DanMachi IV – 22 (Fin) – More Beautiful than Before

DanMachi didn’t seem like the kind of show that would kill off one of its more endearing characters, but in the final episode of its fourth season, anything could happen. Thankfully, it didn’t go that route, and with good reason: Ryuu Lion has too much left to do in the world of the living.

Her familia tells her as much as she wanders towards them on the etheral plane. There’s still hope in her heart, and they know she wants to save Bell and go to back home with him. So she wakes up, stands up, and joins the fight against the Juggernaut.

Ol’ Juggyshit may have added a bunch of tricks to its repertoire, but in doing so it sacrificed its most devastating advantage—its speed. Now it’s slow enough that Bell can not only dodge (most) of its attacks, but actually land damaging blows on its weak points. A Fire Bolt-infused dagger and an Argo Vesta spell later, and Juggernaut is officially on the ropes.

That’s where Ryuu comes in, chanting an incantation not just for Luminous Wind, but to summon the spirits of her dearly departed Astrea family, if only long enough to deliver an attack or two by her side. You could say they’ve been waiting all this time not for her to join them, but to forgive herself so she can call upon them when she needs them most.

After a decisive Luvia right to its kisser, the long nightmare that is Juggernaut is finally, satisfyingly ended. Bell and Ryuu managed to do it all by themselves, fueled by each others’ determination, refusal to give up, and digging deep into their abilities. Neither could have won alone, but as a party of two, they achieved the impossible.

This leaves them in an exhausted, critically wounded heap on the ground, still on the 37th floor. But they managed to survive just long enough for Wiene and the Xenos to find them. They administer Marie’s healing mermaid blood to both of them, then make themselves scarce before Lili’s team shows up (since not everyone among them know the Xenos are good guys).

Once Lili and the others do arrive, the elation and celebration begins. It’s just such an enormous relief that Bell and Ryuu can finally stop fighting and worrying about dying every waking moment and see the damn sun again. When Ryuu comes to in the hospital after three days, she’s so concerned about Bell she leaps out of her bed and runs to his room.

When he finds him, flanked by Hestia and Lili, their faces make her realize she’s wearing nothing but a skimpy pink hospital gown…that thanks to her alacrity becomes undone and allows Bell to see the sun, moon, stars…all of it. Hestia and Lili reflexively slap him, forgetting that he’s critically wounded. Thankfully a doctor gives them a stern talking-to.

As their convalescence continues, Bell tells Hestia by his bedside that he wouldn’t be there without Ryuu. Bell’s friends thank Ryuu for saving him, but she tells them they’ve got it backwards: it was Bell who saved her from her own despair. She also learns that as far as the Guild is concerned, “Gale Wind” is dead.

Taking the new lease on life she’s been given and running with it, Ryuu borrows a gorgeous white dress from Syr and meets Bell on a date when they’re both discharged from the hospital on the same day. Rather than be cooped up indoors, they decide to have a walk around the city, under the blessed sky.

At the peak of their adorable date, Ryuu takes Bell to a breathtaking view from an ornate stone balcony where she and Alise used to spend time. That she’s shared both the story of her familia and this space to Bell shows how far she’s come in opening up to him. He notes that the way she smiles at him “from her heart” makes her more beautiful than before.

Bell, unfortunately, isn’t aware of the critical damage such comments make, and Ryuu, suddenly unable to look him in the eye anymore, turns around and makes a break for it. As she runs, she clutches that heart of hers, now released from all that guilt and regret. In its place, love now resides, and Ryuu finds herself asking Alise what the heck she should do with it.

Alise’s reply, and the parting words of the fourth season, are “don’t let him get away.” Bell has his share of suitors—from Ais to Ryuu’s bestie Syr—but no one but Ryuu can claim to have been to hell and back with him. But for now, All Hail Ryuu Lion, the Champion of Justice, and absolute legend Hayami Saori for yet another phenomenal vocal performance.

DanMachi IV – 21 – So Warm, So Sweet

While it was surely nice to get a bath in the healing waters, those waters weren’t what you’d call warm, so Ryuu and Bell have to strip off their wet clothes and sit in front of a fire to keep their body temperatures up. DanMachi wisely keeps the comedy to a minimum here, while it ratchets up the romantic tension that’s been brewing between these two.

One she’s literally in his arms, Bell ceases to see Ryuu simply as some invincible idol and hero who has been protecting him, and sees her for the first time as someone he has to protect.

Ryuu is comfortable enough with Bell now that she wants to tell him the entire story of how she lost her familia, so while they have the time, she does so. Bell’s takeaway is our takeaway: they gave their lives to save her, so she’d better not die or they’ll be mad. Then Ryuu suggests they huddle even closer so they’ll warm up properly.

Ryuu may not think much of her body, but the fact is both she and Bell are very attractive. They distract themselves from that by talking about what they’ll do when they’re home. Ryuu wants a meal at the tavern (where she’s sure to get a tongue lashing from Syr and the others) while Bell wants to travel to Hestia’s mansion with the rest of his Familia so he can say “I’m home.”

I’m so glad the show slowed down a bit and let Ryuu and Bell simply exist with one another and think about nicer things than where they are and the challenges that lie ahead. But with no food supplies to speak of, they have to get moving once they’re warmed up enough.

As they continue on, they’re both relieved and a little weary of the complete absence of monsters. When they hit a dead end, Bell cuts through some brittle crystal deposits so they can climb to a higher level, where they find the fourth ring. That means they’re on the main route, and just one more ring from the connecting tunnel from the 37th to the 36th floor.

So of course when they’re so close to getting closer to getting the fuck out of this miserable hellhole, that ugly bastard the Juggernaut gets the drop on them. It’s seemed to augment itself by eating various other monsters, and while it’s much slower than the last time Bell fought it, those collected abilities make it arguably more deadly. Bell ends up getting stabbed in the kidney area by a giant spike, and has the sense of mind (and toughness) to close and cauterize the wound with a Fire Bolt.

Ryuu manages to drag the two of them into a narrow passage in the rock where the Juggernaut and his various appendages and projectiles can’t reach, and it wanders off, though I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of it. But Bell and Ryuu are once again in bad shape, having lost a lot of blood and mana.

Ryuu reverts to her fatalistic mode, but when she asks Bell to hold her again and he does without hesitation, she takes solace in the fact her final moments will be sweet. To borrow a Riri lyric, is Ryuu falling in love in a hopeless place? Perhaps! Hestia would never approve, but who cares? I’m loving this ship!

Of course, Bell has no intention of dying, nor will he let Ryuu die. When she nods off from exhaustion, he gently strokes her hair, then stands up and considers all the pain he’s in to be a blessing, because it’s a sign he can still feel pain and thus isn’t too far gone. I just hope those Xenos can find them soon. Maybe they can use their myriad abilities to finally take the Juggernaut down…

DanMachi IV – 20 – Her Justice

A week of absolutely sterling anime continues with this, the long-awaited (and feared) definitive depiction of the demise of Astrea Familia and Ryuu’s subsequent fall from grace. Jura and Rudra Familia, working under Evilus, did indeed set a trap for Astrea, but it didn’t work. However, detonating all of those bombs awakened the Juggernaut, which turned even a dream team like Astrea into mincemeat with sickening speed and efficiency.

It’s a tough, horrific watch, as it should be. And even if we haven’t spent nearly as much time with the various members of Astrea, all I needed to do was imagine if it were members of Hestia instead dropping one by one to understand the weight being placed on Ryuu by Alise to “live enough for everyone”. Alise trusts Ryuu to always “do the right thing”. Alise, Kaguya, and Lyra die, but they go out fighting in a literal blaze of glory.

The weight proves too much for Ryuu, and she is soon consumed with anger and hatred. She leaves the goddess Astrea (though is able to keep her blessing) and transforms into an angel of death, tearing through every Rudra Familia and Evilus stronghold, hideout and hovel and leaving no one alive in her path, like a merciless calamitous gale wind.

Once her twisted form of justice is finally complete when she finds, corners, and stabs the shit out of Jura (whom she only learns much later survived), Ryuu feels like an empty husk, hollowed out by all the hatred and murder. But when she collapses, it happens to be near the tavern where one Syr Flover works, and that’s all that’s needed to know that the gods aren’t done with Ryuu quite yet.

