Huey and Dalian encounter a phantom book in a batch of newspapers that give rise to zombies. When they investigate, they meet The Professor and the Red Biblioprincess, who plot to distribute the papers and unleash a zombie army that will destroy London. The Professor shoots Huey, who then escapes out a window with Dalian. He unlocks Dalian and convenes with the “Inner Dalian”, tries to release her, and acquires the phantom book that eliminates the zombies. Hal and Flamberge burn the remaining papers, and the Professor flees. Huey and Dalian continue their quest to hunt down phantom books.
“I go on to tomorows unknown,” says Huey. Well, he won’t be going alone. He’ll have a sweet-toothed biblioprincess talking down to him all the way while barely concealing her deep affection for him and everything he’s done for her. She can no longer pretend that there isn’t a part of her inside – one with pale pink hair. After all, that Inner Dalian even speaks to her when Huey is close to death’s door. She and Huey have been a good team, and will continue to be as they go on to tomorrow. The other two keykeeper/biblioprincess duos were almost afterthoughts by comparison, relegated to examples that Huey/Dalian weren’t unique in their relationship. But it isn’t like they needed to be anything more.
Gainax has a tendency to be all over the place with its series. The last I’d seen was Panty & Stocking, which couldn’t have been any different from this. But both were good. Shikabane Hime? Not so good. With only one hiccup to its name, Dantalian no Shoka was consistently fun to watch, its mysteries and themes were suitably clever and eclectic, it’s settings were pretty and often gorgeous, and the core duo and their verbal duelling grew on me as much as they grew on each other.
The entire episode is a flashback to The Great War when Huey was a lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, where he quickly distinguishes himself. It focuses on his captain, Ilas, who switches sides to the Germans. He is writing a war anthology containing the voices of the battlefield. A biblioprincess, Raziel, visits him one night to tell him it is the egg of a phantom book. He meets Huey in a dogfight, at which time Huey tells him he should be dead, and uses the anthology to defeat him. Raziel’s keykeeper – whome Ilas met earlier as a bartender – raised him from the grave to finish the book, but when he didn’t, he returned him to the afterlife.
The subjects of this series have been as wide-ranging as those contained within a library, and I like that. The episodes can be enjoyed individually due to their unique and diverse characters. This week, there’s no Dalian, but another biblioprincess – the third we’ve encountered – but rather than focusing on her and her keykeeper, it’s mostly about their instrument, Ilas. This episode is also full of WWI-era bi-(and tri-)plane action, which when set against the picturesque European countryside, makes for a most impressive and bouyant setting. For Raziel’s (brief) part, she is quite nimble and light on her feet, sporting a very cool get-up.
Huey and Ilas are both total Wright-nerds and adept at “basquet-ball”. They’re both aces (Huey won the Victoria Cross and gave it to his underling without a second thought), but neither consider themselves “warriors”. Ilas is more interested in crafting his poetic war anthology than killing bogies, while we all know that when the war ended, Huey moved on to solving mysteries with Dalian. It must have been strange for Huey’s CO and mentor to die, then suddenly reappear on the enemy side. A nice touch is the key to Dalian that Huey mistakes for the key to the manor – perhaps he didn’t yet know his mystical calling?
Huey and Dalian encounter a woman in the park who can play the violin like a champ. She turns out to be Christabel Sistene, a famous violinist. It turns out she is a doll/android. Her companion Dallaglio built her to be able to play the dual unplayable “phantom scores” of Guillermo Baldini. Baldini’s music can have the same effect as narcotics, which the wealthy patron Kendrick exploits to begin an “artistic revolution.” However, when the concert begins, Christabel plays not the hypnotic Utopia score, but the destructive Twilight score, which destroys the hall and the phantom scores, and kills Kendrick and his ilk.
When Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” was first performed, the sounds were so new and strange, the audience rioted. It was neat to see that same principle employed here: the music has all sorts of effects on people, from addition to bliss to despair. I can forgive the anachronistic android in this time period; the creators aren’t going for historical accuracy. It stands to reason when humans can’t do something easily or at all, they built something to do it for them, as Dallaglio did here with Christabel. His intention was to clear his’ father’s good name, but his creation would be perverted into a weapon by Kendrick.
Kendrick is an interesting villain, for as little as we get to see him. His obvious fatal flaw is believing Christabel has no free will or connection to her creator – she does. But his dream of a bloodless, “artistic revolution” with which to seize power. It’s a great scheme in theory: use the addictive music to bend others to his will, and use the destructive music as a threat against those who would oppose him. He could have simply used Christabel to make himself lots of money: if your customers are addicted, you’ll never want for cash – but obviously he had grander designs. Ironic too that being in the soundproof room prevented him from hearing Christabel’s “warning” music that led to everyone else’s evacuation.
Huey and Dalian travel to a fantastical land where they meet the young apprentice and granddaughter of a powerful shamaness. A plague of giant insects are threatening her town and its people, and even the poisonous herbal salve her grandma concocts is ineffective against the fearsome beasts. Huey eliminates the scourge by reading a book from Dalian. It’s then revealed that the two are back in Huey’s house, going through and fumigating books infested with bookworms; the entire story took place in the world of one of those books.
Hey, now that’s more like it! After an underwhelming, dawdling episode last week, the series goes a little high concept by dumping us in a totally new world, richy-animated in gorgeous hand-scrawled pencil and pastel. The world, and its heroine Ira, instantly reminded me if that nature-lovin’, ass-kickin’, heart-o-gold hippie princess, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. That’s a good thing. Ira doesn’t play a huge role here, but I do like how we’re first thrust into this world from her perspective, and we only meet up with Huey and Dalian when she meets them by pure chance.
The swarms of giant insects – or Baziumu – similarly reminded me of Nausicaä’s Ohmu. They don’t last long as a threat, but the brief period that they are, they’re sufficiently frightening. But the fact that they represent actual bookworms attacking the book – and the story and illustrations therein – is superb. In effect, this was another episode of Dalian and Huey hanging out in his house, only this week they were transported to another world rather than bothered by their imbecilic friends. Good stuff!
Two characters from pevious episodes return with new phantom book problems. First Camilla, who acquires the Book of Equivalence to continually barter until she gets bored and gets Dalian a teddy she wanted. Second, Huey’s war buddy Armand is suffering from the effects of the Book of Relationship, actually two books in possession of two lovers, only his fiance believes he’s cheating on her. He isn’t, but her suspicions are enough to incur the wrath of the book.
This week had the feeling of another respite episode; Huey and Dalian are not that involved and the stakes and danger are quite low in both segments. While I don’t have a problem with Camilla and Armand returning, I do have a problem with how just about everyone in this episode, including these two, are complete morons, as a more-moe-than-usual Dalian remarks. The bookkepper gets things started by accidentally selling an extremely dangerous, potentially deadly book. Then Camilla uses it as an afternoon’s diversion. Huey and Dalian chase her across a dozen locations in which she makes exchanges. Can’t she just play croquet or something?
Then there’s Armand, who barges into Huey’s house, nearly kills Dalian and Camilla (who’s still there for some reason), and also seems to set the house on fire – yet we never see how it’s put out. Armand’s an idiot for getting mixed up in another book and not notifying his lieutenant the moment he came across it, while his fiancee Lianna is an idiot for thinking every time he looks at or talks to another woman, he’s a traitorous traitor who deserves death. I also had a problem with them actually letting her kill him (to fulfill ’till death do us part’) and so cavalierly bringing him back like it was nothing. These books are not toys!
Last week proved there are other duos out there like Huey and Dalian, but this week we get back to their exploits, which begin innocently enough with a bun-acquiring mission. She certainly shares traits with Index – being a repository of magic knowledge, being small and cute and sweet-toothed – but her interaction with Huey is of such higher quality, it isn’t even worth comparing them beyond those superficial traits.
