DanMachi III – 12 (Fin) – The Hero (and the Status Quo) Returns

As Asterius walks along Daedalus Street in search of the “ultimate adversary” of his dreams, Hermes clarifies his request for the Xenos to “die”. Rather, he’ll need some of them to die by Bell’s hands, so that Bell’s honor and reputation can be restored. Whatever else Hermes is planning, Bell continuing to be the beloved Little Rookie is a big part of it.

Gros and three others decide to acquiesce to Hermes’ request, and make a big show of attacking a square full of civilians and adventurers. With this “stage production”, Hermes is conceding that Ouranos’ desire for humans and monsters to achieve piece was little more than a pipe dream. He just can’t see thousands of years of continuous enmity ever ceasing.

The moment Eina is threatened by Gros (who I believe is being berserk-ified by Asfi), Bell comes between them, and Gros’ inner voice hopes Bell will defeat him before he kills her. But Bell isn’t altogether interested in playing the exact role Hermes laid out for him.

Rather than raise his blade to Gros, he simply puts his arms up and serves as Eina’s human shield. Gros ends up shoving him back. That’s when a frustrated Hermes has Asfi berserk-ify Asterius, who flies at Bell like a bat out of hell and presses a vicious, building-smashing attack.

Bell somehow manages to hang in there, and DanMachi’s Big Battle Theme starts to play as their epic duel carries through the night and into the dawn. Unfortunately, while the battle is quick, brutal, and fun, it also can’t really hold a T to Bell’s duel with Ais. In addition to Ais being easier on the eyes, it was more satisfying on both a thematic and character level.

Asterius’ whole deal is that Bell apparently beat him once, and he wanted another shot at him, and…that’s it. Everyone else allows the battle to unfold without interruption in part due to Ottarl, operating on Freya’s wishes. Asterius ends up delivering a huge defeat to Bell, and even though the battle served a purpose—both to rehabilitate his public image and serve as cover for the Xenos’ escape—Bell is still super upset about losing.

Satisfied that their head-to-head record stands at one win and one loss apiece, Asterius withdraws. We later see his arm is restored, as Fels heals all of the Xenos injuries once they arrive in Knossos. Wiene is happy where she is and not crying over missing Bell, and the Xenos have a new haven in which to survive and maybe even thrive…just separately from humans for the foreseeable future.

I can’t help but be a little disappointed that more effort wasn’t spent trying to move the peace process forward, but at least from Bell’s perspective part of the reason that process failed was he just wasn’t strong enough. Even though he beat Bell, Asterius isn’t standing still, and continues training the moment he’s healed.

Bell too returns to the battlements of the castle where he and Ais have met and trained so many times, and is surprised when she too arrives at that spot, telling him she had a feeling he’d be there. Bell asks Ais once more to teach him how to fight. He wants to become stronger, and their friendship remains strong enough to have survived the recent adversity.

DanMachi III – 11 – Don’t Speak

Welf and Mikoto manage to successfully stall Gareth with a last-minute assist from Tsubaki, ordered by Hephaistos to assist Hestia Familia. Wiene manages to give Tiona the slip, but the chase continues. In the process, the Amazoness witnesses Wiene save a demi child from a crumbling bridge.

When she corners her again, Tiona can’t go through with killing her, and lets her go, now sensing what it is Argonaut-kun saw in her, and acknowledging she’s more than just another monster.

Wiene reunites with Bell and Haruhime, but it’s not long before they’re confronted by Bete. Again asserting her newfound confidence and strength, Haruhime stalls Bete to allow the others to flee, then uses Uchide no Kozuchi to summon a leveled-up Aisha.

Haruhime may not be that good in an offensive battle, but those who love her like Aisha consider her battles to be their battles, and gladly fight in her place. Even though Aisha loses and doesn’t feel particularly cool about it, the fact is, she is extremely cool, while Bete’s just a hotheaded dork.

That brings us to the titular Decisive Battle, in which Bell and Ais dance once more, only this time with blades instead of eveningwear. As Finn expected, Ais isn’t prepared to make any distinction between Wiene and Monsters Who Make People Cry based on what she’s seen. Wiene went berserk before, she could do so again, and she can’t allow it.

That said, she is surprised that Bell is able to hold his own in their initial scuffle, such that she dispenses with holding back for the sake of their unique bond, and takes things up a notch. Bell can’t keep up, so he spams Firebolt at the stone arch above them and uses the debris cloud as cover to escape.

Finding the barred gate to a secret passage where he once stood up for Hestia, Bell has Wiene go through to meet up with the other Xenos, promising he’ll be right behind her. Round 2 with Ais commences, and Ais is not playing around. Her only accomodation to Bell is to warn him that she is going to cut him and it will hurt, a lot.

If she were to spill Bell’s blood, I doubt things would ever be the same between them—maybe they won’t be anyway—but thankfully Wiene sensed Bell was only lying to protect her (again) and comes back to put herself between Ais and Bell. Ais is shocked to hear her speak and express emotion—specifically concern for Bell.

