It’s like I’m watching a whole new show. The animation — hell, the art direction in this episode just has a rawer, less processed feel than what we’ve been getting from the series. Some bloggers have been impressed by Dantalian no Shoka‘s look, but I haven’t. Oh, come now, I’m not being a hater. Do you really find these blurry background shots impressive:
It’s as if someone took some photos and ran image filters on them over and over until they looked vaguely anime-ish. Instead of looking lush and detailed, the anime’s typical look strikes me as a blurry mess. This complete shift in animation style for the ninth episode shows that — as the old adage goes — less is more. Yes, there’s certainly less “detail” in these shots:
I don’t need to be an art buff, however, to see that there’s a definite style being conveyed in the two screenshots above. You can watch this episode and immediately discern that the animators were trying to emulate a particular look, one you might find in storybooks. On the other hand, what does the show’s typical art direction say to the audience? That we really like to cut corners and save some money? Plus, the rustic, hand-drawn style just adds a certain charm to the anime.
There’s something more organic about how the characters appear too. Your standard anime shoujo often looks as if she’s been dipped in varnish and buffed to an unnatural shine. While the latter of the two shots above can hardly be called “human,” anything that moves away from the plastic art direction that often plagues anime is worthy of cheer.
“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”
Of course, while the look of the anime has certainly changed, the same cannot be said about the entire show. In fact, the way the series operate has stayed fundamentally the same since the first episode. We’ve seen this song and dance before: one-off plot begins, Dalian and Hugh show up, they casually solve the problem (or just flat out dismiss it), and finally, we never hear of the events and conflicts of these episodes ever again. So of course, while I sit here and amuse myself over the new (but destined to be temporary) art direction, I can’t help but wonder what the show would be like with a new… well, anything.
Imagine a new sound direction giving us different VAs. Oh, I guess we could keep Hugh’s seiyuu, but oh dear, Dalian’s shrill whine is a constant reminder that a chameleon can only change its colors.
Imagine a new direction for the story where every episode isn’t self-contained. How might the anime have turned out if the events every week were actually building to some thrilling conclusion? Is it unfair to think that every episode should be critical to our understanding of the anime? I mean, as much as I applaud the complete shift in animation style, we could just as easily not have seen the show this week and would honestly miss out on nothing important to the series’ overall narrative — if it even has one.
Where is everyone?
Again, Hal and Flamberge are missing, but not only that, when are we gonna get around to this girl:
Is this even a 2-cours series? I didn’t think so considering the lack of effort Gainax was putting into the show, but we’re moving so slowly that, hell, is there really enough time to flesh out the new characters and still wrap things up by the end of the season? Oh, who am I kidding — nobody cares about fleshing out the side characters.