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.

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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 – 07

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With her new animal transformation and unbuckled and Unbuttoned miniskirt, Lili is now officially Bell’s assistant, but she feels guilty about being forgiven so easily for all the crap she put Bell through.

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In order to officially officially be Bell’s supporter, however, she has to meet with Hestia and meet with her approval. Hessie believes Lili when she says she’ll never betray Bell again, but warns her to keep her grubby mitts off her man, making no bones about the fact that she sees Bell as a romantic target.

But being possessive only presents a challenge to Lili that she resolves to meet, the typical “I won’t lose to you” attitude. She later shows what a good team they make by providing long range support with a rapid-fire crossbow against some goblins and trolls.

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Both are at a disadvantage, because the girl Bell likes the most is Ais (or Aiz, depending on who’s subbing your anime). Only he’s deathly afraid of contact with her should he say or do the wrong thing and get rejected.

Up to this point he’s been able to believe he has a shot at her because he hasn’t had much contact with her. But she’s the one who initiates contact, and wants to apologize for causing him trouble. He in turn apologizes for making trouble for her. They’re like two peas in a pod, these two!

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For now, though, Aiz agrees to train Bell, who is still not that confident in his fighting skills, despite the fact he’s gotten to the tenth floor. Every day, and some nights, Bell spars with Aiz, and gets beaten up by Aiz, who doesn’t go easy on him, and acknowledges his skills are lacking in her stoic  way.

I like how much dignity Aiz carries at all times; not letting Bell embarrass her as he embarrasses himself, not being able to resist trying to kiss her as she takes a catnap, before backing off. She also tells Bell that being a coward isn’t always bad thing: cowardice breeds survival, after all. It’s an extention of fear being necessary in any kind of combat or life-and-death situation. Those entirely without fear have a huge blind spot against opponents who have a healthy amount of it.

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Naturally, when Hestia (working another part-time job to pay of Heph) spots Bell at the market with Aiz, she wigs out, making it as clear to Aiz as she did to Lili that Bell is hers, even if Bell doesn’t see her that way, and probably never will. Bell seems content in seeing Hestia as family; as sister—not a girlfriend or lover.

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Interspersed with the Bell and Aiz training and the Hestia jealousy and territory-marking, we see a very large and powerful man beating an even larger minotaur into submission, and starts to train it to use a more powerful sword. His training of the minotaur mirrors Aiz’s training of Bell, and in both cases, the training pays off, with the minotaur being able to withstand a magical weapon attack from an adventurer.

It would seem muscular guy has recruited the minotaur as his supporter…or maybe he has darker plans. In any case, I can’t imagine these two won’t be crossing paths with Bell at some point.

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DanMachi – 06

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As her cold open makes almost too clear, Liliruca Arde is a well-traveled student of pain, suffering, helplessness and loneliness. Orphaned by her parents who were killed in the Dungeon, the Soma familia took her on as a supporter and proceeded to screw her over at every turn, treating her like garbage. The bad guys are so irredeemably, comically, Nobuyuki Sugou evil in their treatment of her, it leaves no room for nuance.

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With her past, and present in mind, it makes sense that she wouldn’t trust Bell, and also would deceive him just as she was deceived. It worked for her tormenters, why not her? Besides, she hates adventurers…ALL adventurers. She’s just trying to do what she can to free herself from subjugation. She’s just going about this all the wrong way, and very nearly gets Bell and herself killed in the process.

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Hestia doesn’t trust Lili, nor does Eina, though they come to this opinion of her independently. As Bell heads into the dungeon to fight on the tenth floor in an obvious trap set up by Lili, both Eina and Ais overhear her Soma familia planning to take out a guy who matches Bell’s description, and Eina asks a favor of Ais.

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Setting up the naive Bell is child’s play for Lili, and when the time comes to reveal her true colors and re-steal his knife, she doesn’t hesitate, and actually shows off some pretty good skills…if only she focused her energies for good instead of selfish purposes. Mind you, with everything she’s been through I can’t really begrudge her doing what she thinks is best for herself, but we also happen to know this isn’t what’s best.