She’d go on to not only work with Syr and the other ladies at the tavern, but to swoop in and save the lives of Bell, Hestia, Welf, Lili, and everyone else, more times than Bell can count. She may have thought she was simply continuing her quest of vengeance, but to Bell, it meant she was his hero, plain and simple. He came back for her at the Coliseum because it’s what she’d do for him, and he won’t leave her behind because his justice is making it home alive with her.

Bell admits he didn’t know the “old Ryuu”, and that she may have made many a mistake in her past. All that matters to him is how many times he and his Familia would be dust without her. Without Ryuu even realizing it, the justice of her Familia lived on, and continues to live on.

When a Barbarian busts through the wall and Bell looks like he’s knocked out and about to be eaten, Ryuu desperately cries out his name, only for him to kill the monster and reveal he was playing possum, causing her to blush profusely.

The two eventually make it to a spring beneath the Coliseum, and they might just be the first two adventurers to make it there. When Bell collapses from exhaustion into the water, Ryuu gets in with him, cradles him, and heals him. Let those waters cleanse Ryuu of the hate, grief, regret and anguish she allowed to define her for so long, as well as the notion that she doesn’t deserve to live, or to love.

What happened to Astrea Familia was a abject tragedy. But it wasn’t her fault, and it was a blessing that she survived, because it meant she was alive to rescue Bell & Co. all those times. Now that they finally have a place to rest and heal, and the Xenos contingent aren’t far above them, it’s looking like both Bell and Ryuu are going to make it out of this. They won’t be the same  people they were when they first fell down there…but that’s not a bad thing.

DanMachi IV – 19 – No Time to Die

This week starts with a flashback chat between Ryuu and her diminutive colleague Lyra (a prum like Lili). Lyra warns Ryuu not to try to create the answer to “what is right” by gathering everyone else’s opinions, but to determine what that means for herself. Knowledge is a weapon, info is a friend, and wisdom is what is needed to use both to save others, and oneself.

At this point on the 37th floor, Ryuu’s only remaining purpose in life is to make sure Bell is armed with as much knowledge and information as possible so he can turn them into his own wisdom, just as she did. She is now the teacher Lyra was to her, and she’s able to come up with a plan Bell would never have thought of.

They can’t go around the coliseum—they have to go straight through it to reach the normal route and the stair to the higher floor. But with the monsters in the coliseum infinitely battling each other and re-spawning the instant they’re killed they won’t be able to fight their way through. So they wear a skull sheep pelt, cover themselves in barbarian heart blood, and try to sneak their way through the closest thing to hell we’ve yet seen in the Dungeon.

I was a ball of anxiety throughout the sneaking session, just waiting for one of the monsters to notice them (or for Bell to step on the pelt and expose them). Turns out the former happens when a skeleton grabs him, and from there it becomes a race to the other end of the coliseum before they’re completely overrun by the beasts zeroing in on them en masse.

When they reach a certain point, Ryuu asks Bell to go to the other end of the bridge and clear the way while she holds off the monsters on her side. Bell says “I’ll be right back” but after he kills the monsters on his end, Ryuu uses her wind magic to fly him to the other side of the bridge…and then collapses the bridge. She’s ensuring none of the coliseum monsters can get to Bell…and also sealing her fate.

When Ryuu contemplates her imminent demise and reunion with her long-lose Astrea companions, saying it was worth it if Bell survives, Hayami Saori does some of her absolute finest work. But unlike Ryuu, I had a distinct feeling Bell wasn’t sprinting as hard as he could towards safety. Instead, he ran all the hell the way around the coliseum to meet back up with Ryuu, and is ready with his signature Bell-Tollin’ Firebolt to deal with the monsters surrounding her.

When Bell unleashes that Firebolt and sets the entire coliseum and everything in it ablaze, he is making his ideals a reality, exactly what Arise told Ryuu is what true heroes are capable of doing. Ryuu misunderstood something crucial about Bell. No matter how scared he was or helpless he seemed, there was never any chance he’d let her sacrifice herself to save him.

