novel is a difference in atmosphere. The anime is made to be more romantic and fantastic, whereas the light novels are more gothic and like dark fairy tales. A number of chapters are based on fairy tales (Bluebeard and Sleeping Beauty for some). I think that the ED sequence for the anime embodies that element a little more then how the anime responds. The first chapter of the light novels for instance, (Episode 01: Meditations de Gastronomie) ends with Huey walking away from a man lustfully feasting on his own brains and losing his humanity and sanity in the process. Though, the light novel doesn’t go the point of making Dalian emotionless, but is very clear that Dalian has seen a lot of death – her entire manner changes drastically in different situations, from that of a frightened puppy to that of an all knowing and sorrowful being. Not to spoil much of anything, so I’ll try to be vague, but other dark tales include: a sickly daughter that loved her father – when she finds out that that “love” was a false excuse to see a certain mistress, the daughter kills her father, his mistress, and becomes that mistress, attempting to resurrect at least in her mind or in a delusional state her father so that he would love only her; an impish man wanting for a mother attempts to cut open and crawl inside women (and girls) who are taller than him that he thinks might be suitable to be his mother. But don’t worry, there’s quite a bit of silly comedy as well.
If we want to look at some of the ways the anime romanticized the original work, one of the best examples is the first summon in the anime. At the same time, this is one of the reasons the anime is so great. When Huey summons the Slyph before the dragon in the first episode. What he reads becomes his life story in a nutshell – you get his characterization in a flash. “Oh Sheol… Hear my voice! Hear the grevious cries of a mourning child! The carcass of the butterfly you have ensnared may pale or tear apart, yet still, there are those who would tempt death for a single scale… Watch as shattered dreams take flight again!” etc. That scene was awesome, not only stylistically beautiful, it plays a strong rendition of the second main theme (in 夢想的情緒。驟雨の様なピアノの間奏). In the light novels, we’re still confronted with a dragon. Dalian gets Huey to open the lock, and while he’s sitting there stunned, she plunges her hand into her chest and draws out Book of Faeries, opening it just as they are about to be engulfed in flame, and so summons the Slyph. No romantic readings or standing in front of the dragon. A lot more proactive on Dalian’s part. It is less in this case that Dalian is commanding the Sylph or anything, but more letting it out across the boundary so they can stall the Dragon. (It doesn’t actually die or vanish in the light novels). It takes a while in the light novels before we actually see Huey read one of the grimoires. He does not magically read the words perfectly, but stumbles over them. It does appear that in chapters later on the timeline he’s much more skilled at this but he doesn’t start out that way.
Although they aren’t given as much attention as Huey and Dalian, Hal and Flamberge are a bit different as well. Namely Flamberge’s outfit is more tightly bound and her hands are tied not by her sides but twisted and locked in front of her face. She’s used to it, but she can barely walk and Hal sometimes slings her over his shoulder if they’re in a hurry. One thing that’s notable is that Hal always betrays a smile if he knows he’s made someone (usually a little girl ;3) happy, or rather happy to see someone happy just to be and not wanting at all to rely on magic. Another interesting bit that’s hard to tell in the anime is that whenever Hal has that thing about his fate is most probably to die in his own flames (like the race of giants that his weapon is supposedly handed down from or based on) Flamberge suddenly shows sadness for Hal.
Raziel and the Professor are far, far more covert in their operations in the light novels than in the anime. Neither of them make an appearance in the zombie episode, they just supposedly handed the original book to an ex-german-military man. The most we’ve seen of him has probably been in “Raziel’s Library” and in a short fragment about gambling. If anything he is more suave and more like “Moriarty” than in the anime. We actually get Raziel’s motivation in the light novels. Raziel (which means “Secrets of God” in Hebrew) the angel, the scribe to the Jewish god, had a book that contained near infinite knowledge (obtained by writing everything down). The other angels grew jealous and stole the book, casting it into the primordial seas. By the time it reached land its knowledge was broken up and distributed by humans – much of which was written down to form the first phantom books – and it’s original form was lost forever. But a philosopher (who may have made Raziel if she’s not the angel herself in a way) postulated that if all the phantom books were gathered in one place, one might be able to recreated Raziel’s book – and it would take not only all of the books in existence per say, but all of the knowledge that had been given in an abstract sense, which could be resurrected with the formation of new phantom books.
At any rate, so far the light novels are a good read. The limited third-person narration really lends itself to the format so that each chapter is more like a “tale”. Each chapter lightly reintroduces Huey and Dalian (but only as the narrator observes them), and scarce narration works better in the story. For instance it’s not that the narrator is mean and not giving you critical information (I’m talking about you GOSICK), but the narrator doesn’t know if that’s Huey or not because he hasn’t spoken his name.
From stort to story some are better than others, and sometimes the mystery’s a little too scatterbrained (I’m talking about you 幻書泥棒), but there’s a reason I keep going back to it.
I believe that I’ve hinted that I was going to talk more about GOSICK, but, just read this instead, [GOSICK Rant] and you’ll probably easily figure out what I’d have to say. I do like GOSICK a lot, and the linear and overarching plot lends itself to a much better mystery element – but where as Kazuya really liked to get on my nerves, and Victorique got a little ridiculous at times, Huey and Dalian are much easier to get attached to. They’re much weirder after all, and I like weirdos.
I had a twitter rant a while back about the differences between “Raziel’s Library” vs. Episode 11 of the anime on Twitter discussing the differences in the poetry read aloud and how the light novel’s version was much, much darker, but I don’t know where I put my notes and this is already long enough I think, so I’ll go ahead and end here.
I’ll leave you with this: