DanMachi II – 06 – Orario Vice

When Bell, Lili and Welf are concerned about Mikoto acting weird, they follow her one night, and to her surprise she ends up meeting with Chigusa and entering Orario’s famous pleasure district, which is run by the wealthy and powerful Ishtar Familia (Ishtar is the Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of love, war, and fertility).

Turns out Mikoto and Chigusa are searching for an old friend of theirs from their original home in the Far East, where she was a noble. Chigusa spotted her in the district and came to Mikoto, who saught confirmation before coming to the rest of Hestia Familia.

Lili, and certainly Hestia, would rather the adorable Bell be anywhere but the pleasure district, where he is  almost constantly approached, accosted, and embraced by dozens of beautiful, available women, including Aisha, one of Ishtar’s higher-ups. Separated from the others, Bell never had a chance to escape their clutches.

Right before he’s surrounded and picked up and taken to Ishtar’s palace to be passed between several eager Amazonesses, he spots an ethereal, yukata-wearing fox woman in a window, who judging from the glimpse of her last week, is the person Mikoto and Chigusa were looking for.

Ishtar herself has no time for a first-timer like Bell, but her underlings are all but willing to suck him dry, so to speak. The start of their fun is interrupted by the huge and grotesque Phryne, and Bell uses the distraction caused by the Amazons’ bickering (and his adventurer’s sneaking skills and speed) to slip away.

He ends up in the courtyard of one of the district’s fancier-looking brothels, and who does he encounter within one of the rooms but the straw-haired fox woman, named Haruhime, who assumes Bell is there to buy his first sexual experience.

It seems despite being more experienced than Bell, the sight of his collarbone still overwhelms her, giving him the opportunity to tell her he’s not there for sex, just to hide from the Amazons. She can understand; it’s tough to be a first-timer in a district where it’s the occupation of so many women to kidnap and have their way with you.

As they spend the rest of the evening chatting, discovering that they share a love of stories about heroes that originally drew them to Orario, Ishtar has a meeting with Hermes, who has delivered something to her that is of importance in her ongoing rivalry with Freya. When Hermes is reluctant to tell her what other weaknesses Freya might have that she can exploit, she removes what little clothing she is wearing in order to force the issue.

Haruhime tells Bell that while she loved those heroic stories, she no longer sees herself as someone worthy of being saved or protected. Despite her noble appearance and cushy digs, she doesn’t seem to see any nobility in her profession, only filth. It really brings Bell down, who doesn’t agree that she should have to sacrifice her dreams simply because circumstances, many of them not of her making, landed her in a brothel.

Still, he runs off into the night none too soon, as Aisha shows up immediately after to escort Haruhime back to her chambers. As for Ishtar, she gets the information she wanted out of an overwhelmed Hermes in bed: Freya is obsessed with Cranel Bell, and she can hurt her by stealing him from her.

So now Bell finds himself in the sights of not one but two distinct and powerful goddesses of love, war, sex, and fertility, and almost certainly doesn’t want his first encounter with Haruhime to be his last. If he’s the hero he thinks he is, he’ll no doubt try to find a way to free her from servitude.

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DanMachi II – 05 – Assets and Liabilities

In what is very much a post-climactic battle, catching-your-breath episode that doesn’t skimp on the fanservice, Hestia Familia familiarizes themselves with their sprawling new digs, which have been purged of Apollo’s, er, distinctive decor.

As thanks for joining her familia, Hestia also made sure Mikoto had a huge cypress bath and Welf has a well-stocked forge for blacksmithing. It’s nice to see Hestia and Bell somewhere other than dilapidated ruins.

Considering how all of Apollo’s assets were seized in addition to his mansion, such relatively extravagant renovations don’t seem like a problem; Hestia is rolling in cash now, and everyone in Orario wants to join the David that defeated the Apollo Goliath.

Only one problem: while Hestia is rallying the new recruits, Mikoto happens to find a debt slip in the amount of 200 million valis, incurred by Hestia for Bell’s blade. Bell faints upon hearing she spent all that money she didn’t have for him.

Just like that, the hordes of recruits scatter and Hestia’s children are contemplating some overtime in the dungeon. But she’s committed to paying back the debt on her own, and reiterates as such after overhearing Bell speak such kind words to her in the bath. As for Apollo’s money? All spent on renovations. Not the best with money, this Hestia!

Hestia Familia’s going to be alright; at least, depending on what news Shigure delivers to Mikoto about a certain fox/dog-eared woman—who features prominently on the show’s promo art and is thus probably going to play a sizable role going forward.