It’s an inconvenient truth she’d rather not deal with. Things were easier when she thought Wiene was just a monster; now it will hurt her to kill her, but she’ll still kill her, because she has “deadly claws” and a “terrifying wing”. Wiene responds to that by literally tearing off the monstrous parts of her (not her jewel, that would kill her).

Wiene tearfully assures Ais that she ever loses herself again she’ll disappear “like she’s supposed to”, but she doesn’t want to go back to being in the “pitch black”. Bell saved her, and she wants to stay with him. Having witnessed Wiene act not like a monster at all, Ais concludes she can no longer kill her. She tosses Bell a potion and lets them go.

Bell and a healed Wiene meet up with Haruhime, Lili, and some Xenos who got separated from the main group, and Bell and Wiene say goodbye one more time. This time Wiene tells him she won’t cry while they’re apart because she doesn’t want him or the Familia to worry about her. Haruhime suggests Wiene and Bell pinky swear that they’ll meet again.

Unfortunately, that might not happen, as throughout this whole operation, the trickster Hermes was playing the good guys like a fiddle. The main Xenos group encounter a dead end that wasn’t on Daedalus’ map, and Hermes arrives with Asfi to confess he faked the map to corner them. He condemns the Xenos as “heretical” and politely asks them to die. As expected, he has his own personal agenda, and he’s making his move.

DanMachi III – 10 – The Western Door

Ever since Eina slapped Bell he’s kept his distance, which has put Eina more and more on edge. Her emotions are a jumble of regret and resentment, causing her to snap at Hermes, but he’s in a forgiving mood, so he tells her if she’s looking for Bell, he’s not at his Home.

Where Bell is is Daedalus Street with the rest of his fam. Hestia and Haruhime are coordinating the operation from a rooftop, using walkie-talkie gems from Fels. At the same time, Finn leads the Loki effort to track down the Xenos. Expecting Bell to be a diversion, he has Ais—and only Ais—follow him.

What follows is some pretty funny shit if you’ve been following DanMachi for the past two-plus seasons. From her rooftop perch Ais witnesses not one or two but four different women approach Bell in the streets, Since she can’t quite hear what they’re saying from her distance, she begins to suspect Bell is some kind of womanizing delinquent!

Those women are, in order of appearance, Raza from Miach Familia, Aisha and Ryuu from Hermes, and finally Aina, whose dialogue with him is the most misleading. Hermes had actually wanted her to give him a certain bracelet, but she misses her chance when Bell runs off.

Adding to the chaos on the streets is Lili, using her transmogrifying ability to imitate an al-miraj, which Loki children chase, breaking formation. Raza uses another of Fels’ magical items to create illusions of Bell and monsters for other children.

While Ais watches all this nonsense unfold, she ever so briefly takes her eyes off Bell, allowing him to give her the slip with his invisible cloak. Even so, she can still sense his presence—this is Ais we’re talking about—so to buy Bell a little more time, Ryuu challenges Ais to a sparring session, hoping the level boost Haruhime gave her will be enough to delay Ais sufficiently.

When it’s time for the Xenos to emerge from their hiding spot and go on the move, Lili imitates Finn to order Loki children to return to the operational base, freeing the way for the Xenos to head towards the West Gate.

Finn wasn’t aware of that gate’s existence, but judging from the Xenos’ movements, now he knows that must be what it is. After Lyd calls out to the other isolated Xenos groups, Makoto and Welf use his magical swords to create ice barriers between the Xenos and their attackers.

Everything is going swimmingly until Gareth smashes his way into the middle of things, scattering the Xenos. Makoto and Welf try to keep him on ice, but he’s a tough cookie and won’t be restrained long. Worse still, in the shockwave of Gareth’s axe strike, Wiene is separated from the others, and wanders off in the completely wrong direction.

Thankfully Hestia and Haruhime can see Wiene on the map, so Haruhime decides to go after the little vouivre, but Wiene is unfortunate enough to run afoul of one Tiona Hiryute first. Haruhime is on her way, but she has scant offensive abilities. Hestia could lead Bell to Wiene, leading to a clash between Argonaut-kun and Tiona. And then there’s Ais up on the rooftops, searching for her former dance partner…it’s one fine mess!

DanMachi III – 01 – Monster in the Family

Cranel Bell and the Hestia Familia are riding high after their recent victories, but all that could be threatened by one chance meeting in the woods of the nineteenth floor of the Dungeon.

Bell happens upon a naked and positively terrified little monster called a vouivre, who is being attacked by humans and stronger monsters alike. With a heart as soft as his hair, Bell protects the monster, covers her up, and brings her along when the party returns to the eighteenth.

The problem is, once the monster trips and reveals she’s a monster (and not another girl Bell has picked up in a Dungeon) everyone but Bell pulls out their weapons and orders Bell to step away. That’s because monsters and human/demihumans have never and will never get along. It’s just The Way Things Are.