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That becomes painfully clear when her ridiculously evil familia show up, ambushing her and taking everything she has, while getting some good stomps and punches in for good measure. The episode really lingers on this disturbing scene, but when a bruised and beaten Lili is left for dead, a decoy for a host of killer giant ants, Bell shows up with his Firebolt to take them all out, saving Lili once again.

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That resolution was a pleasant surprise. I expected Eina and Ais to corner Lili, rather than her fam, but instead Ais takes care of the orcs while obscured by the gloom, allowing Bell to rush to Lili’s aid. And why does he save her, as she asks, almost hysterical at the sight of his dopey, noble face? Because he felt like it.

He tells Hestia as much before he heads off to what he might have known could have been the trap it became. But he doesn’t care; he knows Lili’s kind, because he used to be the same before he met his goddess. And he’s not going to stand by and let her be destroyed or destroy herself. I especially like how Hestia defers to Bell here, and it pays off.

The villains were a bit over-the-top, but I’m glad Lili’s eyes are now open to the possibility not everyone in the world is awful.

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DanMachi – 05

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Another DanMachi, another sweet domestic scene between our quasi-husband-and-wife duo of Bell and Hestia, with the goddess being out too late getting her drank on and the adventurer providing not only a moist washcloth, but the offer of a fancy dinner sometime, due to all the cash he’s raking in. Since the whole reason Hestia had a little too much was because she saw Bell “cheating” with Lili, she decides she doesn’t have a hangover anymore, and that “sometime” will be “today.”

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Alas, while cleaning up at the divine bathhouse (boob comparo alert) Hestia attracts the attention of a bevy of curious deities, and she and Bell end up spending their entire date running and hiding from them. They end up in a romantic starlit spot, and Bell promises dinner another time. Hestia tries to say something, but doesn’t, choosing instead to lean her head on him. So…no real progress in the romance arena.

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That same night Lili is busy paying off her fellow Soma familia members with the generous cuts she’s getting from working for Bell. She seems to think she’ll be close to completing her debt soon, but c’mon, how naive can you get? I don’t see those guys calling it square anytime soon.

To protect Bell, Lili reflexively uses a magic weapon she’d been concealing from him. He, in turn, continues to surprise her with his kindness, letting her have all the days off she wants, and even sharing the lunch Syr made with him. She still doesn’t fully trust him. To be fair, he does seem ridiculously nice, to the point of “weirdness”…at least among the sorta people she’s been around most of her life; i.e. scum.

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In a rather clunkily-deployed plot development, on his day off Bell asks Syr what she does on her days off, and she says “reading,” and the one book in the tavern she just happens to lend him is a magic grimoire. His reading of the magic tome is a half-trippy, half-goofy sequence in which he’s talking to different colored copies of himself, before being shaken awake by Hestia, as if he’d just gone on a Salvia trip.

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Hestia discovers he now possesses a magical fire ability; one he can cast without an incantation. She urges him to try it out in the dungeon tomorrow, so of course he runs off on his own that night after she falls asleep and gets so drunk with his new power he overextends himself and “minds out,” leaving him deep in the dungeon and at the mercy of any number of beasts and bosses.

I understand his excitement with his new power, but honestly, this was a clown move on Bell’s part. Had Ais and Riviera not just happened to be in the same part of the dungeon and found his unconscious idiot self, he’d have been killed and Hestia would have been alone. All because he couldn’t hold his horses. Then again, maybe at this point Bell expects to be bailed out by his increasing phalanx of friends, admirers, and supporters.

Among them is Ais, who blames herself for Bell’s minotaur mishap in episode one, and whose battle damage conveniently created underboob she proceeded to put right in Bells face. Subtle!

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The next day Bell learns that the grimoire is now blank now that he read it, meaning he has to go back to Syr and the landlady with hat in hand. While it struck me as odd Hestia doesn’t give Bell any significant dressing down for his blunder last night, I did enjoy Syr’s cute attempt to distance herself from Bell’s “spot of trouble”—something he calls her out on.

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From there, it’s back to the dungeons with Lili…only when he arrives at the meeting place Lili is being accosted by brutes, while a slimy-seeming guy sidles up to Bell and asks him if he wants to get in on their racket working Lili to the bone and taking her earnings.