This week the two are thrust into the middle of a conflict between a cosmetics company and its most gifter perfumer, Madam Fiona Famenias, and the company’s and its shady underworld partners’ desire for maximum profits. Fiona is a very interesting character, called “unruly” by her father, but also eccentric, getting into peoples’ personal space to sniff them, garnering her the nickname “inu musume” – dog woman – from Dalian. She even has a civet up her skirt (don’t ask)! She also has a phantom book in her possession, the contents of which aid her work.
Her ultimate goal isn’t profits, but to develop a scent that will make everyone happy. My first reaction to this was, uh, she’s trying to make drugs. It turns out, the byproduct of one of her perfumes is indeed a drug called Relic that the Padauk Firm intends to replace opium. The Firm, getting high on its own supply, massacres the Famenia’s office and Fiona’s father, and leads to a great standoff in which Huey has to fight a drug addict who doesn’t feel pain, Fiona cleverly throws various vials perfume at the foes to incapacitate them. You definitely want a potions master on your side.
The sequence where huey unlocks dalian and pulls out a book is abridged. They use the book to save her life, but she knocks Huey out and ties up Dalian, then proceeds to take out the entire Pandauk firm herself, to “atone” for what she perceives as greed on her part. They cannot save her again, and she dies. They return to find her house burning, and the scent wafting from the billowing smoke is the very ideal scene she had sought all along. Not a particularly necessary twist, but I didn’t mind it, and it was ironic.
And now for something completely…alternate.
This week we take a break from the trials and travails of Huey Disward and Dalian and follow along a brand spankin’ new duo of bookish detective and bratty library-maiden. They are Hal Kamhout and Flamberge. Hal looks like he could be an officer in Fullmetal Alchemist, while Flam reminds me a bit of Tycho Science from Diebuster, only with the voice of Holo from Spice & Wolf.
There’s is an adversarial but clearly effective working relationship here, although they bury their mutual respect for one another behind slightly more vicious teasing and insults. Hal keeps Flam locked up in chains, even in the heat of battle, and when he unlocks the library within her, well, let’s just say he’s not as gentle as Huey is with Dalian. Aside from the new faces, it’s another open-shut case involving a town full of enchanted dolls, repopulated by a female cop after a bombing raid killed most of the town’s population.
Unlike Huey, who is just kinda muddling through with his role, Hal is a full-fledged “Libricide officer” complete with knowledge of baritsu and possession the Staff of Surtr (kinda a mini Lance of Longinus?) whose duty is to find phantom books, take them out, and “burn away” the evil parts of the people who use them, if they can be redeemed, as the cop could. Nice diversion, but I still think I like Huey and Dalian more.
Yet another solid outing for Dantalian no Shoka. What the famous courtesan Viola lacks in memories and answers, she makes up for in charm and beauty, such that no less than five wealthy suitors propose to marry her, promising to retrieve five phantom books for some unspecified use.
Turns out this Viola lady is too good to be true, as in she’s a homonculus, created by a true magician of a level that surprises even Dalian. Count Megar is his name, and he has a mustache to twirl and everything. He wants her back so he can dissect her, so he unleashes magical attacks her hapless suitors cannot hope to defend. This makes for some excellent action sequences.
Enter Dalian, who lets Huey unlock the biblioteca and grab the real books. The magician’s illusory magic is neutralized, and the battle ends with a stalemate, though everyone is saved. We also see the lilac-haried Inner Dalian, who interacts with young Huey, and tells him she’d forgotten about lonliness until he arrived. She may give him a hard time, but there’s definitely affection there, and Huey knows it.
A most unconventional murder mystery occupies the full episode this week, as Huey and Dalian descend upon a house where a rabidly-obsessed fan has imprisoned a popular young author and his mistress with a phantom book that allows her to kill them both at will, only for one of them to resurrect. In this manner, she makes the author, one Lenny Lents, write the novels how she sees fit.