While Bell doesn’t dispute that basic truth, the fact is it’s possible there are exceptions to that truth, and that this monster could be one of them. For one thing, she starts to say words, something nobody has ever heard a monster do. More importantly, she’s not trying to kill them. She seems far more frightened of them than they should be of her.

The other Familia members allow Bell to bring the monster home where Hestia can issue a ruling, but despite being a goddess this is uncharted territory for her as well. For now, she has Bell take responsibility for something that looks like monster but is acting like a human girl, and has him name her Wiene.

From there, Bell spends all his time with Wiene, showing her the ways of the human/demihuman life goes. Haruhime assists and organically comes to take a very maternal tack in caring for her, making sure she’s clothed, fed and happy.

Then there’s an scary, heartstabbingly sad moment when Wiene is just having fun roughhousing with Bell, and her monster claws accidentally dig deep into his arm, causing a spray of blood. After hours of harmless fun, everything seems poised to go sideways in a split-second.

But ultimately what matters isn’t the act of scratching Bell, but the intent—there was none; it was an accident—and her reaction—she’s shocked and terrified to tears. More importantly is how Bell responds, not with anger, but with a warm smile and assurance that everything’s okay. When he smiles, Wiene knows she can smile too.

Mikoto admits to being afraid of Wiene despite how harmless she seems—it’s hard to overcome millennia of instinct. Even so, when Wiene praises Mikoto’s cooking, she gradually joins Haruhime in the Wiene Fan Club.

Even Welf files her claws down into stylish black nails, allowing her to playfully poke Bell’s face without hurting him. It seems the entire Familia is chipping in to take care of the poor girl—and they’re starting to see her as one of their own.

When the whole Familia is relaxing in the living room, Wiene learns the word “love”, and Haruhime leads the charge in declaring her love for Bell. Hestia, Welf, and Mikoto echo the words, leaving Lili as the sole holdout, who finally relents and admits she loves Bell too when Wiene flashes those big orange eyes in her face. Bell in turn tells everyone he loves them too, because that’s what a family is.

But later that night, as she lies wearily on the couch, Lili tells Welf that something isn’t sitting right. If they play their cards wrong and word gets out they’re harboring a monster, it could mean the ruin of Hestia Familia. That aside, she just can’t trust a monster, even an obviously adorable one in Wiene. Things can’t stay the way they are.

Bell and Hestia likely realize this as well, but Wiene’s well-being, comfort, and happiness are coming first because they are kind-hearted, nurturing people who will protect the weak and help those who need help. Is Bell getting too emotionally attached?

Wiene’s disturbing “dreams” where she’s “very angry” and everything “gets dark and red” seem to support Lili’s worries about her; she may not be a monster now, in bed with Bell and Hestia, but they have no idea if or how the monster within could emerge.

It’s a complicated development to open the third season. Both Bell and Lili’s positions have their merits, but hopefuly a compromise can be made that doesn’t end up hurting Wiene (if she doesn’t end up being a threat). Meanwhile, Hermes’ Fam is searching for monsters being smuggled as well as chasing rumors about talking monsters; maybe others like Wiene?

In addition, we’ve a harpy character waiting in the wings (no pun intended), a dragon dude who can make a stone clone of himself (I think!) and a moment in the ED when Ais points her sword at Bell—will they end up on opposite sides of this issue after getting along so well last season? We’ll soon find out. DanMachi is back, and it’s humming as usual.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi II – 12 (Fin) – A Goddess’ Love

While last week’s cliffhanger, in which Bell, Hestia, and Ais literally fell off a cliff, hinted at more action and peril in the finale, we end up with no such thing. My expectations were duly subverted; thank you, DanMachi! The episode skips to the part where Ais has already effortlessly saved everyone, and Hestia is in bed recovering from a fever.

They end up in a gorgeous mountain village, whose mayor Karm and daughter Rina are more than happy to host a goddess. When Rina proves more than capable of taking care of her, Hestia puts Bell to work helping the villagers prepare for their harvest festival. Ais joins him, donning some very fetching village garb.

So…what’s the twist? Isn’t everyone in this village a bit too kind? When does the other shoe drop? Well, it doesn’t. Bell and Ais never encounter any more enemies, be they Ares’ children or anyone else. The village doesn’t even have a dark secret; the scales of the legendary Black Dragon are on proud display for all to see, their mere presence keeping monsters away and enabling the village to prosper. Ais gives them the stink-eye, but that’s all.

The lack of any classic conflict allows the episode to be a meditation on the goddess-child relationship, represented in the present by Hestia and Bell, and in the past by Karm and his goddess Brigid. Once a brash young adventurer himself, he and Brigid loved one another, so much so that she saved his life at the cost of returning to heaven.

Filled with grief and regret, he swore never to take a wife and instead adopted Rina, who keeps him going. But as his life continues to wind down, he impresses upon Bell the importance of honoring and protecting his goddess at all costs.

