DanMachi III – 07 – A Beast’s Dream

I respect Bell’s moxie, but I was hoping for something a bit more clever than trying to go toe-to-toe in a melee fight against an opponent two full levels higher than him. Sure, Dix is in a weakened state due to the curse, but that won’t last. At least we get some clarity via his ranting: he’s been able to calm his raging Daedalus blood—and nullify the urge to keep building Knossos—by killing Xenos.

It’s the specific fact they cry and scream like humans that makes it work. So yeah, Dix has been suffering a horrible curse for which not even the bloodshed in the dungeon could lift his entire life. It’s not surprising he’d take whatever form of release that came along; moral implications be damned. But still, he’s one sadistic bastard!

Meanwhile, outside Knossos, the Ganesha Familia have almost finished capturing the Xenos when they are ambushed by a giant minotaur. Everyone is either killed or injured, including Aisha and Asfi. Ryuu manages not to die by dumb luck, as the minotaur hears a wolf howling and departs before finishing her. So much for Bell getting some help from these three!

He’s on his own when Dix shows him the chained Wiene, then rips the stone off her head. Wiene undergoes a horrifying (and no doubt excruciating) transformation into a full adult vouivre, screaming and lashing out mindlessly.

Bell attempts to reach the Wiene he knows by refusing to fight her and letting her grab his shoulder (after swatting him back a couple times). She remembers the first time she accidentally cut him, and actually manages to say his name and weep tears of despair. But it doesn’t last long, and soon Wiene is back to going berserk.

Dix is super pissed that Bell almost succeeded in proving him wrong about Xenos just being monsters by any other name, and they continue their one-on-one battle, but despite being pretty beaten down (both physically and emotionally) he seems to find his second wind, even breaking the blade of Dix’s spear. Then Lyd breaks free of Dix’s curse and fights beside Bell, allowing him to land his Bell Punch square in Dix’s chest.

Unfortunately, regardless of Dix’s status, the damage is done, and he opens a door to allow the berserk Wiene direct access to the surface, where she’s sure to be “dealt with” by adventurers. Bell races after her, stopping only to be healed by Fels’ kick-ass magic. Gros joins Lyd and Rei in going after Bell to help him, even if he can’t admit he can probably trust the Little Rookie at this point.

Wiene emerges first on Daedalus Street, which just happens to be where Welf led Hestia Familia on a hunch. She was immediately vilified by citizens on the surface when she was a cute little kid; I can’t imagine her new form will do her any favors.

Bell follows shortly thereafter, but Wiene is stabbed by a spear thrown by Loki Familia, who are perched on a roof, ready to swoop down and eliminate the threat. Bell then does something that could condemn him, his goddess, and his Familia forever: he shields Wiene from the Lokis, a half-defiant, half-mad look on his face.

This pits him against Ais and every other member of the Lokis who have just been ordered to dispose of the vouivre. It’s an extremely volatile situation where there just isn’t time to explain what needs to be explained, and even if there was, orders are orders. One just hopes Bell won’t have to fight his friend, and cooler heads in Lyd, Rei, and Gros can arrive in time to restrain Wiene and bail Bell out. But I gotta say, things are not looking good for Argonaut-kun!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi III – 06 – Sagrada Familia

As Ikelos smirks his smirk atop a great tower…somewhere, Ganesha’s suppression force engages the armed monsters. Ryuu, Aisha, and Asfi arrive but cannot find Bell, who is in disguise. That disguise doesn’t last long, however, as he eventually crosses blades with Lyd, who admits his kind destroyed Liviria as revenge for poachers killing their kin.

Lyd can’t quell the rage of Gros or his other kin, which means any hopes for peace between their races has been all but dashed. But if Lyd really wanted Bell to return to the surface and separate himself from this business, he wouldn’t have mentioned that Wiene was among the Xenos captured.

Ryu, a good friend in a tight spot, comes between Lyd and Bell, but when it’s clear Bell isn’t about to head home with her, she provides him with something he might find useful. Of course, that something becomes useful immediately after they part ways, and when Bell encounters Fels.

The orb acts as a key to heretofore unknown man-made passages to the Dungeon, which lead to a labyrinth built by Daedalus centuries ago. Out at the entrance of Babel, the rest of Hesita Familia can only watch from the bushes and wait…until Lili gets the idea to ask her former captor about the network of smugglers.

Lyd, Gros, and the Xenos take a different route through the labyrinth with a another key, but both they and Bell/Fels end up in the same place: a staging area where the captives are imprisoned. They start breaking cages and chains, but they’re interrupted by Ikelos Familia and Dix, who have homefield advantage.

