DanMachi – 01 (First Impressions)

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My Spring 2015 opens with the charming Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka, which almost immediately reminded me of Hitsugi no Chaika in a good way. The cold open is quick and efficient, setting up the god-and-mortal cooperation setup along with a battle in which the serious Saber-like girl (Ais) saves the somewhat Vaan-like mortal guy (Bell), who falls for her on the spot.

Besides this simple but effective reversal of the classic rescuing knight trope, one little detail I liked was how a outdoor merchant reacted to Bell running past, spattering minotaur blood on his stall. He doesn’t yell like I expected; instead, he holds back an amused teehee. This isn’t that a harsh world, and Bell is a bit of a lovable buffoon who bit off more than he could chew.

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Bell lives with his appropriately-named goddess Hestia (virgin goddess of the hearth and home), who is perhaps not so appropriately dressed, but I’ll give her medieval clubbing outfit a pass since she’s a goddess. Hestia is all Bell has, and he’s all she has, but he wants more, and while he’s growing bigger and stronger, she is unchanging in her goddessness.

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I’d say Hestia had a brother complex were it not for the fact Bell isn’t her real brother, but their relationship is very much familial rather than romantic, and while he happens to notice her not unsubstantial bust when he wakes up to her spooning him, it’s clear she’s the underdog against Ais, his new object of affection.

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Bell and Ais only meet face to face in that cold open, but she shows up again in a tavern where Bell is weaseled into buying a ridiculously expensive meal by Syr, one of its servers. There, he and everyone else watches in awe as the Loki familia to which Ais belongs swagger in to celebrate. One of its members has a big mouth and wants to put “tomato boy” Bell (whom he doesn’t know is sitting in there listening) in his place.

In his drunken mocking rant, this guy Bete rather conveniently lays bare all of Bell’s insecurities, namely the patriarchal drive to gain a lady’s favor and become worthy of her by protecting her. He’s also driven by the words of his late grandpa: a dungeon is the best place to meet and prove oneself to the fairer sex, which is an only slightly modernized take on a tale as old as time.

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Bell is clearly not strong enough yet to protect Ais, but simply crossing paths with her seemed to start him on a new and accelerated path of improvement. But when he runs out, unable to hear anymore harsh lip from Bete, I got the feeling that perhaps Bell won’t have to surpass Ais so much as catch up to her, that they might fight side-by-side, rather than one or the other being the hapless benefactor of the others’ strength. Bell certainly hasn’t captured her heart, but he has her attention.

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Bell’s sudden spurt in strength and ability is also something that worries Hestia, because it could mean he’ll drift further and further from her as he draws closer to Ais. But we see just how far Bell has to go when the overzealous brother figure returns home half-unconscious in the morning, utterly dependent on her care.

DanMachi has a hearty helping of J.C. Staff fanservice, and Bell seems to have “lucky dull guy syndrome”, but the first episode does a decent job easing us into its world of gods, magic, and Western names. The show is easy on the eyes and neither hits us with a barrage of terminology nor skimps on the fantasy charm. Overall, a promising start. I’m interested in how Bell gets closer to Ais, and how that’ll effect the nice thing he already has with Hestia.

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