Bell takes that to heart when a recovered Hestia joins him and Ais at the festival. Rather than bookending DanMachi with Bell-Ais dances, Bell remembers Karm’s words and how he spurned Hestia last week by saying the wrong thing, and formally asks her for a dance.

The fun is interrupted by Rina, who brings Hestia back to speak to Karm, who is very near death. While everyone around her is weeping, Hestia maintains an ethereal calm about the whole thing, keeping things light and upbeat as she speaks to Karm.

Turns out she and Brigid were best friends (though, like Loki she used to call her a shrimp), and she lets her hair down so Karm can see her as Brigid with his failing eyes, calling him to join her in heaven. Bell can’t help but weep as Hestia shuts the departed Karm’s eyes—he can’t help but see his own future in the scene.

Bell wanders off on his own, but is soon found by Hestia, who suspects he’s worried about their very lifespans and resultant perspectives on time. But she tells him not to overthink things. If he wants to be with her—and he very much does—then there’s nothing to worry about. She’ll be with him, all throughout his life, even when he grows old.

Even when his soul rises to heaven, is wiped clean, and returns to earth as someone else. She’ll simply find that person and ask them to be in her Familia. There’s no need to fear their love for each other, because even if his body isn’t eternal, she, and that love, most certainly are.

With that, Bell, Hestia, and Ais return to Orario. They vow to return to the village—I can’t blame them, place was super-cozy—and Ais has Bell promise to bring her along, inviting Hestia’s ire. Haruhime invites it too when she welcomes bell home with a big hug.

As action-packed, world-changing finales go, this…wasn’t that. In a way, it was something better—or at least far truer to what a goddess like Hestia is all about: the warmth and comfort of the hearth, and the kindness and love of a happy home.

DanMachi II – 11 – Godstage Situation

As one could have predicted with reasonable certainty, the episode immediately following DanMachi’s biggest battle to date was a much lighter weight affair. You wouldn’t immediately know it from the cold open, which features huge armies of the Kingdom of Rakia approaching Orario.

Then entire companies of soldiers are “blown away” by solo adventurers. Turns out they’re not tough…at all. Aries is a buffoon of a commander of a vast army of weaklings, and his buffoonery annoys the hell of of his top lieutenant Marius.

Meanwhile we learn something new about Haruhime from Aisha as she bids farewell: whenever she saw a naked man she’d pass out, meaning she remains as chaste as the virgin goddess of the hearth. Aisha doesn’t tell her that, but she’s right that it didn’t matter to her hero, Bell.

Still, Haruhime’s wonderful chemistry with Bell causes a jealous Hestia to ban all contact between the sexes, which Lili makes a big stink about. When Hestia all but asks if Bell would be her lover, he refuses, honestly but also flatly and rudely, not taking into consideration just how much Hestia loves him.

She runs off, and Bell chases after her, realizing he erred. A chance meeting with Hephaistos and Miach has them confirming that he erred by not showing his goddess proper respect. They discuss how even though the lifetime of a mortal is but a moment, the love gods feel for their mortal lovers is not any less powerful or real.

Unfortunately these two gods hold Bell up long enough that Hestia manages to sneak out of the Orario on an errand to gather ingredients for the potato snacks so popular in the city. Ganesha lets her through due to the importance of her mission, but she’s quickly snatched up by Ares in disguise, executing a “brilliant plan” to get Orario to surrender by taking a god hostage…or…sigh….godstage.

Bell ends up bumping into Ais, who takes him to where Hestia was last. There, Loki is coordinating a rescue op; she may not be besties with the shrimp but they can’t go letting Ares kidnap gods whenever he likes. She agrees to let Bell accompany Ais outside the walls to track Ares down.

Fueled by awesome Celtic-style overworld music, and with help from Hermes’ child Asfi, they locate Ares in the gray gloom, and it isn’t long before Ais is crossing swords with Ares, and just as quickly snapping his sword. Like his armies, he’s not as strong as he looks.

Still, he has enough numbers to surround and isolate Ais, while Bell manages to sneak around and reunite with Hestia, who freed herself but promptly stumbles and falls down a huge canyon. Bell jumps in after her, then Ais jumps in after him, setting up a cliffhanger for the finale next week. Chances are they’ll all be fine!

DanMachi II – 04 – The Lightning Rises

With Liliruca successfully rescued and Bell sufficiently trained up, he arrives home to find his familia has grown by three, with Lili, Welf, and Mikoto official Hestians. Ryu, merely a helper and not a familia member, keeps her distance, but is with them all the way.

The night before the siege, Cassandra relays to Daphnie what many a Star Wars character would call “a bad feeling about this,” particularly when she sees their pint-sized ally Luan entering the fortress at the last minute and pulling a wagon carrying a massive cargo. Who do we know who’s that small and can lug that much?

Cassandra calls this a Trojan Horse, and that it will seal their defeat. Who am I to argue with her?!