Frankly, Bell lets both these thugs and Lili off too easily. The thugs should have gotten a beating, and Lili should have been made to explain what the heck is going on. Instead, Lili seems to think because Bell was talking to one of the thugs, he may be in cahoots with them, acting as the “nice guy”…or maybe Lili just doesn’t want Bell involved in her problems.

Whatever the case, we know Bell isn’t putting on an act, and won’t hesitate to help Lili if he senses she’s in trouble, even if she doesn’t want his help.

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DanMachi – 04

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Hestia isn’t the only one who wants to support the underdog Bell. When his hunting mentor Eina Tulle (Tomatsu Haruka) sees how hard he’s worked to raise his levels, she takes it upon herself to help him out even more. There’s a little mutual attraction in there. Eina is a kind and attractive half-elf a bit older than him (19 for the record), and Eina because her hapless lil’ Bell has grown stronger, and she can see him as more of an equal than a mere beneficiary.

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Bell too is a lot more confident with the blade Hestia gave him, and with good reason: it’s a great knife. When he sees an unsavory chap meanly chasing down a wee urchin, he steps in to protect her almost reflexively, though it’s Ryu who scares him off with the threat of violence she’d rather not use, lest she go out of control. Which is for the best; Bell isn’t used to these types of situations.

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I loved how Eina’s shopping date with Bell allowed him to inadvertently check in on Hestia at Heph’s shop, dutifully working her debt of. I also loved Bell and Hestia’s lovely domestic moment where she’s still in bed, exhausted from her hard work, while he’s off to his own work in the dungeon. We’ve got a power couple in the making here!

Eina also suggested Bell hire himself a supporter to make things more efficient in said dungeon, and lo and behold, the little waif he saved turns out to be eager to take on that role for him: a cat-eared girl named Liliruca (Uchida Maaya). She seems capable enough just from the visual of her bearing a comically huge pack on her slender shoulders.

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But something isn’t right; the camera keeps cutting to Lili smiling, as if enjoying a private joke. She and Bell have a great day in the dungeon, but to Eina notices Bell’s knife isn’t on him. He fears he dropped it (just when he was saying how much he relies on it; perhaps too much), but Lili frikkin’ stole it and tries to pawn it off.

Yet again, she crosses paths with Ryuu (she’s everywhere!) along with Syr, and Ryuu knows immediately what’s going on, and knocks the knife out of Lili’s hand with a coin.

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Liliruca done fucked up thrice: first, by stealing from someone as kindhearted and honorable as Bell, who gave her a job in good faith; second, by stealing a knife that’s only sharp when he’s holding it (Yeah bitch! Biometrics, Oh!); and third, messing with a guy who has allies all over town, invested in his well-being and always looking out for him, like Eina, Ryuu and Syr. It ain’t just Hestia!

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Another great moment: Syr leaning in to a clearly guilty Lili as if to say “See? You mess with the Bell, you get the horns,” and giving her a friendly unspoken warning not to try to pull such a stunt again. Not only would she probably not be successful, but it’s just not what she should be doing.

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Lili just came at Bell from the wrong angle, out of an expectation he’d be like all the other adventurers she’s dealt with, who screwed her over. But without the slightest hesitation, Bell splits their huge dungeon cash haul down the middle, virtually stupefying her.

But he’s right: he couldn’t have made that money without her. Without realizing it, she’s become a part of his support system, only she’s unique because she’s in the dungeon with him.

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What else? Oh, Ais is up to her usual activities, hunting something big, Freya changed into a ridiculous get-up even Victoria’s Secret would be embarrassed to sell (IMO Eina and Eis’ more modest outfits were sexier) and is planning to use a grimoire (next week’s episode title) to “draw out Bells power”, meaning it’s good he has another set of eyes watching his back.

Finally, Hestia is super-jelly upon spotting Bell and Lili holding hands…not long after letting Eina and Hestia cross paths, and getting all touchy with Ryuu in front of Syr. Not cool, Bell. Gotta learn to compartmentalize your harem!

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