During my high school years (on and off), I’ve been reading Dantalian No Shoka (both the manga and novel). I grew to like the anime right after watching it. After reading half of those, (covering all of the anime material and more,) I wanted to give my thoughts on the series as a whole: the light novels, the anime, and the manga series in comparison to others. Anyway, let’s begin. Dantalian No Shoka came on to the anime scene right after GOSick, and I get the feeling at least anime-wise there was a romantic influence from GOSick to Dantalian. They are set in the same time period, in between World War I and World War II, and both have a distinctive Gothic mystery element, so I suppose it was natural for something like that to happen.
First of all, let’s take a look at the differences between Dalian and Huey from the light novels/manga to the anime. First, Dalian. I get the feeling that a bit of moe shine was added to Dalian for the anime. Not that I mind; the new design for her locket was cool and offered up a nice solution to the manga Dalian’s lock paradox. Lock paradox because manga Dalian has a giant box-like lock that appears to hang from the leather/iron brace around her neck and connect to her hip guards – over her clothing. Despite this, to actually clear the lock to open it, she has to take off a significant portion of her clothing, and the lock is actually embedded in her skin. (I just assume that there are slots in the lock so that she can slip her clothing around it properly.) The anime instead has a portion that looks like a locket, but when the key is inserted her blouse magically blows apart, and we see that the “locket” is actually the top portion of a large heart-shaped lock. I’m not entirely sure who designed that – but most of the clothing in the anime was designed by gothic/sweet lolita clothing shops (like Baby the Stars Shine Bright), so I wouldn’t be surprised if the lock redesign was handled in the same way. This all adds a bit of maturity and grace to Dalian’s appearance in the anime and makes her look older than her original “age” of 12-13. This change is important to the romantic direction that the anime takes.
Dalian is very different in the light novels/manga. She is described as having a much more awkward appearance, a bit of a lisp, and the general behavior of a tiny dog that acts bigger than it is. At the same time though, her skin and features are described as doll-like, and along with the tone of her voice, more beautiful than any normal human being. By the tone of her skin (out of place in Britain), she looks “Eastern” or Asian. Her lock gets constant attention for being extremely out of place, and while Dalian wears a standard black and frilly dress, she is also heavily armored. Not counting anything else that might be under her dress, she has a leather and iron guard around her neck, iron plates around her waist and hips, gauntlet like protectors around her wrists and steel plated boots. In the light novels, she’s deflected attacks several times. The main thing to keep in mind about Dalian in the light novels is that while she’s beautiful, she’s more outlandish than beautiful, and that while she likes to bark and anyone and everyone, she never lets go of Huey’s coat.
(We’ve only met the girl inside the library once – but it is show in manga that the girl Huey met in the library is in fact Dalian herself. Unlike the anime.) “Dantalian’s Library” according to the light novels also appears to have more than the noted 900666 grimoires, including prophesies of other people’s lives (though you might consider the records of everyone’s lives on grimoire), and Dalian has used her library to transport large numbers of ordinary books. The library in the light novels/manga is also less abstract that in it is in the anime, more wood and stone, and maze-like passageways in hexagonal shapes that all together from the center constitute a giant tower like the tower of babel.
Huey is more human in the light novel/manga than he is in the anime. He’s actually not a great shot and only makes good use of the gun at close range. It’s probably been used to deflect attacks at the last minute as many times as it’s been shot. Huey’s number one expression in the light novels is “bitter smile”, he doesn’t like to consider himself a military man, and constantly uses phrases such as “all I did was fly” to refer to his service in World War I, despite the fact that he was rewarded special rank and was an ace. Huey is very protective of Dalian in the light novels as well, but his reasons and relationship with the girl in the library is masked. I think it took a while for the anime to get to this side of his character. What this all means anime vs. light novel/manga is a difference in atmosphere. The anime is made to be more romantic and fantastic, whereas the light novels/manga are more gothic and like dark fairy. The first chapter of the light novels for instance, (Episode 01: Meditations de Gastronomie) ends with Huey walking away from a man lustfully feasting on his own brains and losing his humanity and sanity in the process. Though, the light novel doesn’t go the point of making Dalian emotionless, but is very clear that Dalian has seen a lot of death – her entire manner changes drastically in different situations, from that of a frightened puppy to that of an all knowing and sorrowful being.
When Huey summons the Slyph before the dragon in the first episode. What he reads becomes his life story in a nutshell – you get his characterization in a flash. BUT in the light novels/manga , we’re still confronted with a dragon. Dalian gets Huey to open the lock, and while he’s sitting there stunned, she plunges her hand into her chest and draws out Book of Faeries, opening it just as they are about to be engulfed in flame, and so summons the Slyph. No romantic readings or standing in front of the dragon. A lot more proactive on Dalian’s part. It is less in this case that Dalian is commanding the Sylph or anything, but more letting it out across the boundary so they can stall the Dragon. It takes a while in the light novels/manga before we actually see Huey read one of the grimoires. He does not magically read the words perfectly, but stumbles over them. It does appear that in chapters later on the timeline he’s much more skilled at this but he doesn’t start out that way. At any rate, so far the light novels/manga are a good read. The limited third-person narration really lends itself to the format so that each chapter is more like a “tale”. Each chapter lightly reintroduces Huey and Dalian (but only as the narrator observes them), and scarce narration works better in the story. For instance it’s not that the narrator is mean and not giving you critical information, but the narrator doesn’t know if that’s Huey or not because he hasn’t spoken his name.