Dantalian no Shoka and I have a rocky relationship. Upon watching the first episode, the only thing that struck me about the series was the question of how something that was so beautiful to look at and listen to could have such uninspired dialogue.
Due to this somewhat crippling handicap, the series has been hard for me to immerse myself in, which is unfortunate because, if the series excels at anything it’s creating a haunting and beautiful atmosphere. However, it’s hard to envelop one’s self in an atmosphere when the dialogue is clunky and straightforward, jarring the viewer out of their lovely suspension of disbelief.
Fortunately, Dantalian has improved on itself week by week, with the dialogue gradually rising up in an attempt to meet the series’ far more outstanding aspects. While others are raving about this most recent fifth episode for being show-stopping and so very “GAINAX,” I’d like to call attention to a short bit of Dantalian that occurred a few weeks ago, in the third episode.
The purpose of the beginning of the third episode, from a narrative point of view, is to introduce us to Camilla, a childhood friend of male protagonist Huey, and the entry point for the little story I’m about to call attention to. Huey and his charge Dalian are called to investigate a group of children who were under Camilla’s friend’s tutelage until Camilla’s friend decided to use a phantom book to make the children smarter. Unfortunately, the book made them far smarter than she was, making them monsters in her mind. When Dalian and Huey visit the schoolhouse, they are shocked when they find not monsters, but fairly quiet children who tell the pair to take the book with them as they leave.
This is all that happens.
In the entire first part of this episode. There is no action. A viewer could quite literally say that nothing happens and not be exaggerating. Huey and Dalian leave with the phantom book and no violence, no Huey reaching into Dalian’s chest to access one of the other phantom books that are apparently kept within her person to fight with. They leave with the understanding that the children were not lying; these now-genius children honestly intend to do nothing with the rest of their lives (except maybe converse with each other about how intelligent they are).
The overall message, as so succinctly put by Dalian and Camilla, is that ambitious people are more likely to make their mark on the world than brilliant ones. An intelligent person, or group of people in this case, will realize the risk involved as well as the probability of failure, and wisely choose not to try in the first place. Perhaps it was with this message in mind that the series’s producers boldly decided not to include any sort of conflict within this section of the episode, which could have alienated a portion of their viewing audience. For one episode they, like the children, decided not to reach for the highest heights. Then again, completely leaving conflict out of an episode is a bold, dare I say ambitious, thing to do.
After all, wouldn’t that too be so very GAINAX?