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 II – 00 – The Story So Far

Yes, the first Saturday of the Summer season does not start with the first episode of the long-awaited, non-spinoff sequel to 2015’s DanMachi. It was your typical colorful, energetic J.C. Staff series that distinguished itself from other fantasy shows not only by not being an Isekai, but also featuring one of the more endearing untraditional boy-girl (or rather boy-goddess) pairings—though it can be argued he has a harem, Cranel Bell’s first loyalty is to Hestia.

In this zeroth episode, the two cheerfully narrate a recap of their adventures so far, culminating in the grand final boss battle that while a bit rushed at the time still provided a satisfying topper to a series that had plenty of potential for a second season. Instead, we got a pretty weaksauce spinoff (Sword Oratoria) with an entirely different cast which I quit after four episodes. It will be good to see the main characters back in the spotlight…but for that we’ll have to wait another week!

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!

DanMachi Gaiden: Sword Oratoria – 01 (First Impressions)

This spin-off of the original DanMachi follows the powerful sword princess Ais Wallenstein, newbie mage-with-potential Lefiya Viridis, and the rest of Loki Familia as they explore Level 50 of the Dungeon below the city of Orario.

Lefiya’s mentor, fellow mage Riviera Ljos Alf, wants her protege to get some practical experience on the front line in order to build up some nerve to go with her magical potential. Ais and the Amazon twins Tiona and Tione bail Lefiya out, to the chagrin of their comrade Bete.

The Familia runs into a foe they’d never before encountered on the boundary between Levels 50 and 51: colossal caterpillars spewing highly caustic acid. The party’s heavies sweep into action to relieve their less powerful comrades, only to find their conventional attacks aren’t that effective.

Riviera again charges Lefiya with performing the incantation that will summon the magic that will turn the tide of the battle, which is a mage’s job. That means standing there and chanting while all hell breaks loose around you, and not losing your nerve.

Lefiya…loses her nerve, so Ais has to use her Tempest ability to slice through the nearest caterpillars. Bete uses some of her power to make his kicks stronger, and Tione, tied up with caterpillar tongues, gets pissed off and tears her captors apart, with no regard for the integrity of her skin.

After that, Riviera herself chants a long and grandiloquent incantation that serves as a coup-de-grace or overkill move, mopping up the remaining caterpillars. With a number of injuries and no idea what else is beyond, their leader Finn orders a retreat for now.

Up at Level 17, a huge force of Minotaurs busts out of the walls, but they’re essentially small-fry to the higher-level adventurers like Tiona, who has a bit of fun running up to a Minotaur and icing him with one swift, brutal bicycle kick. Suffice it to say, I had no complaints about the combat animation, nor the dramatic but very appropriate battle music.

While the Minotaurs are no match for Ais or the Amazons, if any were to escape to the higher levels, it could mean big trouble for one of the lower-level adventurers, like, say…Cranel Bell! Hey, guy, wonder where you were at! It’s not his or Hestia’s story this time, however.

Instead, we see everything that led up to him being rescued by Ais…including him simply running away screaming after she did so. As Riviera said to Lefiya, Ais has problems too…they’re just different ones.

This was a solid re-introduction to the world of DanMachi and the vast and hazardous dungeon below the city of Orario. It seemed designed to shake us from our slumber by throwing us into one big battle after another, while also showing us how well-sorted Loki Familia is.

Mind you, I do miss the warm friendship between Bell and Hestia; we’ll see if Lefiya and Ais can carry a season. They certainly have plenty of supporting cast backing them up.

DanMachi – 13 (Fin)

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Rather than end its 13-episode run with a “To Be Continued” or other cliffhanger silliness (though I’m not even sure if this was meant to get a second season), DanMachi decides to spend its last episode the same way the end of a good RPG ends: with a huge final battle and a classic “good ending.”

The end definitely snuck up on us, and thus it was hard not to feel like things were rushing a little, but I was still glad for the finality of the boss battle, and all the character work and action it entailed.

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The boss himself is…well, naked and kinda dumb-looking, which has been DanMachi’s problem from episode one: none of the enemies are particularly scary-looking or even particularly creative in design. This is something the most recent GARO almost always got right (to say nothing of the nightmare-inducing Gauna of Hannah’s Sidonia.)

In addition to being somewhat goofy-looking, this boss doesn’t really DO much besides mill around waving his arms around. I’m not sure I buy the fact they can’t escape the level either; if the entire town can be mustered to fight the boss, surely some of them can use their magic to open an escape route.