I know Ryuu has a low opinion of herself for being the sole survivor of the extinction of Astrea, and many of the awful things she’s done since then. But for all her amassed knowledge, she didn’t have the wisdom to realize she wasn’t going to get one over on a hero, or that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you think of yourself, but what others think of you.

Bell considers her a dear friend and mentor, not an irredeemable wretch, and used the power he had to stop her from sacrificing herself. She can call him an idiot, but until she can start turning ideals into reality, she’d sure as hell better accept his idiocy, ’cause he ain’t changing!

DanMachi IV – 18 – The More, the Merrier

The Xenos, Tsubaki, and Ryuu’s tavern co-workers all arrive at just the right time to save the exhausted and overrun Hestia Familia. That said, only a few of those there understand what’s actually happening. All the others know is that the monsters with weapons are helping them. Tsubaki can’t deny she’s impressed Welf managed to forge a magic sword in the Dungeon, and wryly welcomes him to “hell.”

Wiene and Haruhime have a heartfelt reunion while the catgirls throw cat puns left and right. When Marie tells the other Xenos that Bell and Ryuu have likely fallen to the Deep Levels, the Xenos heed there with all due speed, and Liliruca declares her new party, newly infused with Level 4 badessee, will be following them.

Down in the Deep Floors, Bell oddly isn’t struggling as he was. In fact, as Ryuu observes, he’s only getting better. Nothing like a high-difficulty level to force you to become stronger. But Bell is only able to fight the way he is thanks to Ryuu’s pointers, combined with Ais’ pointers.

Even when a bunch of giant Barbarians bust through the stone wall and shoot their lethal tongues out, Bell is there just in time to slice and dice them into oblivion before any of them can get to Ryuu. They’re then able to take a breather—but not one long enough for Bell to get Ryuu to tell him what happened with Juggernaut and the Astrea Familia.

Life, or rather death comes at you fast in the Deep Floors, such that the time between brutal battles is so small, there’s no time to revel in any victories, and barely enough time to catch your breath. Bell and Ryuu are making good time following the dead adventurers’ map, but then they hear the Juggernaut, which goes to town on a herd of Skull Sheep.

Bell and Ryuu tread carefully, but end up surrounded by regiments of undead skeletons. Behind them are the Peludas, the porcupine-like monsters with deadly poisonous quills. They actually end up helping Bell and Ryuu out by taking out the skeletons.

When one poison quill gets through their defenses and impales Bell through the shoulder, the poison starts to act fast, and with no antidotes to their name, he looks doomed to die like those other adventurers, far from home and out of time and options.

But leave it to Welf to give Bell a unicorn horn dagger, which when lodged into his wound, draws out and absorbs all of the poison. That said, it looks exceedingly painful. After that, the path starts getting steeper and more uphill, until Ryuu finally recognizes their surroundings.

The have arrived at the Colosseumwhich let’s just say is does not look like the coziest of most inviting venue! Regardless, the battered and bloodied party of two will have to pass through it if they’re going to get to the higher floors. Will the Xenos get to them before Ryuu manages to finally succeed in sacrificing herself for Bell’s sake? I sure hope so.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi IV – 17 – An Convenient Ideal

Ryuu not only once believed she could save everyone without sacrificing anyone, but that doing so was the will of their familia’s goddess, Lady Astrea. She believed this so forcefully, she almost came to blows with her more pragmatic (and possibly jaded) colleague Kaguya. She told Ryuu that Astrea’s ideals cannot be 100% applied in the real world. The time will come when all of them will have to make a hard choice.

No doubt Bell’s attitude reminds Ryuu of her former, more idealistic self. While there may be doubt, he has no intention of surviving the Deep Floors without Ryuu surviving with him. But the upped difficulty level of the floors has sapped his confidence.

Ryuu tenderly takes his finger in hers and delivers a fine motivational speech, telling him to stop being so hard on himself—it’s hard down here!—and giving him a number of tips to help him have an easier time.

Ten floors up, Welf’s new adamantine magic sword shows no signs of wear—in fact, it only seems to be getting more powerful with each use, as if it’s absorbing the energy from the foes it extinguishes. Its wielder is a different story, as using the sword is taking a physical toll on Welf. Tsubaki’s party isn’t far away, but in the meantime Welf & Co. face a nearly constant onslaught of tough customers.