Every eye (and a good chunk of cash) in Orario is trained upon the magical viewscreens transmitting the War Game, from the adventurers in the tavern to the gods in their meeting place. Outnumbered 100-5, Hestia gets off to a rousing start, with their elven masked mercenary Ryu rushing the walls wielding not one but two of Welf’s magical swords, one fire, one lightning.

Ryu expends every drop of magical power in both those swords carving through as many Apollos as possible, including a fellow elf who is outraged by her use of the same swords that burned through their villages. Ryu feels helping a friend in need is more important than keeping the fires of hatred burning. She also makes such a rukus that Mikoto easily dashes right through the lines and into the castle courtyard.

There, she repels dozens of arrows and lets herself get surrounded by as many Apollos as possible before unleashing a spell that took a few minutes of incantation to cast, but is well worth it from a tactical perspective: it’s high-level gravity magic that immobilizes everyone who pursued her, taking still more Apollos off the board.

Proving each one of the five party members is worth at least ten Apollos, and that big, bold moves by every one of them is absolutely essential to snatch victory from such lopsided numbers, “Luan” “betrays his god and opens the front gate for Bell and Welf. Turns out he’s not Luan at all, but Lilisuke in disguise, who snuck in the night before. The huge wagon wasn’t the Trojan Horse, she was.

Welf covers Bell as he rushes to the central tower where Hyakinthos has so far been comfortably watching. Daphnie holds Welf up, but as one of the two main DanMachi themes blares (“Heroic Desire,” an all-timer that always gives me chills) Bell slides right in and blasts a massive Firebolt straight up, reducing the tower to a pile of rubble and bringing Hyakinthos right to him. He also wastes no time snapping his prized sword.

Cassandra almost spoils the upset when she tackles Bell, letting Hyakinthos unleash his special attack, but Lili tackles her just in time to let Bell dodge it enough to survive. Bell also got some help from that pendant Syr gave him before he went off to battle—one bearing the symbol of Freya Familia.

That moment, when he is so close to defeat and Hyakinthos so close to victory, is what Ais drilled into his head was the moment to wait for. When it comes, Bell doesn’t waste it. He knows Hyakinthos is about to finish him, so his opponent is basically opening himself up. Bell evades his dagger, kicks him off his feet, then delivers a knockout punch.

War Game Over: Hestia Familia is the winner.

Those who voted for the ultimate underdog get one hell of a payday while all of Bell’s friends who cheered him on rejoice, from Ais to Syr and even Freya. Even better, Hestia does NOT go easy on Apollo, who tries to backtrack and pretend he was just messing around because he found Bell cute.

Hestia confiscates all of Apollos property, declares his familia disbanded, and banishes him from Orario forever. She then takes her newly-expanded familia to the front gates of their new palatial home, and scrawls a new symbol to represent them: the guardian flame of Hestia, combined with the bell of…well, Bell.

I’m duly impressed by the speed with which DanMachi II has gotten things done. Here I was loathing a long, drawn out, multi-episode arc involving just the war game with Apollo, complete with constant reaction shots from the assembled spectators, changes in momentum, and cliffhangers.

Instead, the show understood that, outnumbered 100-5, the Hestians had to get shit done in a hurry if they wanted to win. And they did, in a superbly breathless battle helped in no small part by a cinematic orchestral soundtrack by Inai Keiji that absolutely fucking OWNS. Nice to see the little guys win one going away.

DanMachi II – 03 – Finding an Opening

Soma’s commander, Zanis, claims that the whole point of helping Apollo attack Hestia Familia was to bring Liliruca back into the family, but all he really cares about is her transformation magic, with which he intends to make a fortune. Lili’s prison guard, Chandra, snorts at Zanis’ arrogance; portending his giving a helping hand to Lili later.

Hestia meets with Welf, Takemikazuchi, Ouka, Mikoto, Chigusa, Miach, and Naza to arrange a rescue mission. When they ask whether the upcoming War Game with Apollo Familia should be her priority, Hestia retorts that all she has against Apollo is Bell, but he can’t fight 100% as long as he’s worried about his supporter, so Lili must come first.

As for the meeting of the gods in which the terms of the War Game are set out, Hestia by way of Hermes draws the worst possible lot: a siege. When Hermes says that the situation is just too unfair unless Hestia is allowed helpers, and Freya mocks Apollo for being afraid of allowing them, Apollo caves to the crowd and declares that Hestia Familia shall be allowed *one* helper, but they can’t be from Orario.

Meanwhile, Zanis reveals his true nature by dropping the whole “family” bit with Lili: she’s a resource he’ll use up and discard for his own gain. Once Zanis leaves, Chandra tosses the keys to Lili to do as she will; he can’t stand that guy! Once free, Lili finds a rescue raid in progress that she doesn’t even want. When she tells Hestia and the others to leave her, Hestia tells her how important she is to Bell—to all of them—and that they’re not leaving without her.

Lili tries one more time to get Soma to take a break from his winemaking and do something, but typically he’s left everything to the corrupt Zanis. This time, he offers some wine to Lili, and if she is still able to ask him for help, he’ll do as she asks.