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The show clearly understands the concept of distractions, decoys, and well-timed combos, because several of each are unleashed on the boss, to no avail due to his ridiculous regeneration ability. Dumb-looking or not, this is definitely the toughest boss the show has given us yet.

The combo that works in the end is akin to saving up all of the full overdrive gauges of your whole party, then unleashing those overdrive attacks in quick succession to bring the beast down, or at least shave off a decent amount of his HP.

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Ryuu, Mikoto, and Welf are involved in the final combo, which sufficiently softens up the boss for Bell’s “Hero’s Strike”, which causes a fade-to-white yet still doesn’t quite finish the boss; for that, he has to use the trusty runeblade Hestia made for him (and which symbolizes their love and devotion to one another) to crack the central crystal and send the boss to Nowheresville.

The final casualty list? Well, no one we know. In fact, those scumbags who kidnapped Hestia last week even gain a grudging respect for Bell, a nice bit of development even if its for characters we care about. As for those we do care about, they’re all fine, in good shape for what I imagine to be a second season a year or so hence.

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At least, that’s what I hope. After all, there’s still a lot of stories to be told both inside and outside the dungeon, many levels yet to explore and conquer, not to mention Bell being the “Last Hero of the Zeus Familia” or something.

As for Freya…well, not sure why her character existed at all this season, except that she’ll eventually play a bigger role later on, when Bell presumably grows ever more powerful and popular.

Until then, I bit adieu to DanMachi, a solid action fantasy with lots of heart, likable characters, and rich world-building that never failed to entertain.

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DanMachi – 12

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This week’s DanMachi was a bit of a two-face: starting with a bit of a plodding lull thanks to the low-danger surroundings, but escalating into more exciting RPG-style action, complete with a kidnapping, an unfair duel, and the arrival of the cavalry.

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But first, all the girls are nude, Wooooo! Seriously though, this wasn’t that exciting, but I was surprised and a little impressed that when Bell inevitably ended up in the midst of the girls, he didn’t receive a beating. The girls’ reactions range from quietly embarrassed to indifferent to downright glad (the latter in the case of the Sand Snake-like girls and Hesty, she of the ample bust).

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Also not particularly bothered by Bell (who is the victim of a prank by Hermes) is Ryuu, whom he finally gets a chance to thank for coming to his aid. Ryuu tells him she planned to come at some point to pay respects to her familia, who fell into a rival familia’s trap and were massacred.

Ryuu was the only survivor, and after she avenged her familia by single-handedly killing the other, she was banned from the Guild. Syr found her lying in the street and brought her to the tavern, where Mama Mia brought her in despite knowing what she did. It’s a nice bit of backstory from one of the more interesting characters in DanMachi, due to her complexity.

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Ryuu’s no saint, but she can tell Bell is a kind person worthy of her respect and friendship, who like her benefactors, can see the good in her, being good himself. But we see the other ugly side of people (not just humans, since Ryuu is an elf) in Moldo, a veteran adventurer disgruntled with Bell’s rapid rise. Wanting to put him in his place, he kidnaps Hestia and challenges Bell to a duel.

It isn’t until the duel starts that Bell learns Moldo has invisibility magic, which is a bit too on-the-nose dirty for the bad guy. He says he’s not shameless enough to hurt Hestia, but his tactics certainly seem cowardly. But that’s the thing: his tactics make him stronger, at least initially, in the fight, and his cohorts rally behind that power, despite the cowardice of it.

That’s because, well, they’re weak too, and opportunistic. Even though they outnumber Bell’s friends who come to break the fight up, they seem outmatched by them.

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That being said, neither side “wins” the battle, because Hestia unleashes her divine power to compel everyone to cease fighting. It’s cool to finally see her exhibit abilities beyond reading Bell’s back and pulling off a ridiculous dress like a rock star. As she emits and otherworldly glow, it’s clear no one wants to mess with her.

By the way, it looks like Hermes wants to test Bell’s abilities, or, as he says, teach him about the cruelty and injustice inherent in humanity. Not sure why he thinks Bell will learn such a lesson especially when Bell has plenty of really good people as friends and allies. The fact of the matter is, there’s good and evil in everyone.

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The second half of this episode makes up for the slower first, and even the first half had that nice interaction between Bell and Ryuu. And I especially liked how after Bell ran off to save Hestia, she ends up saving him and everyone else from a protracted brawl. It remains a very balanced relationship. Bell is still very naive at times, but he also happens to have the strength—and friends—to deal with the predicaments his naivete gets him into.

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