Dantalian no Shoka Ep. 5: Getting campier by the week

“You can’t learn about the world from books alone.”

“I can. You can find everything in a book. The smell of the sun, the sweet taste of a scone, even the warmth of a bed… “

“Is any of it real?”

“Yes, it is for me.”

I may be going off on a bit of a tangent, but this part of the anime bothered me a bit. It’s possible to learn a multitude of things from a book, but to have color qualia by simply reading a book… well, I very much doubt that. Qualia are necessarily subjective; they’re our mind’s interpretation of the data collected by our sense organs. Someone can tell a blind person that the color yellow feels warm and bright — that a yellow object reflects a certain wavelength of light, but this can’t translate to qualia. Could a blind person really have an experience akin to someone actually perceiving a yellow patch in his or her mind’s eye? I doubt it. And if you’ve never experienced color qualia, how can you really say that you know color?

Like I said above, I might just be nitpicking something the anime itself isn’t taking seriously, but “Dantalian no Shoka” does put forth a rather specious ideology regarding the infallibility of text. In every single episode thus far, the anime’s characters have used the power of books and the written word to combat everything from imaginary circus beings to a magician armed with mercurial homunculi. Since the anime’s ontology depends so heavily on the power of knowledge, it would help if, well, the anime would get its knowledge right every now and then.

But that’s assuming, of course, the anime actually cares about its own logical consistency. It probably doesn’t, however, since it usually trots out obscure texts from ages long forgotten. This week, a cadre of color-coded chumps defeat a magician by each arming themselves with a Phantom Book few of the audience will have ever heard of. The anime wouldn’t want too many of its viewers to be familiar enough with the works that they might attempt to deconstruct the many books being referenced.

After all, this would destroy the narrative illusion that books can be serious juju in the hands of the undeserving. In that case, however, might “Dantalian no Shoka” amount to nothing more than just a cheap, transparent ruse — a thought experiment of just how much an animation studio can get away with? After all, even the backgrounds are so poorly rendered that the characters may as well be standing on stage before a sophomoric set design. The episodes are so self-contained and disconnected from one another that they more resemble a series of acts within a play rather than a continuous filmic narrative. Then again, I might be giving the anime’s creators too much credit.

What makes love real?
The episode also puts forth a lazy argument attempting to justify the love for a representation. This week, the maiden in distress is also just another mercurial homunculus; she’s not human. Despite this, her many courters sacrifice life and limb to protect her against her father. Can their love for her be real even though she’s only a facsimile of a person? Gosh, why does this debate sound so familiar?

Of course, within the world of “Dantalian no Shoka,” Miss Viola is no less “real” than any of the males pursuing her. Their characterizations are all one-dimensional regardless of whether or not one person is anime flesh and blood and the other is mercury. As a result, the distinction between man and homunculus is meaningless within the context of the story. The same, however, cannot be said for other female representations….

No anime character, no matter how well written, should ever measure up to the depth and complexity of a real life woman, but hey — that’s the point, isn’t it? Some people don’t actually want a real girl and all the difficulties a real relationship might entail,

Has Dalian’s character improved any?

Everything else
There was some pretty derpy animation this week:

That guy on the left has seen better days. This must have been an intentional joke. Seriously, if you still got a copy of this episode, just rewatch this short scene and pay close attention to his eyes. You’ll understand what I mean.

When the characters go on a carriage ride through the dark and foreboding forest yet again, I wonder if “Dantalian no Shoka” are reusing backgrounds from episode one. To verify this, I would actually have to re-download the first episode and, gosh, I dunno if it’s worth the trouble.


18 Replies to “Dantalian no Shoka Ep. 5: Getting campier by the week”

  1. I had to check out who was handling this as the director and look at that, this is seems like the first tv series he’s handling. I wouldn’t have guessed!

    Can their love for her be real even though she’s only a facsimile of a person? Gosh, why is this debate sound so familiar?

    Are you telling me that I will never marry my husbando, Huey?! Don’t even go there.

    Gainax might as well stick to original productions. Dantalian no Shoka and Sacred Seven can go hand in hand in illustrating how far well known studios can go with this kind of quality. When the five guys were glowing in different colors and their pupils were moving super fact to read the texts (in badly done motion blur) I thought it was just hilarious.

    1. Well, even if it’s the director’s first gig, that shouldn’t affect the animation quality too much. Unless, of course, he’s telling them to make five guys go cross-eyed for no reason.

      Well, at least with “Sacred Seven,” you get the impression that Sunrise has more important fish to fry. What is Gainax doing on the side that justifies “Dantalian no Shoka” being such a bore.