To Soma’s surprise, Lili does not become a drunk slave, and still has the lucidity to beg him to stop the battle, which he does, even allowing Welf to zipline in and sword-slap Zanis in his shitty face.

With Lili safely rescued, she promptly officially transfers from Soma to Hestia Familia, and she’s not the only one. Mikoto asks Takemikazuchi for a transfer to Hestia, and wanting to help Hestia, he agrees. Welf also gets Hephaistios to let him transfer, while Hermes and Syl convince Ryu Lion to be the one helper that Hestia is allowed to recruit.

With Hestia Familia appointed the attacker in the War Game siege, and Bell training hard with Ais and Tiona, the odds of a Hestia victory are starting to look a lot less hopeless!

DanMachi II – 02 – White Rabbit Howl

Apparently, Apollo’s sole reason for challenging Hestia to a War Game between their familias is his infatuation with Bell, but Hestia flatly refuses and storms out of the banquet with Bell. Of course, the matter is far from over, as Bell and Hestia wake up to a full scale ambush of their home.

Woefully outnumbered and without the high ground, they only have one choice: run. If there’s a silver lining in this chase for Hestia, it’s that she gets to be princess-carried by Bell for most of it.

Their destination is the neutral guild, though Eina and her boss lament that no amount of fines will deter the ridiculously wealthy Apollo from doing what he wants. Daphne warns Bell that Apollo will never stop pursuing that which he wants, while one of his strongest lieutenants in Hyakinthos has added incentive to capture Bell, believing Bell stole his god’s affections.

Even Ais’ hands are also tied for the duration of the chase, as it would not be proper for her to be seen as assisting the Hestia Familia (plus Finn plain won’t allow it). Bell is no match for Hyakinthos, and gets severely slashed up.

He’s only saved from having a limb removed by the scornful Hyakinthos by sniper arrows from Miach Familia’s Naaza, along with last-minute backup by the Takemikazuchi Familia and the arrival of Welf, Lili, and Miach, who heals Bell’s wounds. Able to run again, Bell takes Hestia and continues to flee while their allies fight Apollo’s forces.

But there’s something strange going on: some of the fighters are wearing Soma Familia’s emblem, and when Welf and Lili are briefly separated, we learn why: Zanis has come to bring her back into the fold, and either due to brainwashing or some other psychological trauma (why not both?), Lili obeys him, leaving Welf behind.

As Bell and Hestia stop to rest under a bridge, still far from the guild, Hyakinthos announces from the rooftops that no matter what happens, Apollo won’t stop until he has Bell.

Hestia tries to get Bell to return her romantic feelings for him, but when he says he “respects” instead of “likes”, she gives away their position by screaming her displeasure, and they’re nearly blasted away by Apollo mages.

Rather than keep going for the guild, Hestia has Bell turn southwest, and they arrive at Apollo’s palace. There, she throws Prum’s glove in Apollo’s face and officially accepts the war game. Apollo calls off his attack forces and declares that the details will be forthcoming as adventurers come out of the woodwork to celebrate the first War Game in a long time.

Bell is going to have a tough time fighting all of Apollo on his own, but knows where he can receive the training he needs to get stronger. When he’s turned away at Loki’s gate by Tione, but not before she mutters something to him under her breath.

Those words lead him to a more secluded spot where Ais and Tiona are waiting. Neither are able to be seen with him in public, but in the interests of a fairer fight against Apollo Familia, both are eager to help train him. With the added need to rescue Lili from Soma before the War Game begins, Bell suddenly has a lot on his place, and will need all the help he can get.

This was a thrilling chase episode, starting with a bang and continuing to escalatie until poor Hestia had no choice but to give in. The weather turned from a morose cloudy gray to a more hopeful golden sunset as the chase ended, with Inai Keiji’s stirring score lending both urgency and majesty to the proceedings. I can’t wait to how Bell avoids becoming the latest part of Apollo’s collection—and who else pitches in to help him.

DanMachi II – 01 – May I Have This Dance?

After a four-year pause, DanMachi resumes, starting with Cranel and his party (Lili, Welf, and Mikoto) on thirteenth floor, taking care of business. The baddies are threatening; the action is smooth, slick, and packs a punch. Mikoto is a nice addition with her lightning-quick, multidirectional katana strikes.

While unwinding at the tavern, talking about the future of this party full of members of different Familias, Bell is suddenly verbally accosted by a young pipsqueak, backed up by a group of his friends all wearing the same military uniform: that of the vaunted Apollo Familia.

He says a couple of the wrong things about Hestia, and Bell gets mad, but it’s Welf who stoves in the kids face with a flagon. One of the kids’ much tougher (Level 3) friends quickly rearranges Bell’s face and nearly chokes him to death; he’s “saved” by Bete, complaining about the noise.

Hestia, ever the goddess of warmth and kindness, is proud of Bell for fighting for her name, but impresses upon him how sad she’d be if he got hurt again for her sake (Lili tends to Welf).

