Gainax is finally out with one of the latest premieres of the summer season. Unfortunately, they’re following this weird trend of shows featuring ill-tempered, socially retarded, but moebait little girl detectives. Fortunately, Dantalian blesses us with a quite capable male lead to pick up some of the slack.
Dantalian has a few nice things going for it. The animation is quite good, the score is really good, and it has a more mature, more adult-oriented feel to it compared to similar shows like Gosick or Kami Memo-chou. But the one knock on it is that the characters act like characters written for a story. They respond not how you’d expect people to normally respond, but rather in a way to keep the story moving. Hugh Anthony Disward (voiced bishie-fully by Daisuke One) visits his late grandfather’s mansion to take care of his large, forboding library of weird books. There he finds a girl sitting on a throne, alone, reading a book. And they quickly proceed to becoming partners in fighting off imaginary clowns, lions and dragons. No questions about why she’s there to begin with. No questions about why his grandtfather even mentioned her. No questions about why a book would suddenly turn Jumanji. No questions why he’s sticking his hand in her chest. Weird things happen, because weird things happen and no one bats an eyelash. Now, they might start explaining things later. And maybe there’s a reason Hugh is nonplussed about it all. But this is a terrible way to introduce the audience to the story. Everything that happens has no context and thus seems haphazard and thrown together.
Which is a shame, because the episode was actually quite good. Hugh breaks from the increasing trend towards characters with no personality. He’s smart, capable, and a crack shot. Unfortunately one can’t say the same about Dalian. She’s half as cute as either Gosick’s Victorique or KamiMemo’s Yuuko, but has the same ill-tempered personality. Who do we blame for this trend of loli characters who have short tempers, no manners, and absolutely no physical skills whatsoever? They apparently hold keys to solving mysteries, yet have a propensity to need rescuing on a weekly basis, and snap at their rescuers if they don’t get fed their melon pan or whatever. Someone needs to tell these writers that the key to creating chemistry between two characters doesn’t require one of them to be an ill-mannered twerp.
Random note, is it coincidence that industry grandfathers Gainax and Gonzo used live action EDs? Both are creepy as hell for different reasons.
Still, my complaints aside, I do think Dantalian is one of the better shows this season. It’s dark, interesting and worth checking out.