DanMachi – 09

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Beating an oversouled Minotaur is a pretty big deal, elevating Bell to Level 2 faster than anyone, ever. It makes him an overnight celebrity—complete with the new title “Little Rookie”—though that results in more envious looks directed at him, at least in the tavern.

When one fellow Level 2 (who’s probably been at Level 2 for some time) offers his services in exchange for a little alone time with Bell’s many fetching lady friends, Bell doesn’t have a chance to say, Dr. McCoy-style, “I’m an adventurer, not a pimp!” That’s because Ryuu has his back, making it clear she won’t let her friend be insulted.

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But it’s Ryuu who tells him if he ventures beyond the 13th floor of the dungeon, he can’t hope to take on the enemies alone, so he must expand their party. It just so happens that the smith who made Bell’s light armor (which he likes very much) is right next to Bell when he asks about his wares. That smith, Welf Crozzo, contracts with Bell, making him his exclusive supplier of weapons, armor, and equipment.

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Bell being Bell, he adds Welf to his party and even agrees to help him gain a Blacksmith skill at a lower level, despite knowing nothing about the guy. A more weary Lili (whom Welf adorably nicknames Lilisuke or “Lil’ Lili”) knows that the Crozzos were a once-renowned family of smiths who made magical items, but are now destitute. Basically, Lili scolds Bell for having the same sympathy for Welf as he did for her, but I’m not sure what else she expects: this is the kindhearted, generous, unselfish Bell we’re talking about.

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I like how the enemies on this floor seem so much slower and weaker to Bell now that he’s Level 2; it’s almost like the higher, tougher floors are beckoning to him. But when a baby dragon shows up and threatens Lili, Bell also learns what his new “Argonaut” skill does: it’s “the possibility to overcome any difficulty.” That seems pretty overpowered, but I imagine he can only use it in a pinch, or once it’s charged up; a Limit Break, if you will: e.g. Braver or Renzokuken. In other words, a very useful skill for someone who wants to be a hero like him.

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Because of what happened with Lili before, I was a little suspicious of Welf, especially with his family’s background and his possible desire to bring that family name back to respectability, meaning Bell just might be a convenient stepping stone. So it’s refreshing to see Welf is a man of his word, who actually isn’t interested in restoring his family’s fame at all.

He believes weapons should be extensions of their users, not tools for victory and fame. He notices Bell still has the minotaur horn on him, and fashions it into a really nice-looking dagger which he dubs Ushiwakamaru (Cattle…young…circle?), then asks a very formal, grateful Bell to treat him like a companion, like Lilisuke.

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And then there were three! I liked Lili barking out the order of battle before they venture to the higher floors. Sure, there’s still the specter of Freya wanting Bell to keep getting stronger for some nefarious purpose even Hestia isn’t aware of, but regardless of the plots he’s an unwitting pawn in, it’s great to see his excited party of three proudly going forth into the dungeon.

Bell is well on his way to becoming the hero he wants to become. And tellingly, he reached Level 2 far sooner than even Ais. Now catching up to her seems halfway doable!

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Sword Art Online – 07

The energetic blacksmith Lisbeth meets Kirito, who requests a custom weapon, accidentally breaking the finest she’s ever made in the process. To forge a sword that will meet his needs, the two venture to the alpine 55th floor, where a crystal-eating dragon lurks. Kirito fights it off, but the wind from its wings throws both Liz and Kirito into a deep pit – the dragon’s nest. After spending the night, the nocturnal dragon returns, and Kirito grabs Liz and they ride the dragon out of the pit. Liz develops feelings for Kirito, and when she forges an excellent sword, she’s about to confess to him when Asuna arrives. She’s dejected to learn they know each other and runs off, but Kirito finds her and thanks her, promising to end the game for both their sakes.

What’s that? Another love interest who’s dead meat by the end? Nah, they wouldn’t do that again. Still, our scrawny dark knight is proving quite the lady’s man, though this romance starts out a little rough, with him destorying her prized creation right before Liz’s eyes. Her first impression of him as a haughty, arrogant little prick is well-earned – Kirito looks down upon her from a great height. She also insists she’s not an amateur in battle, than pulls an amateur move by coming out of hiding before the battle is over, nearly getting them both killed. Even so, Kirito isn’t one to let someone die alone, so he joins her down in the dragon’s pit, where they eventually engage in some pretty heavy hand-holding.

Kirito shows Liz that he has a softer side, and he quite literally sweeps her off her feet after collecting the dragon poop. Liz is a girl who’s found a niche in this imaginary world, but has been longing for something real, and she finds that in the warmth of Kirito’s hand. He shows her his prowess in combat, survival, and excitement, and she shows him her skill in, er, smithing by forging a kickass new sword, Unfortunately, after learning Kirito knows Asuna and listening to what could be construed as a lover’s quarrel, she gives up all hope of winning his heart, which is a bit of a needle scratch, but overall Liz is reasonably well-acted and well-voiced (by Takagaki Ayahi) at least she’s still alive. Perhaps they’ll reunite in the real world, when and if he beats the game.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)