The next day, after reporting the fight to Eina, Bell is approached by two Apollo’s children—Daphne and Cassandra, whom I’m sure we’ll see later—who present him with an invitation to a Banquet of the Gods.

Since Hestia and Apollo have a sour history (she rejected his offer of marriage—Poseidon’s too—choosing instead to remain pure), there could well be some unpleasantness, but Hestia is excited nevertheless, in part because she gets to take a child plus-one.

It’s an occasion when everyone gets to show off how nicely they clean up, and while his hair remains stubbornly messy, even Bell looks pretty damn dapper in his tux.

It’s also an effective way of re-introducing all the gods, goddesses, and children after a long hiatus. Still, it’s hard to feel easy at the house of Apollo, the Familia Bell & Co. “disrespected” so recently. You can’t trust a god with children that…sophomoric.

Hestia and Loki snipe at one another as Bell and Ais give each other eyes, but neither has the guts to defy their goddess right in front of them. Even so, Bell lingers a bit as Ais walks away, and once he turns his head, Ais turns back too. Though members of different Familia, particularly those whose gods don’t like each other, don’t often mix, Bell and Ais clearly don’t feel that way.

While out on the balcony, Bell spots the Apollo child who almost killed him talking to someone and gets suspicious, but is saved from locking eyes with him when Hermes shows up and, after hearing Bell explain why he became an adventurer (at least in part to meet cute girls), steers him in the direction of one with whom Bell should dance.

A completely unexpected but utterly delightful dance scene between Bell and Ais ensues, the two looking absolutely killer in their classy duds, but looking even better because of how much goddamn fun they’re having dancing with each other.

I was gradually reminded of a similar dance scene in FFVIII (that was top-notch CGI in 1999!), starting out awkwardly but becoming smoother as the two grew more comfortable. Even if it was shameless bait for AizBell shippers, I don’t care; it was freaking beautiful and I loved every moment of it!

Unfortunately, the episode’s crushing low immediately follows its dizziest high, as Apollo pulls the plug on the pleasantness and reveals his resting crazyface. Yep, he’s one of those…gesugao or whatever…

Previously described as “spiteful”, he demonstrates he’s petty too, calling Bell and Hestia out for the bar fight his children started, then using it as a transparent excuse to challenge Hestia to a “War Game” between their Familias. And if he wins, he’s claiming Bell.

And there you have it: one of the littlest Familias (but sporting the biggest heart in that of Hestia) going up against one of the biggest, most powerful and militaristic. Assuming allowing outside help (like Ais, for instance) is forbidden, Hestia, Bell and Lili will surely have their work cut out for them!

DanMachi Gaiden: Sword Oratoria – 04

Things aren’t off to a great start when a red-haired woman pretending to be a sex worker strangles her john, then immediately cut to the far more lighthearted OP, then a flashback of Baby Ais being read a story by her mom. It’s an awkward and bizarre juxtaposition that’s a tonal mess. Unfortunately, “tonal mess” fairly accurately describes the episode of DGSO as a whole, as it delves deep into the murder mystery—a boring one!

The Loki familia is on a relaxing trip to the dungeon and stop to rest at an inn in Rivira, run by Finn’s acquaintance Bors. There they find the body of the man the woman killed in the cold open, then ruined his face so he couldn’t be identified…unless someone has the apparently easily obtainable Status Thief potion, which Bors has, so I don’t see the point of ruining the victim’s face, beyond inconveniencing the investigators momentarily.

Meanwhile, Loki takes the one child not in Rivira—Bete—into the sewers to investigate something, and ends up finding a whole mess of those giant plant monsters the familia fought last week on street level.

Bete’s a tough cookie and he has a magical weapon, but I still don’t see how he alone was able to defeat all of those monsters without Loki being bothered or tentacled by any of them. This makes them seem like far less of a threat later on.

From Loki and Bete we cut back to the murder investigation… where nothing else has happened. Seriously, it’s as if the scene in the bedroom was put on pause for the Loki scene. And what ewe come back to…isn’t great.

When Bors learns the victim was a Level 4 adventurer, he immediately suspects the female adventurers in the room murdering the victim, with the evidence that—sigh…they’re so sexyexcept of course for the flat-chested Tiona! LOL, get it, she has small boobs so she’s not sexually desirable!

Seriously DanMachi, WTF. It’s one thing for the innkeeper to turn around an suspect the large-chested women in the room of murder, but quite another to gather the entire town and announce that all women are getting full body inspections, then ordering them to strip.

I’ll set aside the fact there’s apparently no official police force in Rivira to investigate the murder. Is Bors for real here? Is he actually using the murder as an excuse to grope large numbers of women without their consent, or is he just joking around to lighten the mood? Either way, it just doesn’t work.

The inspection apparently goes forward, with the women volunteering to inspect the women, apparently buying into the ludicrous notion that all men are only attracted to a single body type and that body type will determine who was somehow able to seduce and kill a Level 4 adventurer. That’s pretty idiotic writing right there, and the tone of the situation is so all over the place it basically left me numb and disinterested.

