Dantalian no Shoka – Masters Following Students

Dantalian no Shoka has been great fun, and watching it inevitably makes me think about Gosick, another light novel-based anime set during the 20s starring a goth-loli. In turn, it also makes me think about the creative voices behind these two adaptions. This post is entirely speculation and fun on my part. It is neither my goal to interpret what the creators of these shows intended, nor to compare the shows in terms of quality.

In 2008, then-newbie voice actress Yuuki Aoi co-starred in a series called Kure-nai alongside veteran actress Sawashiro Miyuki. Since then, Yuuki has considered Sawashiro her idol and biggest inspiration as an actress (as documented on the blog of Yuuki Aoi fan Hashihime’s blog many times: 1 2 3 4). Nowadays, both of them are very popular (and among my favorites). For the past two seasons, Yuuki has played Victorique, the lead character in Gosick; and now, Sawashiro is playing Dalian, the lead in Dantalian no Shoka.

Victorique was a perfect role for Yuuki Aoi and one that I greatly enjoyed for the brief time that I watched Gosick. I didn’t stick around long enough for Sawashiro’s appearance in the series as Victorique’s mother(!!). Now we have Dalian, and the parallels to be drawn between her and Victorique are staggering. Both are very small girls (older than they appear) who dress extravagantly and have very long hair—both spend most of their time locked away in a library, not entirely of their own accord, wherein they read insane numbers of books—both have brilliant minds capable of instantly solving mysteries—both are anti-social, though the biggest difference between them is that Victorique is more quiet, whereas Dalian is loud (but they’re equally rude).

It stands to reason that Yuuki Aoi could’ve also been a great fit for Dalian—albeit casting her would’ve been quite tacky coming right off of Gosick. Sawashiro, however, isn’t someone I’d have expected for the role. It’s true that she’s played her fair share of lolis, but she’s far more commonly cast as cool older girls, which are the roles I know and love her for.

I don’t intend to compare these performances by any quality standard for the same reason that I won’t compare the shows that way: while sharing many stylistic similarities, their intents are different. Dantalian is an episodic series, whereas Gosick follows an arc structure with an over-arcing story. Because of that, Dalian is a less-developed character than Victorique, and less prone to the kind of emotional lines that might make the voice acting stand out. That said, I all-around prefer Yuuki’s performance over Sawashiro’s. It simply fascinates me that Sawashiro would be playing a character so similar to that of her pseudo-mentee in the season after said mentee’s show completed its run.

While I enjoy Yuuki’s performance over Sawashiro’s, the same can’t be said about the series themselves—after all, I’m six nine episodes into Dantalian, whereas I dropped Gosick after only two. The reasons for that lie in the presentation of each series, which gets me thinking about another totally fake master-student relationship: that of studios GAINAX and BONES.

Why am I calling BONES a student of GAINAX? Simply because BONES have been known to pay homage to GAINAX shows and styles many times in their series. BONES are masters of remembering love, and do so for much more than just GAINAX shows, but I really like comparing these studios because both are awesome and have their own consistent styles and high-quality output.

That said, Gosick was a disappointment as a BONES show for me. Coming from a studio renowned for thickly stylish shows (Star Driver’s second cour aired alongside Gosick’s first), the show wasn’t nearly as stylish as it should’ve been (considering it’s a series called fucking “GOTHIC”). The episodes that I saw were awkwardly paced and poorly directed as a result of haphazard adaption. (Doesn’t help I’ve read one of the books.) It also suffered from a boring male protagonist dragging Victorique and the series down (which isn’t true of the novels).

Dantalian on the other hand is exactly as stylish as it ought to be, with a dense atmosphere, stupendous opening and ending songs/videos, and a male lead who, while not large in presence, is kind of a badass. That I prefer Dantalian over Gosick in spite of caring a lot more about Victorique than I do about Dalian is a testament to the importance of these elements.

What I find interesting about comparing each studio’s presentation of their work is that both are oddballs among the studio’s body of work; but for different reasons. On paper, BONES seemed like a perfect fit for Gosick (in fact, when I read the novel, they were my top hopeful in the event of an adaption). It’s actually strange that Gosick bears little visual resemblance to any other BONES shows. Dantalian, meanwhile, seemed like a totally odd fit for GAINAX, and it’s not the least bit surprising that it bears no resemblance to their other work (besides episode five, of course ahaha (edit: also, nine)). It’s worth mentioning that neither studio had done any light novel adaptions before creating these two series.

The pretext of Sawashiro Miyuki and Yuuki Aoi or GAINAX and BONES as master and student is a bit of silliness on my part, but coincidence or not, it’s interesting that two shows with so many similarities would air back-to-back and be crafted by these studios and voice actresses.

Addendum: Also, in both cases, the novel art is more sharp, whereas the designs of the girls are more rounded in the anime adaptions.

(This post was written a month ago as an application for THAT Anime Blog. While my application hasn’t been denied, I wanted to get this post out before the show was over, so I’m posting it here now.)

4 thoughts on “Dantalian no Shoka – Masters Following Students

  1. Re: the Addendum, that’s just how animation goes, for whatever reason. Back in the day, there were complaints about the TV adaptation of Love Hina for making the girls “fat.” But I believe it’s easier to work with? Something like that.

    This is a great piece. I don’t know what those THAT guys are thinking, taking so long on you. ;)

    • It’s true that shows which maintain the sharper look are more full of awkward animation moments, but it’s forgivable because the characters are just so damn hot. A-1 Pictures and J.C. Staff both seem to keep stuff looking sharp.

      Thanks for the compliment. lol I think ExecutiveOtaku is just busy.

  2. Pingback: Wrapping up the 2011 Summer Season Pt.1 | My Sword Is Unbelievably Dull

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