What is Dantalian no Shoka?
Dantalian no Shoka also known as The Mystic Archives of Dantalian revolves around phantom books. These phantom books contain forbidden knowledge that no man can ever possess and can even bring the world into chaos.
Dantalian no Shoka's main casts are introduced in pairs which are
Hugh Anthony Disward and Dalian
Huey is the protagonist of the series who is an ex-military pilot from WW1. One day he received a letter from his grandfather and decided to leave the military. He then met Dalian and became the keeper of the key and started recovering phantom books with Dalian. Huey did not get much character
development throughout the series though he takes responsibility of things and has bad-ass pistol skills.
Dalian who is referred to the Black Biblioprincess is actually an entrance to a secret library known as Dantalian no Shoka, which contains 900,666 phantom books. Dalian and Huey's goal throughout the series is to recover these phantom books and avoid the world running in chaos. In my opinion Dalian is the star of the series, her reactions with Huey is always fun to watch. Although she always acts brave in front of Huey, she is actually scared of crowed people heights and ghosts.
Hal and Flamberge
Hal is a libricide officer, whose goal is to burn every phantom books they meet. His past is revealed bit by bit throughout the course of the series when he burns each phantom book. Though the author never specifies what happened to him and why he chose his path, readers could sort of understand.
Flam is kind of like Dalian who is called the long lost library, she joins Hal's journey and provides him phantom books to burn as fuels to light up his staff. I find the concept pretty interesting. The reactions between the two are as good as Huey and Dalian's reactions. As Hal is always serious in nature, Flam always teases him in front of other people which I find hilarious.
The Professor and Raziel
They are actually the antagonists of the series, their objective is to create new phantom books and cause chaos to the world. The only thing we know is the pair is scheming for the lose of WW1.
Each volume of Dantalian no Shoka consists of 4-5 different short stories which is around 50 pages per story. Usually it's the adventures of Dalian and Huey recovering the phantom books and sometimes the author includes extra episodes about Hal and Flam. The stories themselves also has a variety, some have a darker tone than others, some are more light-hearted and some provide a warmth ending.
Something I really like about the series is that the reason why phantom books are so dangerous is not because monsters crawl out of the books but because of knowledge itself. As Dalian says "Some things in the world are better kept unknown", the reason why most of the books overdrive are because of the readers taking advantage of the knowledge but not because of the book itself.
I also have to give credits to the author for the research he done before creating the phantom books. A lot of them are not made up, they range from Greek mythologies to Chinese legends.
I have to mention that most of the stories have little or even no connections to each other and there is no major plot throughout the series. The three pairs of characters just keeps on doing what they are doing. One collects the books, one burns them and one creates new books. I personally enjoy them as short stories, Dantalian no Shoka is more of solving mysteries than following a grand plot or epic intense battles.
Despite lacking a main plot the lovable characters kept me enjoying and yearning for more of this series. When the pairs of characters cross blades, you know something fun is going to happen. When Dalian meets Hal she always calls him a "short tempered ape", and when Flam tries to make a pleasant conversation with Huey, Dalian scolds at him immediately because of jealousy. Although the situation always gets out of control, as a reader I always hope to see the pairs next meeting. (It's a shame that in the anime the two pairs never got a proper meeting.)
As a side note the author includes fragment episodes in the novel which consists of 8-10 pages short stories between the main episodes. These fragment episodes are kind of hard to understand and make readers scratch their heads.
I really enjoyed reading Dantalian no Shoka. Though there isn't a intense plot throughout the novels, the interesting and lovable character relationships made Dantalian no Shoka stand out from other similar LNs. This is also the main reason why I used so much paragraphs to talk about the character relationships.
It's such a shame that this series ended at volume 8 and there were still a lot of questions remain unanswered. Such as Dalian's past and who is the white dressed girl inside the library? What is the Professor's grand plan?
I really hope Dantalian no Shoka could make a return in the future so that Huey and Dalian could finish their quest to retrieve the phantom books!