Twelve Days of DAL (#3) : New Prologue

So from today up until the twelfth days I am going to keep talking about this series. Oh yeah, what i will talk about on this post, is my general thought toward the LN series. As for what i think about the anime adaptation, i’ll covered it on another post.

All right let’s get into it.

Harem, for the most part, aren’t something that I generally watched. If i do ended up watching it, is usually because i thought it would be funny and had a decent action. Basically, it’s somewhat a comfort food genre that i can watched when i feel like it or when i thought it could be interesting.

DAL, which if you go by the number can be qualified as a harem, is something that I kept getting back to largely because of the two elements.

The setting and the mystery.

In other words, PLOOOOTTTTTTT.

At first glance, the entire purpose for this series is only to served one joke i.e. the idea of an ordinary joe saving the world by dating cute girls. In many ways, this really screamed power fantasy and otaku pandering which turned people off and I bet some of you are already making comparison with The World God Only Knows.

TWGOK was for the most part are a self aware comedy that centered around parodying and poking fun on dating sim/visual novel heroine archetype and it’s cliché scenario. DAL to some degree, were a bit similar on the fact that it’s main gimmick and gag is being the parody of dating sim/visual novel format.

But what I find different was TWGOK mostly use it’s setting as simply a backdrop and an excuse for Keima going around conquering girls (until its last two arc), so it was undercooked. DAL meanwhile slowly goes in depth with its setting and premise.

For each volume in this series, there’s secret, deeper indication of things, foreshadowing surrounding things like the Spirits and the reasoning behind Ratatoskr existences.  There’s something building in the background.

These are all isn’t something entirely new, it’s pretty much something you can find in any good chunk of action harem. But i’ll be honest, i am engaged and invested because its just surprising to see there’s an actual depth from the seemingly joke scenario. The series also make use of its harem element by blending it with the story and not just simply an element that was most often feels tacked on.

The Spirits ( i.e. the girls) for example, are not simply framed by the narrative as just comedic props and male fantasies, but rather their existence is both important part of the mystery (it was revealed that human could also turned into a spirit) and center part of the conflict between factions in the series namely Ratatoskr, DEM industry, an organization that intended to uses Spirit’s power for unknown purpose and also the forefront company that produced Realizer technology which AST and Ratatoskr used, and Phantom, a mysterious being who has the power to give an ordinary human Spirit’s power and also seems to know something about Shido’s own power.

Incidentally, DAL didn’t frame the circumstances on why/how Shido having the ability to seal Spirit’s power as simply as just because he’s the main character of this series, but rather it was presented as also a part of bigger picture, another pieces to the mystery. In many other harem, this was something that was just granted and never questioned. Heck, not just his power, even who and what Shido is was something that was questioned.

The series make uses of its seemingly ridiculous setting and elements to building up on some sort of grand scheme in the story that hasn’t been revealed yet. An unfinished puzzle where it’s pieces are slowly revealed for each encounter with the girls, fitting onto something whole.

While what I just describe to you feels fanfic-ish, personally, I find all of this to be rather intriguing. The mix between harem and sci-fi like element makes both the setting and the story feels unique. The deeper implication of things and foreshadowing of future event also makes the story and the setting less superficial than it seems. I was genuinely surprised by this because DAL could’ve been just an ecchi romcom harem bland girl of the week show that rehash the same plot over and over again and has no end in sight. But for each volume on this series, there’s plot development, clues, hints and indication of something bigger building up, an actual overarching plot. This is also why I think some people said that this series, “is surprisingly full of plot”.

The very proof of that is when i was looking at some online forum regarding this series. In there, fans are actually trying to piece together the mystery of this series. I literally think this is probably the last series ever that i would expect fans to theory crafted upon. ITS A F*CKING HAREM.

Speaking of harem, I do like on how DAL handle its harem elements.