On not one but two occasions, Ryuu forces Bell to drink something gross: first a really old moldy potion (which still heals him) and then the boiled remains of a potable ooze, lending levity to the bleak proceedings. Ryuu also shows her bashful tavern maiden side, as she stops herself from drinking from the same thermos as Bell when he mentions he had his mouth on it. Lest we forget: Ryuu has had a bit of a thing for Bell for a while now.

It’s very encouraging to see how far Bell and Ryuu have gotten since emerging from a Lambton’s belly with their clothes and bodies in tatters. They’re both healed enough to walk and fight; they have five blazebombs left for emergencies, and they reach the third ring of the floor, which Ryuu recognizes from its chalk-white color, so they now know the proper way back up.

Bors leads Lili, Welf & Co. to the chamber where he last saw Bell, and the giant hole made by the Lambton indicates Bell could be much deeper down then anyone thought. But they have bigger problems, like being cornered by extremely tough beasts, and a Welf who is out of gas.

Fortunately reinforcements finally arrive in the nick of time. Tsubaki’s team being close was a misdirect—it’s the Xenos sent by Fels who get to them first, ready, willing and eager to pay Bell back with their support. Now continuing their descent feels a lot more realistic.

As for the party of two that is Bell and Ryuu, they’ve made progress but are still along way from from the stairs, and thus still far from out of danger, and at the moment Ryuu is determined to sacrifice herself if it means saving Bell. She bitterly remarks to Kaguya that she’s finally on her side. All I know is, if the show ends up killing Ryuu off just because she deems Bell more worthy of living, I’ll be as devastated as Bell for sure!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi IV – 16 – What Must Be Done

After another Astrea Familia flashback where Alise sparks a spirited discussion of what justice is, we’re back in the White Palace with Bell and Ryuu, who has recovered enough magic to heal her leg. In a similar argument she had with her late colleague Kaguya, she agrees to disagree with Bell on whether it would have been better to heal him.

I’m with Bell: Ryuu needed to be able to at least walk on her own for them to survive. As for Welf, he gets started, but after taking the adamantine out of his portable forge, he finds he can’t shape it. He wonders if he’s simply overestimated his ability to forge a sword in the Dungeon while his comrades battle desperately to keep the hordes of monsters at bay.

If Ryuu and Bell are to get to the 36th floor, they’ll need supplies and some kind of direction. They get both, by doing something neither of them want to do: looting the dead adventurers around them. Ryuu ensures she has top coverage, and they find potions, weapons, and a partial map scrawled on the dead’s familia banner. Bell vows to survive in order to honor the memory of those who died to save him and Ryuu.

Welf finally snaps out of his funk and the sound of his hammer makes a much louder, brighter sound—all because he remembered that he was making this sword for his friends. I’m a little surprised he didn’t know that all along…but whatever! He completes the sword, and with an extra magic assist from Cassandra, they manage to blast away all the monsters bothering them—with the very “light of daybreak” from Cassie’s vision.

With his new shatterproof magic sword, forged to last a lifetime, Welf has given the party a new lease on life as they continue their descent to find Bell and Ryuu. He gives the lives that were given to him right back to their owners. They still have a long way to go, but like Bell and Ryuu, they at least have the tools to do so—acquired by doing what had to be done, not matter what.

DanMachi IV – 15 – Hope Reforged

As Ryuu sleeps and dreams of the past, DanMachi is content to gradually inch us along a tale of unfathomable woe. Ryuu can only watch as her comrades—her family—decide to head down to the Lower Floors to investigate, unaware it’s an Evilus trap. Meanwhile, Bell successfully scares a skull sheep away. They may be ugly bastards, but they’re intelligent.

The reinforcement squad composed of Tsubaki and Ryuu’s former co-workers Anya, Runoa, and Chloe reach the 24th Floor and find it in shambles. Tsubaki correctly suspects a Floor Boss rampage, but whatever happened, they believe they’re too late to help. That doesn’t stop Anya from leading the charge to scale down the walls to the lower floors in order to meet up with any survivors.

