Over the past few weeks, I watched the 2011 anime, The Mystic Archives of Dantalian, otherwise known as Dantalian no Shoka or Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian. Its name translates as the “Bookshelf of Dantalian.” Due to the fact that the words archives is in the title of the anime itself, I was intrigued to see how much, if it all, archives appear in this anime. It’s set in Britain after World War I.
In the first episode, “Turn-up Book,” the Labyrinth Library, also known as the Mystic Archives of Dantalian introduced at beginning of the episode. We see a young boy meeting a girl reading a book in some unknown dimension. He comforts her, asking if she is alone being there by herself. Then we flash forward to his grandson, Huey, who is caring for his grandfather’s estate, revealing that his grandfather was a book collector who archived rare items, with such people called bibliomaniacs. We also learn that Huey’s grandfather was a duke who wanted to collect so many books that he “once exchanged half his land for a single book.” Apparently, people in the family feared him because of the books he collected. Huey goes inside the mansion and…all the books are gone! They have been taken away by someone. So, he follows the trail and finds all the books from the mansion gathered in some underground room…
He meets a girl named Dalian, who he dumbly thinks is a “pet,” a big mistake. Huey mentions he knows about the archives and will inherit it. As he talks with her more, he is disappointed all the books in the basement are “normal,” with nothing “really valuable.” Dalian talks about a library “containing an infinite amount of knowledge” (noted in the image below) containing all the wisdom of demons. She later says that a man named Conrad took a book, killed the protagonist’s father. The powers of the tomes he stole are tied to the moon’s phases. Eventually, we see that Huey has the key to her heart or something. We also find out that the Labyrinth Archives “seal 900,66 Mystical Tomes.” Huey later reads a book that saves them from a dragon… At this point, I’m not even sure if it is an archives, as it seems to be more of a library.
At the end of the episode, they later enter a huge library, trying to lock away the magical tome. Dalian decides to accompany him back to the mansion and the episode comes to a close.
The next episode, “Book of Fetus,” reveals a book that collects all sorts of human emotions, given to the father of the protagonist, Huey. The girl tells him to depart before the “doors of the archives” close, establishing it as some secluded, elite place, another archives stereotype, although some archives are that way. Huey and Dalian go to the mansion of one of his cousins, Estella, and look at the collection of books of Colonel Lehrbern in a study, which she kept there as she did not know their value. You could say it is a library of sorts. They discover that Estella is cursed because every husband she had was murdered. Huey later finds a scrapbook that shows these incidents, although they started before the woman was born. Then, we see that the guardian of the woman (Mr. Geese) has been killed, with the mystery deepening, as Dalian concludes that the golem was ordered by someone to kill Mr. Geese. They learn that Estella has some sort of magical powers and killed every husband…and even stabs Huey in the stomach. He survives thanks to a book and begins reading a tome, part of the archives, to save himself from the golem which is attacking him (and Dalian), while later defeating it by reading other magical tomes. The tower of the mansion collapses and Estella is sadly killed. Dalian and Huey then return to their mansion, where the last scenes of the episode play out.
Moving onto the next two-part episode, “Book of Wisdom / Queen of the Night.” Huey meets his childhood friend, Camila, in a bookstore at the beginning of the episode after Dalian keeps spoiling the ends of books for him, ha. Dalian is drawn in by the sweets, scones to be precise, that Camila promises at her house, later proceeding to make fun of Camila’s snappy outfit. Later, Camila tells them about a friend of hers, Mildred, who runs her own private school to spite Camila, and how her students kept getting smarter. As it turns out, as Dalian notes, there must be a magical tome involves, with the original book in…you guessed it…the archives. Unfortunately, Dalian does not get the scones, making her a bit depressed. They meet the students in the cottage who know exactly who they are off the bat. Anyway, they get the book and leave the students in the cottage for the time being, with Dalian still wanting those scones. Huey burns the book so as to destroy it. Later, we find out that Dalian is skilled at gardening and when Huey calls it a “cute hobby,” she kicks Huey and tells him to do some weeding rather than blabbing about gardening. After he presents chocolates to her, sent by Camila, two robbers come into the house, wanting to steal a book. Dalian calls him dimwitted for allowing the robbers to best them. They try to search for a book but it ends up being the name of a plant of the same name, which devours both the robbers. The petals of this plant are said to reflect the memories of those who are eaten.
The episode following, “Book of Soul Exchange,” begins with Dalian reading a book titled Crown of the Dog Days, becoming distressed that there are only two volumes of a three-volume book. Of course, the book has a gay love story, which Huey points out, with Dalian adding “gender is a trivial issue when true love binds them together.” Later, they investigate the death of the book’s author, Lenny Lents, by traveling to his mansion They find him dead, and his lover locked up in a cell nearby. When they come back the next day they encounter him writing a new book, with a “wife,” Paula, who watches the situation carefully. The “wife” ends up being an obsessed fan who wants to “help” the writer in a sadistic way, claiming the author didn’t know how to write a good ending. They learn that Lenny and his lover are locked in a spiral, where when one of them dies, the other is revived, brought through cycles of life and death, using each other’s lives as exchange. The woman decides to keep killing them every day, claiming she is doing it for their benefit. Lenny and his lover develop immunity to death, which overwhelms the woman, who gets subsumed in their being, which eventually fades away as they go to the afterlife. Dalian later gets the manuscript and is angry that the gay love story is gone, replaced by a male-female love story, leading Dalian to realize that they need to write the ending to the book instead.
At this point in the series, I began to doubt if archives were still in this series, but I pursued watching the rest anyway. In the fifth episode, “The Magician’s Daughter,” they tell the former lieutenant of Huey he can take a magical tome from their library, which he appreciates. We find out that Huey was the man’s former superior officer. At one point, Viola says she managed the archives of Dantalian, calling it a “mystical library which seals 960,000 tomes,” surprised it exists at all. She has no memory of anything except when she arrived at the town three years prior! A winged woman tries to kill her but is unsuccessful, giving her a warning of what is to come. What bothered me most about that scene was the fact that they literally confused archives and libraries, just like Star Wars did.
What follows is a bunch of suitors coming to her mansion on the next full moon, having magical tomes with them. They find out that Viola is the daughter of a magical sorcerer, who later dispatches the suitors. Later Huey “unlocks” Dalian, with a flashback to his grandfather saying that not everything can be earned from books. They fight off the sorcerer, who eventually concedes and leaves. She hilariously chooses a suitor, but it ends up being none of them, but someone else entirely.
While there are eight more episodes left,  I decided to stop watching. I no longer had confidence that the series would accurately show archives and not confuse them with libraries. Yes, archives can be within libraries, like special collections, but they are still not the same thing, as I’ve noted on this blog before, including on this blog’s about page. Other series, like She-Ra and the Princess of Power and even Cleopatra in Space did a better job at having archivy themes than this anime. The best-animated series I have seen so far in terms of archives is Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters, although even that has a lot of stereotypes. Perhaps the Mystic Archives of Dantalian is a good anime overall, but I have no tolerance for those that confuse archives and libraries.
 “Libricide” (episode 6), “The Perfumer” (episode 7), “Book of Equivalence / Book of Connection” (episode 8), “Book of Twilight” (episode 9), “Phantom Score” (episode 10), “The Mystic Archives of Raziel” (episode 11), “Song of the Unseen Tomorrow” (episode 12), and “Appendix: Briar Rose / La Belle au bois dormant” (OVA)