Each encounter or dates with the girls are varied and present different problem. They are not as entertaining to watch like in TWGOK and the resolution for each arc are mostly simplistic. But the way Shido win the trust of the girls were reasonable and makes sense. Keep in mind, that all Shido’s trying to do was just prevent the girls from being killed by the AST and helped them live ordinary life and that’s the only thing that he “fixed” with the girls. He didn’t necessarily “solved” their issue altogether, only “helped” them. Yoshino for example. While Shido did sealed her power and helped her not being hunted by the AST, she still retain her social awkwardness and shyness problem and she actually tries to improve herself.

Yes, there are still some superficial junk and some ecchi fanservice moments in this series. DAL is still a harem after all, so there are bound to be an ecchi fanservice. But the harem hijink is surprisingly lacking on this series. Among all the girls in Shido’s harem, the only ones who seems to be really clingy on him and frequently fight over him was just Tohka and Origami. Tohka because of her innocent nature and her puppy love. Origami because Shido is her emotional crutch.

Of course, DAL is still flawed. The cast are largely archetype, though some of them do have some semblance of complexity outside their designated archetype (more on that on the next post). The character’s dialogue is pretty decent, but Shido’s speech can be a bit annoying to hear.

As for the comedy, the best I could say is that its…………all right. Most of the humor stems from romcom ecchi joke (The guy walking in on a girl naked in the bathroom, Origami seducing Shido in the most ecchi-est way possible, oh no! it’s only misunderstanding etc.) which i am not really fond of. As for the main gimmick of the series, it’s amusing, but it does got tired later on. To be honest, i don’t care much about it.

While I find what DAL is building up and foreshadowing upon to be fascinating, there are some who argue that the series is taking itself too seriously for its own good which led to the main problem of tonal dissonance.

That’s rather hard to argue with because DAL is still inherently ridiculous and silly by nature. After all, this is still a story about a guy who save the world by dating hot chicks with the help of his middle schooler commander. Not to mention the VN/Galge parody part. So yeah, that’s quite a lot to take. And because the series promote itself with the VN/Galge parody gimmick which makes a lot of people going in expecting it’s going to be a somewhat comedic romcom harem series, when the serious plot related moment do happen (most notably volume 3 which is where the opinion diverge), i can imagine for some people the tone clashes with it’s ecchi comedy cliché and also dating part of the show.

Also, while i think the harem, sci-fi and the plot element mixed together, for some people it can come across as disjointed and unfocused. There’s too little harem hijink to be enjoyable as a harem series, but at the same time you can’t feel compelled on what the series trying to build up because the harem element brought it down.

But I’d argue DAL actually do juggle its tone well. The serious moment feels legitimately tense, but it has enough self awareness to prevent it for being too serious, dark or gritty and reasonable in the boundary of the universe the series set up. Even on the very first volume, even after the series revealed it’s gimmick, there’s already a deeper implication/hint on what is going on, so when the major event on volume 3 happen, it doesn’t feel the story became different, despite the jarring difference between it’s ecchi light hearted moment and it’s serious plot moment. The emotional beat also lands finely enough. Most likely won’t make you cry, but it’s enough to make you sympathize and care about the characters. The ecchi moment and the dating aspect also never intrusive during those moment.

I do wish the series tone down the ecchi-ness a bit. The Spirits character design are attractive enough as it is thanks to Tsunako-san illustration, but considering DAL is still a harem series, that might be a bit of a stretch.

Welp, I think that’s cover up what I have to say about this in general. Tomorrow I am going to started on talking about something more specific.

Until then, see you around 🙂

End Notes:

– To be honest judging something based on premise is just silly. They only indicate content not quality. If you’re already have a mindset going in that it’s stupid or bad, chances are high that you won’t enjoy it and only going to regarded it as a mess. For example, Madoka Magica is still a story about cute girls fighting monster by transforming their clothes into frilly dress. Of course, with a heavy dose of suffering. You can find out more here.

– It was actually revealed by Kotori on volume 2 that Shido didn’t necessarily have to make Spirits fall in love him, he just need to win their trust, just enough so they won’t refused to be kissed. It may be a minor thing, but it might changed perception of things.

– Thankfully, the main gimmick part of the series became less and less apparent for each volume. Some fans do see it as a bad thing though.

 

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