With a plot that sounded interesting, this anime grabbed my attention long before it even started to air. I love books and reading, so I was happy to see that this would be incorporated in an anime. The promotional poster made it look like it was going to be a gothic-like, dark anime, and let’s say it at least tried to be that.

Hugh is a young man that inherits his grandfather’s mansion and enormous library. When Hugh goes into the library, he sees a girl named Dalian, who tells him that she has access to so-called Phantom books… Together they prevent the Phantom books from causing harm in the world.

12 episodes
Mystery, supernatural, historical

In my opinion the story of this anime had a lot of potential: I absolutely love the element of books being more than ‘just books’. Unfortunately Dantalian no Shoka did not fully play out that potential: instead it relied on rather predictable stories to deliver the content of the show. This is a very episodic anime, meaning that we get a new story every episode. I have no problems with that, as this often makes an anime entertaining to watch. But in this case the stories felt repetitive: every episodes we had a beautiful female character that either is in trouble or causes trouble. Oh yes, and the number of people that dies is simply astounding. No, Dantalian no Shoka, you don’t have to kill of every character you don’t feel like using anymore; you can also simply let them disappear from the screen. Another aspect that I’d like to mention is the plot holes. Sometimes I really wondered if the makers just added some things only for the purpose of one episode and then forgot about it altogether.

I liked the art a lot. It was rather conventional in its character designs, but the backgrounds were done differently. The buildings, for example, looked like photographs instead of drawings. I was impressed by this, as this is not a common given in anime. Towards the end of the anime there is one episode where the art is suddenly different (and not for the good, I can tell you that), but luckily this was a one-episode thing only. The animation was very good as well and did the artwork justice.

The characters lacked depth and development, and that was sometimes painfully obvious. Also Dalian, the tsundere in this show, was perhaps a bit “too tsundere”: she always acts arrogant, but as soon as she’s promised candy and scones, her personality turns into that of a six-year old. Candy and scones, it’s simply too predicting… The other main lead, Hugh, was more neutral and sometimes even came across as boring… As a conclusion, the characters were definitely not the anime’s strongest point.

The music of this anime definitely stood out. It fitted the darker theme well, by using for example an organ and string instruments. There were some recurrent themes that were used rather often, but I was not bothered by that, because they were beautiful to listen to. I think the voice actors and actresses were chosen extremely well: if it had not been for them, the characters would have seemed a lot more flat and uninteresting. I especially liked Hugh’s voice.

My final conclusion for this anime is that it would have been better had it not been episodic. Or if it had chosen for an episodic format, it could at least have chosen more interesting and less predictable stories. The stories are what slightly ruined this anime for me, because the art looked great, the characters were not amazing but decent and the music was superb. But if you cannot back these elements up with a good and solid storyline, then the efforts are wasted. I’m not saying I don’t recommend this anime, as I’m sure that some people might have enjoyed Dantalian no Shoka. But if you’re a true fan of horror and mystery series, then it’s perhaps better to choose another anime that has a better storyline.