Dalian is also a fan, and not only intends to resolve the case for the sake of justice and goodwill, but also so the third part of a trilogy of books she’s invested in. The mad fan, Paula, is not blood-shy in the least, as she shoots her two victims in the head dozens of times in the course of this episode, and knows her way around a machete.
It’s really Paula’s own craziness that’s her undoing, as she’s libreral with her bullet use, drops the book, and through her overzealous killing, both Lenny and his lover have developed a tolerance to death. With the help of the book, the two turn on her and swallow her up in a eeiry lightshow. Dalian gets the third book from a safe deposit box, but isn’t pleased with how her favorite characters’ arcs go. I know how she feels; No. 6 is kinda going that way!
This episode was a double-feature, with two cases on either side of the halfway point. The first was a creepy and potentially very intriguing case of a teacher who gave their children access to the phantom Book of Wisdom to increase their intelligence. Problem is, it worked too well. Huey and Dalian are exposed to this case via Camillia, a blonde young aristocrat who’s always wearing the latest fashions from Paris or America.
Dalian takes an immediate dislike to the “spinster” and her “hysterical” get-up, to the point of rudeness. However, she’s somewhat appeased by Camillia’s offerings of tea, scones, chocolates, jam, and clotted cream. When it comes to sweets, Dalian is still a little kid. As for the case? The detective duo slinks into the school to find a bunch of very creepy kids who know everything about them. Rather than put up a fight, they promise not to start anything, as they’re “not dumb enough” to take over the world. Well, then. Slink away…
The second case, in which burglars storm Huey’s mansion, tie Huey and Dalian up, and scour the place for a book called “Queen of the Night.” Thing is, it isn’t a book at all, but an immense carnivorous plant in the conservatory that lures prey with book-like petals. It eats both of the half-witted interlopers, making this an episode where there’s lots of excellent Huey and Dalian banter, but they don’t actually do a whole lot. Rather, they kind of observe cases more or less solving themselves. Who says it always has to be hard every week?
This week was a clever little ball of yarn that gradually, confidently unravelled to reveal its mystery. Huey jumps to the conclusion that a phantom book of some kind is responsible for the curse that is keeping a young woman trapped in a house and murdering anyone near her. The truth is more interesting.
In reality, the curse was bestowed upon the lady by her grandmother. For generations, the females in her family suffered extremely abusive upbrinings, leading them to grow into homicidal maniacs. The family patriarch – a music box master – built a golem to conceal evidence of the murders. Huey and Dalian work together to uncover the mystery.
This series is full of excellent little details, like the 72 bells of the clock tower running the golem, the book in bookish Huey’s pocket protecting him from the crazy woman’s knife; and the subtle but obvious romantic tension between the dashing Huey and eerily beautiful Dalian, who are proving to have great chemistry. The series also promises a diverse array of mysteries in which Dalian’s inner library will prove vital to both the solving, and Huey’s survival.
A relatively ordinary young man is chosen by fate to protect a delicate, pallid, otherworldly girl who happens to be a repository for 900,666 mystical grimoires. She’s a walking, talking, bratty library who likes to eat. Sound familiar?
Well fear not, this isn’t an Index ripoff…far from it. It’s GAINAX, back with something completely different after the yet-to-be-concluded Panty & Stocking. Dantalian no Shoka (which refers to the girl, Dalian) is a 1920s era magical mystery romp, which so far happens to be quite good.
The chemistry between Dalian and her new keeper, ex-pilot Huey (or Lord Henry Disward) is more dynamic and complex than that of Index and Touma, the former was pretty much a pet of the latter – with magical powers. Dalian may look childish, but she has a sharp tongue and is quick to scold Huey for his ignorance.
Their literary banter is infectious, as is all the mystical exposition that forms the climax. , It also features drop-dead gorgeous lighting and backgrounds, a trippy live-action ED, and Miyuki Sawashiro lending her strong voice to Dalian. This makes a fine addition to an already very promising summer season. Rating: 4