Dix reveals he’s a direct descendant of Daedalus, who went mad trying to surpass the Dungeon by his own hands. His monumental work, Knossos, remains unfinished to this day (like Sagrada Familia in Barcelona), but monster and Xenos smuggling is one of their revenue streams for continuing construction, and Dix & Co. are bound to continue the work Daedalus started…even if he doesn’t seem like a big fan of his ancestor

After activating a curse that has a Confuse and Berserk effect on the Xenos, Fels tells Bell their only choice is to defeat Dix in order to lift said curse. Oh, and by the way…Dix is Level 5. Nevertheless, if Bell wants to save Wiene, he’ll have to get through Dix.

The arrival of an arrangement of the DanMachi main battle theme is welcome, but I wish this episode didn’t feel like so much overly clunky plot mechanics engineered to put Bell in a duel with Dix. The duel itself, however, should be a lot of fun, even if there’s not much to Dix other than he’s, like, a bad dude. Hopefully Fels can provide some magey support to help even the odds…

DanMachi III – 05 – Being Made to Cross a Dangerous Bridge

Dix’s party ends up overwhelming and making quick work of the Xenos protecting Wiene before Dix himself captures her. He even lets the grunts have their way with Ranieh the spider woman, but she kills herself before they can do anything. Ya know, just in case we needed confirmation that Dix’s men are not good people!

The Gargoyle Gros is furious and demands vengeance. He destroys the bauble connecting Lyd to Fels, washing his monster hands of the humans for good. He convinces most of the other Xenos around into action, but Lyd and Rei (who’s still alive; Dix used a different siren as bait) aren’t among them, and follow in hopes of stopping Gros from undoing all of the progress they’ve made.

Human-Monster relations are all about appearances and experiences. Bell may have learned that despite looking monstrous the Xenos are thinking, feeling beings that aren’t united in a singular will to harm humans. But Ais Wallenstein has grown up defeating any monsters who would make any humans cry.

When they were last together, Ais and Bell were on pretty good terms, agreeing to visit that village together someday. But here Bell can already sense her lack of inflexibility or nuance when it comes to monsters. She’s always been a very straightforward person in other matters, so it will be tough for him to convince her some monsters are actually good.

Convincing Ais to join his pro-Xenos coalition becomes that much more difficult when the Guild sounds a citywide emergency alert: Livira on the Eighteenth Floor has been attacked and leveled by “armed monsters”, immediately followed by orders forbidding all citizens, even adventurers, from entering the Dungeon until further notice.

It’s an order from Ouranos himself, not wanting to further escalate the human-Xenos violence. Instead he devises a lighter-touch response involving a Ganesha Familiar suppression force (not kill squad), while also ensuring Bell, possibly the most reliable bridge between the sides, will join that force.

One by one we check in on the major familiae of the city and see how they all react. Loki is certain this is only the beginning and eventually they’ll all be drawn into the fighting; Freya seems intrigued that the Guild is keeping her fam out of it; Hermes is worried about Bell, and so has Asfi summon Aisha, who then convinces Ryuu to accompany her. I for one am always up for Aisha-Ryuu pair-ups!

Dix has what he wants—Wiene in chains—but he doesn’t seem to fully grasp or care exactly what he’s done. By slaughtering Wiene’s escort, he invoked Gros’ rage, and shattered any hope of Gros ever coming around to Lyd and Rei’s way of thinking regarding human coexistence. As for Ikelos, he seems elated his familia has created a waking nightmare.

Bell prepares to enter the Dungeon with the Ganesha Familia, who have orders to tame, not kill, the armed monsters. His role is much tougher, as he must try to re-establish a dialogue with the Xenos while they’re being attacked by Ganesha’s forces.

Just as he and his Familia alone aren’t enough to convince all humans, Lyd and Rei aren’t enough to convince all Xenos. At least he’ll have backup in Aisha, Ryuu, and who knows who else…and I’m sure he’ll be needing it!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi II – 11 – Godstage Situation

As one could have predicted with reasonable certainty, the episode immediately following DanMachi’s biggest battle to date was a much lighter weight affair. You wouldn’t immediately know it from the cold open, which features huge armies of the Kingdom of Rakia approaching Orario.

Then entire companies of soldiers are “blown away” by solo adventurers. Turns out they’re not tough…at all. Aries is a buffoon of a commander of a vast army of weaklings, and his buffoonery annoys the hell of of his top lieutenant Marius.

Meanwhile we learn something new about Haruhime from Aisha as she bids farewell: whenever she saw a naked man she’d pass out, meaning she remains as chaste as the virgin goddess of the hearth. Aisha doesn’t tell her that, but she’s right that it didn’t matter to her hero, Bell.