There’s a connection between the murder, the goings-on in the sewer, and the Monsterphilia raid, and that connection only becomes more apparent when just after Ais looks at the strange creature-in-a-ball Lulune was contracted to take from the guy who ended up murdered, and totally freaks out.

The murdered guy and the guy Lulune met with seem to be different people, because the latter guy is not only alive, but uses a kind of dog whistle to call a horde of the plant monsters to the town. Monsters that we know Bete can deal with in a matter of seconds on his own.

I’m not sure I care anymore.

DanMachi Gaiden: Sword Oratoria – 03

This week hews close to the Loki core of Ais, Lefiya, the Amazon twins, and Loki herself. While their goddess attends a banquet of the gods, Ais and Lefiya spend the evening adventuring alone together. The minute anything jumps out to attack Lefiya, she is rescued by Ais. It’s a common refrain thus far, and I feel confident in saying everyone is getting a little sick of it.

Things take a turn for the worse when they get home too late and the Monsterphilia date plans Lefiya thought were in the bag are crushed when Loki decides to punish them both by taking Ais herself. Lefiya then cries herself to sleep before realizing she’s acting like a petulant child and really needs to get her shit together, vis-a-vis being useful on the battlefield, and not a liability and perpetual grateful rescuee. Standing beside Ais means bringing more to the table than nice clothes, gifts, and a sweat towel.

As it did in the previous series, Monsterphilia goes a bit awry when Freya releases some dangerous animals, turning the streets of Orario into a battlefield. Loki sends Ais out to take care of the beasts, which she does in quick order with her Tempest ability, but Lefiya still can’t quite get a spell chant out before getting pummeled by a mandragora-style predatory plant. Even the twins can’t penetrate its thick skin, but Ais arrives on the scene and halves the plant, saving, and frustrating, Lefiya once more.

No one would think any less of her if she just gave up and went with the medics (there’s not much less to think of her, at least in battle, after all), but thankfully Lefiya finds her courage, performs a full summon burst chant—her hidden specialty—then a massive Wynn Fimbulveter blizzard spell that destroys the remaining three mandragoras.

Turns out Freya didn’t release these vicious monsters; that would be Dionysius. Is he testing Lefiya? If so, I think she passed. And to her credit, while she finally did a thing and was useful, nothing’s really changed yet: she’s still far behind the one she wants to stand beside. She’ll have to prove to others and herself that she can keep it up—just as this DanMachi Gaiden has to continue to prove it’s worth my time.

DanMachi Gaiden: Sword Oratoria – 02

After an action-packed return, Sword Oratoria settles down, as the Loki Familia returns to the surface and home to their patron, Loki. For those who weren’t a fan of apparent co-protagonist Lefiya’s bungling on the battlefield, you probably weren’t thrilled that she’s an easy mark for Loki’s sexual harassment (which all the other girls know how to avoid…though they should really report to H.R. More to the point…they need H.R., bad!)

But while she’s still finding her footing in battle, with one of the higher-ups like Riveria on her side, and the fact she’s cute and mostly harmless, Lefiya is treated like something of a mascot or good luck charm. She seems to revel in that role, and makes cheering Ais up her primary mission.

The higher-ups also see how restless and consumed Ais is with improving herself, and believes having an admirer close by will help her be more aware of others. It certainly can’t hurt for Lefiya to be beside Ais. Each can provide what the other lacks; it’s a good arrangement.

But the true reason Ais has been more down than usual lately is her encounter with the previous show’s MC, Cranel Bell, or “Tomatoface”, as a drunken Bete calls him at the tavern…the same tavern where Cranel himself is. Like the minotaur encounter, it’s another scene inhabiting the same time and place as DanMachi, only from Ais and the familia’s POV.

At the same time, Oratoria doesn’t lean too heavily on the events we’ve already seen, and when it does, the fresh POV, gives them, well, fresh context and insight.

As for what’s new, we get a lot more exposure to the various members of the Loki Familia and get to see them take care of things like bartering away dungeon loot and getting their weapons repaired—or in Tiona’s case, replaced—by some very exasperated smiths.

When the twins decide Ais needs more cheering up they take her on a shopping trip, where we see the stark contrast between their taste in fashion (much less is more) and Lefiya’s (lots of cloth; lots of frills). (They also put Ais in Hestia cosplay, which…well played, DanMachi).

When Lefiya foots the bill as thanks for Ais looking out for her (and because she just wants to) Ais finally puts two and two together and realizes everything Lefiya has done for her, and why. So instead of apologizing for not realizing sooner, Ais does all she really needs to do: she thanks Lefiya for blowing so much petty cash on her. It’s Cranel to whom she apparently feels she must apologize.

Was there way too much talk of boobs and grabbing and groping of boobs in this episode? Probably. But the fine slice-of-lifeity made up for that, and Lefiya was definitely of more use in town than in the dungeon, even if talked to herself and daydreamed too much. There’s still hope for her!