Speaking of survivors, other than Bell and Hestia Familia, Bors is the only survivor of the Ryuu elfhunt. Aisha, Welf & Co. rescue him, but he is the bearer of bad news: he fears even Bell and Ryuu were among the massacred. Lili more than anyone won’t accept this, but it’s Aisha who calmly gets Bors to admit he didn’t see Bell’s corpse, and indeed saw Ryuu healing him. So the mission objective remains the same: find Bell and Ryuu.

But they’ve already met heavy resistance from all manner of lower-floor baddies, and Welf is down to one slash from his fire dagger. Remembering Hephaistos’ pep talk, he decides to set up an ad hoc workshop in a dead end where the familia is catching their breath. He uses the last swipe of his dagger to light his portable hearth and prepares to hammer out some adamantine he found along the way.

All everyone else has to do is guard the entrance to the area they’re in and make sure nothing gets to him, as he’ll obviously be a sitting duck while crafting. But considering they don’t have the weaponry to continue much further anyway, the best move they’ve got is to stay put and let Ignis cook.

DanMachi IV – 14 – Towards the Sunrise

As she and Bell take turns keeping watch, Ryuu begins to experience flashbacks to when she met Alise and was part of Astraea Familia. It’s a reminder of all the people she’s lost, but also a rallying point for her: she’s going to make sure Bell survives this, even if it costs her her life. It very nearly does too soon when three beasts attack, but Bell wakes up in time to kill the one Ryuu isn’t able to.

Meanwhile, much further up, both Mikoto and Haruhime announce that not only are they not dead, but their spells give their comrades the opportunity and power boost they need to finish of Amphisbaena. Mikoto demonstrates what a fool I was to think being underwater and surrounded by piranhas would be enough to do her in, by casting her biggest spell yet: Futsu no Mitama, which freezes the boss in place.

While it’s not clear how Haruhime survived the brunt of the boss’ breath attack, she’s able to dig deep and cast Uchide no Kozuchi. Ouka, who had used an ice ramp created with the last Welf’s magic sword to climb up into the ceiling of the chamber, brings his axes down on one of the boss’ heads and slices it clean off with Kokuu, while Aisha leaps right up to the remaining head’s mouth and unleashes a mega-Hell Kaios.

Cue victory fanfare…or rather a few blessed moments when the party is able to catch their breath. Aisha tends to Haruhime and Chigusa and Ouka tend to Mikoto, who are unable to walk. Then tremors begin, and the entire cavern threatens to collapse on top of them: the “coffin” from Cassandra’s premonition is still in play. Aisha and Daphne urge the party to flee up to the 24th floor like Turk and his team.

Cassandra, however figures out that “towards the life-giving sun” doesn’t mean a person or a place, but a cardinal direction: East, the direction of the sunrise. That happens to be through a recently opened tunnel down to the 26th floor. Daphne doesn’t believe Cassandra’s premonitions, but after Cassandra pleads with her and sheds tears, Daphne decides to believe Cassandra, the person.

Lili and Welf were already prepared to descend in order to locate Bell, so now everyone is in agreement. And with absolutely no time to spare, either, as the party witnesses what would have happened if they had gone the way of Turk & Co. The branches they were climbing collapsed, and then they were buried in stone, crystal, and plant debris.

It’s the rare instance where the 26th floor is a lot safer than the 25th, because it’s the place where they’re all still alive. They’ll have to keep descending quite a bit to get close to where Bell and Ryuu are. Perhaps they can meet in the middle? But I don’t want to forget what an impressive boss victory the party managed to pull off without Bell.

That win should give them confidence that, even in their weakened, battered state, as long as they stick together, they have a chance to find Bell and Ryuu and make it out of there.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi IV – 13 – Hello Despair

Bell runs into two spots of good luck: he’s able to cause a cave-in with his Fire Bolt before the Juggernaut can kill them, and Ryuu wakes up. Despite him urging her to heal herself, she uses the remainder of her magic to heal him instead, deeming herself too far gone.

Naturally, Bell rejects her insistence that he leave her behind. He doesn’t think he’ll last long in this place, but he’ll last a lot longer if he’s not alone. And even if Ryuu can’t walk, she has knowledge and senses Bell doesn’t. So they trudge on through the deep dark.