Still, Haruhime’s wonderful chemistry with Bell causes a jealous Hestia to ban all contact between the sexes, which Lili makes a big stink about. When Hestia all but asks if Bell would be her lover, he refuses, honestly but also flatly and rudely, not taking into consideration just how much Hestia loves him.

She runs off, and Bell chases after her, realizing he erred. A chance meeting with Hephaistos and Miach has them confirming that he erred by not showing his goddess proper respect. They discuss how even though the lifetime of a mortal is but a moment, the love gods feel for their mortal lovers is not any less powerful or real.

Unfortunately these two gods hold Bell up long enough that Hestia manages to sneak out of the Orario on an errand to gather ingredients for the potato snacks so popular in the city. Ganesha lets her through due to the importance of her mission, but she’s quickly snatched up by Ares in disguise, executing a “brilliant plan” to get Orario to surrender by taking a god hostage…or…sigh….godstage.

Bell ends up bumping into Ais, who takes him to where Hestia was last. There, Loki is coordinating a rescue op; she may not be besties with the shrimp but they can’t go letting Ares kidnap gods whenever he likes. She agrees to let Bell accompany Ais outside the walls to track Ares down.

Fueled by awesome Celtic-style overworld music, and with help from Hermes’ child Asfi, they locate Ares in the gray gloom, and it isn’t long before Ais is crossing swords with Ares, and just as quickly snapping his sword. Like his armies, he’s not as strong as he looks.

Still, he has enough numbers to surround and isolate Ais, while Bell manages to sneak around and reunite with Hestia, who freed herself but promptly stumbles and falls down a huge canyon. Bell jumps in after her, then Ais jumps in after him, setting up a cliffhanger for the finale next week. Chances are they’ll all be fine!

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 – 03

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I don’t think there’s a relationship this Spring as good or as balanced as Hestia and Bell. Part of that greatness lies in its simplicity: both were alone and no one believed in them, until they found each other. Now that they’re together, they can do great things. But first Hestia had to break Bell out of his insistence he protect her, even at the cost of his own life. Her line after finally succeeding in this says it all:

I didn’t want to just watch, or you to just take care of me, or just to have you save me.

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First, the giant silverback stalking Hestia has to be dealt with. It looks like Bell is going to be bailed out by Ais, but in a clever bit of misdirection she’s actually slaying a different beast on the other side of town. Bell is saved by Hestia running the other way around and putting herself right back in harms way, which initially angers Bell.

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He grabs Hestia in his arms (which makes her very happy!) and they find a hiding spot, where Hestia is finally a able to present the “Hestia Knife” to him, promising him he’ll now have the strength to defeat the monster. All he has to do is keep his chin up, believe in himself, believe in her, and believe in them.

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I just wanted to pause and voice my appreciation for the producers’ restraint in building a beautiful yet not overly ecchi rapport between these two. They really come off more as soulmates than a goddess and her child, and they really do make each other better.

I’m also glad Bell has the good sense to listen to Hestia and not the voice inside his head demanding he be her sacrificial knight when that’s neither what she wants nor what’s best for him or her. Dying for her, after all, would only leave her alone again, going back on his promise.

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Having physically and emotionally charged Bell up and literally lent him her strength, Bell blasts out of his hiding spot like a bat out of hell, and suddenly the silverback seems slower and more plodding against his lightning-quick moves. Bell dodges its blows, smashes its chain and armor, and places a critical, surgical strike on its heart.

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The huge THUD and kicked-up cloud of dust is an immensely satisfying moment, as is the cheering of the crowd and Hestia’s warm embrace after a brief pause. But then Hestia goes down. I didn’t see this as being as bad as it looked (or as Bell thought it might be), considering she had stayed up to make his knife and expended a lot of energy. Up in the rooftops, Freya smirks, as Bell apparently passed her test, and she looks forward to their next meeting.

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Sure enough, Hestia just needs a lot of rest after a couple of very intense days. Bell dutifully guards the inn room lent to them courtesy of Syr and the landlady. Syr apologizes, as her lost wallet (which apparently wasn’t intentional) got Bell into this whole mess. She also works up the courage to tell him she fell in love with him for sure after his heroic display.

When Hestia wakes up, she gives Bell the quote above, and tells him she wants to help him in any way she can, and always will, because she loves him. Her words move him (and me, almost!) to tears, happy as he is to have someone in his life so devoted to him and only him. Also, two confessions in one day and an admiring look from Ais: Not a bad day’s work for Mr. Cranel!

