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.

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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!

Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen – 08

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Haqua is attending a briefing at the New Hell Bureau of the Peace, when she asks the chief about the rumors that Vintage has infiltrated the Loose Souls Team. When she tries to return to earth, she’s arrested and thrown in jail. Back on earth, Diana has Keima assemble the released goddesses and show them Apollo/Kanon. They combine their powers to call to her, and Keima is drawn into a world created by Apollo, where she is praying to shift the fortunes of his town.

Keima has three days to find the last goddess. Based on past events he determines Chihiro to be the most likely host, and so chooses to conquer her first. He accepts when she asks him to be her date for the Festival Eve bonfire. He also asks Ayumi that it’s her last chance to get mad at him, and she doesn’t. That night Keima and Chihiro slink away from the fire to find a more private spot. Back in New Hell, Haqua is charged with treason as the Vintage infiltrator  Lune gloats.

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Both Chihiro and Ayumi like Keima, but only one of them likes him because the goddess she’s hosting restored her memories of his conquest of her. The other likes him because she really likes him, which means (to us at least) that whichever girl has those real feelings should still have them after the Goddess dilemma has been resolved. If Chihiro is the final host, then Ayumi is the one who really loves him. So…is Chihiro the final host? Keima is certainly operating under that assumption on the first of three remaining days before crunch time.

But we wouldn’t put it past this show to pull a twist on us and make Ayumi the host. There are certainly enough episodes left for another twist or two, so we’ll see. In any case, if the arc ends with neither of the girls liking him, that wouldn’t make sense to us…unless his choosing of the goddess girl makes the non-goddess girl fall out of love with him. It’s not like he’d be able to explain to her what he’s been through all season, after all.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Once the goddesses are all awake, they start fighting over Keima for their hosts’ sakes. Seriously gals, there’re other guys that exist in the world!
  • Diana/Tenri definitely sprouted wings in episode 4 after Keima apologized to her, yet here she is, still wingless. We guess they were just temporary wings…
  • Why did Haqua blurt out her suspicions when for all she knew, the Vintage infiltrator was there (and, indeed, Lune was right there)? We’re not that invested in all these silly New Hell politics, but are curious to learn who’ll rescue her.

Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen – 04

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Keima is confident Shiori is hosting a goddess, but he can move on to anyone else, he’s cornered in the library by Tsukiyo’s doll, Luna, who reveals that Tsukiyo is hosting the goddess Vulcanus, who cannot move her body but only manipulate other objects. She attacks Keima believing him to be unfaithful. Meanwhile, Nora discovers the miasma-covered Kanon, and Haqua has to explain. Keima gets beaten up to the point Tsukiyo trusts him and gives him a kiss while he’s passed out. The kiss boosts her goddess powers and she sprouts wings.

Diana meets with her sister and Keima takes them to Kanon, where they combine their powers to remove the Vintage Weiss curse. Even so, Apollo is still very weak and casts a “hydration” spell on herself, keeping Kanon unconscious. With three goddesses left to awaken, Keima reaches a deal with Nora to delay her report to her superiors for a week. Jealous of her sister’s wings, Diana/Tenri confronts Keima right as Haqua is insisting he tells her he needs her. Keima apologizes to Diana, and she sprouts wings as well.

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Keima is deep into the RPG of his life, with the role of agent of the preservation of New Hell, only he isn’t playing a game. Whereas the first season of TWGOK, the stakes were limited to his life and perhaps the lives of his conquests, this time an entire dimension is at stake, only the united goddesses can save it, and only he can release them from the girls he’s conquered. So far so good; despite working with limited resources and a very tight-knit network of girls with endless possibilities for slip-ups, he’s comported himself well and even facilitated the release of the curse on Kanon.

As the details of Keima’s grand mission and the myriad complications from all sides pile up, the entire series is ever on the cusp of being swallowed up in plot, but this season has been very clever at dispensing huge amounts of exposition while keeping the story moving with swiftness and urgency. It also knows just when to lighten things with a quip or observation that all of this is, in fact, quite absurd. An example of this is the fact that while the girls who remember loving Keima are all competing against one another, so too are the goddesses they host, and even Haqua is competing with Nora for Keima’s favor. Never a dull moment for this guy.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

The World God Only Knows III – 01

Apollo / Nakagawa Kanon

When not playing dating sims, Katsuragi Keima continues to extract loose souls from troubled young women with the help of the demon Elucia de Lute Ima. After summarizing his past conquests, he heads to school with Elsie and is stopped by his neighbor and childhood friend Ayukawa Tenri, who suddenly grows a halo and changes demeanor. It turns out the goddess Diana is possessing her, and wants Keima to marry her so she can gain power and restore the balance between heaven, earth, and hell that’s currently off.