Tsubaki joins a growing group of adventurers who have heard about the trouble in the Dungeon and are headed down to lend aid to Hestia Familia. Unfortunately they might already be too late, as Amphibaena gets its second wind, leaps out of the water then crashes back in, causing a tsunami that throws what had been a well-oiled machine into chaos.

Tsubaki isn’t able to shield herself from a wall of water and ice that hits her head on, sending her sinking into the water while piranhas gnaw at her shoulder and legs. With one of their most powerful members out of commission, all the confidence the party had been building up is suddenly extinguished.

When Bell and Ryuu spot a pulsing light in the distance, he identifies it as the magic light stone from an adventurer’s lantern. Alas, the adventurers they find are nothing but skeletons, and the lantern soon burns out. Having been so buoyed by the prospect of salvation only to have it snatched away, Bell loses his nerve.

Ryuu calls it “Mind Down”, no doubt an effect of the Dungeon caused by intense hopelessness and despair. She manages to drag herself, broken, bloody leg and all, close enough to slap Bell back into coherence, and tells him all hope is not lost; they’ve managed to find an isolated room where they can rest, if only for five minutes each.

Ryuu volunteers to take the first watch, but the moment Bell nods off (he’s clearly exhausted) she starts to sweat profusely; clearly she’d been trying to appear less badly injured than she really is to Bell. This is what it’s come to: with Ryuu not entirely sure she’ll be able to stay conscious for five minutes.

That said, just the fact Bell and Ryuu can rest makes them better off than the rest of the familia. Once they all surface, Amphisbaena comes roaring back, more aggressive than ever. When it blue breath targets Lili and Cassandra, Haruhime shoves them out of the way and takes the breath head on.

Now the party could be without Mikoto and Haruhime, maybe food good, and the battle is far from over with reinforcements still punishingly far away. Things are not going well!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi IV – 12 – In Too Deep

It doesn’t matter why it spawned two weeks early; the Floor Boss Amphisbaena is here, and once it blocks their only exit, a Hestia Familia without Bell has no choice but to fight or die. Unsurprisingly, the least fazed member of the party is Aisha, but she can tell that the rest of the group has lost the will to fight, while Cassandra is certain the “cage of despair” will soon become the “coffin” in her dream.

Welf shakes off the fear and backs Aisha with a pep talk stirring enough to get everyone fighting again. He then freezes the lake, enabling Aisha to run out and do her thing. Unfortunately, her Hell Kaios are absorbed by one of Amphisbaena’s head’s Crimson Mist, but with each strike against the boss, the group learns a bit more and gains a bit more confidence.

The scenes outside the Amphisbaena battle involve a battered Bell moving as fast as he can while holding an even more battered Ryuu, only for the Juggernaut to catch up to them. I honestly don’t see how they won’t be instantly killed, but who knows …maybe there’s someone else down there who will save them?

Hestia also receives a communiqué from Lili and asks Ryuu’s cafe co-workers to toss off their aprons and grab their weapons. Ouranos and Fels also seem primed to send reinforcements in light of all the Dungeon’s irregular activity.

Lili is standing in the rearguard, upset that’s all she can do while her friends fight and possibly die protecting her. But Daphne snaps her out of it, reminding her that she’s the most important member of the party: the coordinator who tells everyone where to go and what to do.

Lili uses what she’s learned from the battle so far and what she knows of her comrades to organize them into a force that can, if not defeat, at least neutralize the boss enough to buy them time. She pulls Mikoto back and replaces her on the front line with Daphne, enabling Mikoto to chant and cast a mega gravity spell that shoves the boss under the water and buries it with tree branches.

Welf re-freezes the surface of the water, and the short-range melee fighters charge in to do as much damage as they can before the boss breaks free. Like Lili, Cassandra is paralyzed for most of the battle, but like Lili is finally woken up by Daphne (the secret MVP of the battle), who tells her everyone’s scared, but they can’t give in to despair.

Once Cassandra unleashes a spell that heals everyone’s wounds, it’s starting to look like the party can actually come out of this in one piece. Her dreams remain a troubling possible future, but by no means a certain one, thanks to the combined talents and grit of her comrades.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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