      1. The animation is still pretty decent, it’s just that Dantalian’s shortcomings are probably a result of his lack of experience. But then you can have a veteran director and still have crappy shows so maybe I’m being too hard on this guy.

        Sunrise does kind of have an excuse. T&B has been one of the better shows this year and they have to two shows this fall. I don’t know if Gainax is making anything for early next year so I have no idea what is going on with this adaptation. Apparently, Gainax adaptations just aren’t up to par with their original anime. Why bother with adaptations then? Geez.

        1. It’s not like Gainax is investing too much money into this show. A directorial debut? Can probably pay him pennies as well. I dunno how popular this series is with other anime fans, but I bet it’ll make some profit.

          1. A directorial debut? Can probably pay him pennies as well.

            I suppose it could allow their lesser experienced ones hone their skills while making money at the same time too. Maybe the method is being applied to Sacred Seven too. That moment they said: ROCKS! Sunrise greenlit it like a K-on sequel.

            1. Maybe I’m just colored (or soured) by my graduate experience, but whenever an inexperienced person is put in charge, it’s usually to take advantage of their labor for pennies. The entire world of research academia depends on this! Let the kids teach and grade the papers while the professors rarely have to interact with their undergrads.

  2. There was one scene where it hovered on the cadre of suitors looking suitably shocked, and the one in the center had the weirdest mouth tilt that should in no way be natural. The quality animation in this episode in particular was just astounding.

    1. Gainax has been phoning this series in all season long. Maybe they’re working on something else, I dunno. I usually only stick to the anime, however, so I couldn’t tell you what’s going on with the studio.

  3. No denying that “self-contained” feel to the episodes. Maybe it works for some shows, but shows tend to be either longer or having every episode build up to and actually mean something in the end. It’s like I’m playing a certain platform game with a certain blue-clad main character, trodding through each stage and beating each boss. At least Megaman’s doing it to collect weapons. We’ve got nothing to gain from these individual stories within the show so far except for learning about the random flashbacks from Mr. Dickward’s past.

    1. Hey, hey, that’s Mr. Huge Dickwad to you. As for everything else you wrote, Mega Man is at least getting himself prepared to stop something, either Wily or Sigma. Hell, I even remember how beating certain levels in X1 would change how other levels looked and played (certainly the Silver age of Mega Man there). I don’t think “Dantalian no Shoka” can touch that. No, the better comparison for this anime, I think, is a more pretentious “Scooby Doo.”

      1. Scooby Doo does seem better in that regard as a comparison, since the Megaman series is actually fun. You don’t tend to go watching Scooby Doo in order to see what’s happening with the character’s lives and to follow their goals to the end, you watch it for the quirky characters and dog solving mysteries. I’d much rather solve mysteries with a talking dog over Dalian, of course.

        1. the Megaman series is actually fun.

          Everything dies eventually. Not that this has anything to do with the anime, but hey, I like video games too and I think the series choked itself to death around X4. Any of the later games should’ve never existed.

          1. I figure it was all worth it for the Zero and ZX series games, though I wish they weren’t handheld and explained more of what happened to X other than him becoming less popular than Zero. But hey, they at least tried with the story, I suppose. As far as the X series goes, X5 was okay, X6 was frustrating on a multitude of levels, X7 was a bit too loaded with gimmicks and X8 was my favorite of the series aside from X4.

            1. I haven’t played the Zero games. I just know I didn’t really care for Zero back in the X series. And you liked X8? I just hate the move toward 3-D for everything. A certain charm is lost in the transition, much like SFIII > SFIV.

  4. Honestly, I looked to X7 as more of the “transition to 3-D” for the series and hated that more than X8, as X8 improved on what X7 was by remaining 2.5D instead of what X7 attempted and mostly failed at. X8 made the characters look a bit lanky and literally streamlined Zero’s hair, but other than that, I thought it was one of the better translations to 3-D for a 2-D series. Way worse things have happened when trying to translate to 3D.

    1. Honestly, once the series started to include anime cutscenes, I thought it jumped the shark. The voice acting made the paper-thin story even more of a joke. I’m not surprised there hasn’t been a non-handheld version of Mega Man in a while. Now, if only someone could convince Sega to do the same with Sonic.

  5. This was like watching Power Rangers being trolled by the Burger King. Seriously, I thought that baron was a joke. And what is up with Dalian and Huey just standing around doing nothing for the last couple of cases? At least Dalian got it right when she said that was some over-the-top theatrics, but that was true for the whole damn episode.

    1. Yeah, like I wrote in the title, the whole series is starting to become pure camp at this point, but unlike most of its kind, “Dantalian no Shoka” isn’t funny. You know it’s trying to be funny because of the comedic pauses and whatnot, but somehow, I don’t think too many people are laughing.

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