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DanMachi – 02

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The increasingly symbiotic patron/servant arrangement between Bell and Hestia reminded me of Chaika in DanMachi’s first outing, but it’s second is all about its similarities to SAO—and not just because Bell has the same seiyu as Kirito, but the whole rpg-like setting, where experience and equipment matter, as do relationships. And it’s relationships that DanMachi excels at in the early going.

The dialogue is very leading at times, but it’s also heartfelt, moving, and quite solid in general, starting with Hestia’s little speech to Bell about her commitment to supporting him no matter what, so he needn’t be so rash. It’s not just their official arrangement she’s concerned about, but Bell himself: she doesn’t want to be left alone, and neither does he. This is an important break from SAO, where it took time for Kirito to trust, work with, and love others.

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There’s even a hearty helping of SAO-style arbitrary fanservice! Yes, despite her slight build, Hestia is quite well-endowed. I knew a girl like that in high school, and though I had to tip my hat, I also worried for her back.

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It’s also nice to see the show follow up on things like Bell running out on his bill, but being forgiven by the landlady thanks to the silver-haired Syr, who’s taken a liking to the white-haired rookie. Bell has a nice face and a kind heart, and he’s a classic underdog with hidden value, so it makes sense that he’d attract more than just Hestia, even if he’s as inexperienced with girls as he is in the dungeon.

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I have to applaud this episode not just for bringing the heart and the world-building and that comedy, but for delivering so much in one episode without overwhelming me. Just as Hestia tells Bell not to leave her alone, she leaves him alone to attend a Banquet of the Gods. Unfortunately, Nanami didn’t get a cameo. ;)

But the banquet does a very efficient and entertaining job of laying out the various gods in play here on DanMachi, from the fiery, plucky Loki (the Norse trickster god) to the floating-above-the-fray Freya (Norse goddess of love). Heck, even Ganesha is here, throwing an arena extravaganza.

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Ah, so that’s why she has such big boobs…so she has rhetorical ammo against those of lesser endowment who would mock her stature!

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While they spend the middle section of the episode apart, Bell is foremost on Hestia’s mind. She attended the banquet in hopes of bumping into Hephaistos (god of blacksmiths and other craftsmen and artisans), and prostrates herself and begs for Bell’s sake for her to make him a weapon to match his potential. Hephaistos is initially dubious, but sees Hestia’s devotion to her child and agrees, as long as she helps her make the knife, and promises to eventually pay for it.

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In a nice bit of misdirection Freya is initially portrayed as a neutral if not benevolent goddess, but shows her true colors in seeking out the new up-and-coming talent in Bell, whom Hestia hasn’t been able to keep under wraps. Here’s hoping Freya isn’t just a female Nobuyuki Sugou, and there’s some nuance to her impending villainy.

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As for Ais Wallenwhatsit (as Hestia amusingly refers to her), we only get the slightest glimpse of her, catching a glimpse of Bell in the crowd outside. Ais looks to be the Asuka to Bell’s Kirito (while Hestia is definitely a Suguha…and Syr a Lisbeth), but with the added twist that her goddess also seems interested in him, and perhaps not in a wholesome or honorable way—Freya is the god of sex, war, and death after all, and Ais is beholden to her.

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But meanwhile, Bell fights hard to protect Hesita, while Hestia works hard to support him, in a very sweet, equitable, believable relationship. Bell would probably see Hestia as his little sister were it not for the fact she’s a goddess, while Hestia seems to have more romantic feelings for Bell, in an inexperienced goddess-courting-a-mortal kinda way.

She insists they go out on a date for the Monsterphilia festival, and Bell can hardly refuse. Frankly, he’d be a fool to do so, even though he’s trying to get Syr’s wallet back to her. I wonder if Syr “forgot” it on purpose so her co-workers could put Bell on her trail?

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But the date goes sour when a beast (controlled by Freya) escapes the arena and goes after Hestia, forcing Bell into another fight he’s not ready for; he has to shake off his fear, and his regular weapon shatters against the beast’s hide. I have to say, the sudden shift in mood is very well done, thanks in part to a nifty chase scene and some truly kickass battle music that reminded me of GARO’s boss fights.

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What’s also great about Bell is that he’s not a fool. He knows he’ll win if he survives, as the landlady said, but he won’t abandon Hestia. That said, he also knows he probably can’t win this fight as he is now, but after getting Hestia to a safe place (though behind bars is a bit harsh), he decides he’ll at least buy her as much time as he can.

Little does he know as he runs from Hestia and towards the danger, that the blade Hestia made with Hephaistos; the one that can probably defeat Freya’s beast, is strapped to her back. She needs to keep reminding him that they’re in this together.

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