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?
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!
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 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.