Meanwhile, J-pop idol and Keima’s classmate and former conquest Nakagawa Kanon is a vessel for Diana’s older sister Apollo. As a result of the presence of these “Jupiter Sisters”, both Tenri and Kanon remember everything about their romantic exploits with Keima. Kanon latches on to Keima in the middle of a test, fearful of someone chasing her, and Apollo comes out, having recieved a boost, and then withdraws. Apollo is then captured by Lune, a demon, member of Vintage and part of the movement to restore hell to its former glory.

While sometimes our opinions of various anime can vary wildly, we pride ourselves on being mostly consistent. So we went back to the review of the last episode of TWGOKII to re-familiarize ourselves with our thoughts on the close of that series:

“Keima is simply doomed for life to make girls fall in love with him and then lose them”

“For all the girls whose lives he’s changed by releasing them from loose souls, Keima remains stubbornly static”

“None of the relationships he forms ever have any lasting emotional effect on him”

“If another season is just going to continue the by-now tired formula, it’s going to be very hard to watch”

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Once Keima learned that none of his conquests would stick once the loose soul was extracted, he stopped caring about the aftermaths of those conquests. And why wouldn’t he? The girls went back to the way they used to feel about him. The reset button was pressed, again and again. For Keima, emotional detachment was the key to avoiding getting his heart broken every time.

This inclusion of the Jupiter Sisters, while seeming a bit tacked-on, and the resulting restored memories of his conquests, may be the kick in the pants this series needs to regain some freshness – and our interest. It also helps that there are no other series we’re watching that air when it airs, otherwise we’d definitely give it the boot.

In a subtle but clever parallel to his new situation and impending role this season, before shutting down his game center, he saves all of his in-progress dating sims. The goddesses serve as memory cards for real life, having saved the conquests Keima believed to be deleted. But it brings up a potential fatal flaw in this resurgence: if the goddesses leave the girls, surely they’ll take the memories too. We’ll see how it goes…for now.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Stray Observations:

  • This episode summarizes Keima’s conquest of Goidou Yui in the manga, as well as his conquest of Tenri in an OVA we never got around to watching. We got the jist, though!
  • Every time Keima’s conquest lost her memories it hurt a little bit, but we really liked Kanon’s arc, so we’re glad the series starts off with her remembering everything.
  • Way back, we also said the reset button prevented Keima from being in a harem situation, since only one girl liked him at a time. But that would no longer seem to be the case. It will be interesting to see how Keima, who’s played dozens of dating sims at once, deals with a real-life version of that situation!

Aquarion Evol – 16

With the Kagura threat neutralized for the time being, Fudo orders a mock battle between Aquarions: Cayenne, Sazanka and Malloy in Gephard against Amata, Mikono, and Zessica in Evol. The special training increased and augment everyone’s powers, and Gephard initially dominates, but when Zessica confesses to Amata, her unrequited love sends Evol into a brief berzerk mode, moving on its own and launching an Infinity Punch that trancends time and space and gives the Evol pilots a glimpse of the true story of Apollo and Sylvia. Gephard is defeated, and the training island is destroyed.

After all the excitement last week we expected things to slow down and cool off a bit, and with Amata buying cat treats to woo Mikono’s “cat” Shush, that’s how things started. But then we had elements put back into Aquarions for the first time in a while, only this time sparring with one another. Sazanka and Malloy’s powers are revealed, Zessica finally works up the courage to confess to Amata, Amata reacts predictably, and the Evol goes berzerk, blasting a punch so far our heroes can watch their counterparts from the previous Aquarion Series (which we haven’t seen)!

So now they know all that stuff really happened 12,000 years ago, leaving Amata worried: he was all gung-ho about fighting fate, but now he’s not so sure. Zessica’s confession doesn’t do anything for him (i.e. he’s not thinking about backup girlfriends); his focus is on Mikono, and whether he has any chance against Kagura. And so nobody is really happy. Except, strangely enough, Andy and MIX. Next week: we’ll see how Aquarion Evol does its inevitable swimsuit episode. Our prediction: there’ll be boobs.


Rating: 3.5