At times Dantalian no Shoka feels like a stage play, albeit a modern one with rear-projectors which show flashback images. There are scenes where Huey and whoever are standing around talking plot while Dalian sits to the side, reading and listening, which I can imagine watching in a theatre.
Alas, this stage play sometimes isn’t very good. There are too many scenes of pure exposition, talking about the family curse, golems, old news clippings and this week’s phantom book, where one character just talks and the other one nods or goes “hm.” Any snarky comment or attempt at humor signals the end of the scene. A golem crashing through the wall works as well (which leads to another exposition scene, not to mention the bizarre “hand thrust into Dalian’s chest” bit, during which the golem sits there and waits for them to finish their business. You see this a lot in anime, of course, but rarely taken to such extremes).
And the acting isn’t very good. If Huey was a flesh-and-blood character his lines would sound wooden and his movements overly broad, the latter of which works on stage but not so well on a screen. As for Dalian, I can’t get a handle on her character, yet. She hasn’t done much but explain things and toss out the odd insult. The story isn’t much. It’s hard to believe Huey didn’t suspect Estella sooner; the idea that he didn’t because he finds her attractive doesn’t convince me. That idea was pretty much invented by Dalian. Also, the “phantom book of the week” format doesn’t interest me. On the other hand the show demonstrates occasional flashes, like the ED with its voice and strings contrasting with violent or frighening footage. Bits like that make the show much more watchable for me. When they start explaining who that girl is in the teaser maybe the overall effect will improve.
We’re through three episodes of Uta no Prince-Sama and the pattern has formed, and this week’s new boy is grumpy Hijirikawa, though frankly it took me awhile to figure out it wasn’t Tokiya, another black-haired grump. Hijirikawa is the one with in the sweater.
Haruka passes the first test thanks to that redhead guy and their generic pop song, but unfounded resentment over her accomplishment remains as strong and nasty as ever, leaving her unable to play the piano, which feeds the vicious cycle further. But this is a cutthroat school, as the cross-dressing homeroom teacher tells us; Haruka better toughen up. This leads to many scenes of her trying to practice and failing, hanging out with sheep and naming that cat-who-has-significance-we-can’t-fathom yet, with a side visit to a bad cooking lesson and a saxophone recital, so all the boys not involved this week can get some screentime.
The scene where Hijirikawa gently helps Haruka regain her playing abilities was a nice one–boring, but nice. I actually wanted something out of Nodame Cantabile, with Haruka screwing up her first note and Hijirikawa smacking her, but let that pass. They could have left it at this, a nice scene where the unsmiling Hijirikawa shows some decency and kindness, but they ruin it with a flashback to … whenever, and Haruka unknowingly inspiring him to study music, and THAT might have been okay, too, cheesy, maybe, but then they go overboard with thoughts like “You’re the one who taught me the magnificence of music.” I expect some cheesiness in shows like this, but a little restraint, please!