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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DanMachi – 11

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WIth just two episodes left in what looks like the first of a two-cour, 26-episode run, Bell’s party’s predicament is resolved and they are out of danger. But I daresay the way in which it was resolved was a bit…tidy, and underwhelming.

To whit: we barely see any of Hestia’s rescue party in action, and not for very long, which deflated the built-up excitement of first watching her assemble such a solid party, and then watch them head confidently into the dungeon. “This is it?” I was asking myself.

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Meanwhile, Bell’s party is in a bad way: Welf and Lili pass out—either from the pain of their injuries, fatigue, or mind down—before they reach the 18th floor safe zone, so Bell has to draw from an extra reserve of strength and energy in order to carry both of them the rest of the way, including through a gauntlet of falling boulders and a very nasty (and very huge) Goliath, who’s surprise appearance, was a highlight of the peril in this episode.

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But then Bell kinda luckily falls down a pit, doesn’t break any bones, and wakes up in the grass on a seemingly sunny day. He made it, but has no more strength to help his friends. Also luckily for him (and them) Ais and the Loki familia are also in the safe zone, or “Under Resort”, resting before their battle with Goliath. Once again, Bell owes Ais, but he did make it there, and both Welf and Lili would be goners without his efforts.

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Not surprisingly, the two scantily-clad sisters Tione and Tiona latch onto Bell and flirt with him, though it’s not entirely unjustified as they saw him take down that minotaur. Otherwise, everyone’s just sitting around resting, which isn’t all that interesting, until Hestia arrives.

Their reunion is fairly moving (broken up by a jealous, competitive Lili), but to be honest, this was a foregone conclusion, and again, I was pretty disappointed how little Hestia and her team did, and how little we saw of them.

Still, I appreciated the the Take familia apologizing for their pass parade, and Bell acting as diplomat in telling Welf and Lili to put it behind them, even if they can’t immediately forgive. After all, Bell admits he’d have probably done the same thing if he had to choose between the two of them and a party of strangers.

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Bell also meets the tagalong Hermes, and for a second I thought something was going to happen when they shook hands. Alas, nothing happens. Nothing also happens when Bell and Ais are alone late at night, gazing at the sky made of crystal that emulates stars.

Ais is too willing to go with the flow and allow hers to be disrupted, such as when Hestia interrupts them, while Bell is still too nervous to do anything but blush at the prospect of being beside Ais, let alone go on a date into town with her.

I realize this is (likely) a two-cour series in which some developments take time, but their insipid will-they-won’t-they is frankly the least interesting part of it right now, because it refuses to go anywhere and takes up time. Perhaps when Ais & Co. faces off against Goliath, and Hermes finally does whatever he came to do, things will pick back up.

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DanMachi – 10

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Bell and his new party of three—a good number for exploring dungeons, if you ask me!—hit the middle floors full of confidence and swagger, and the first wave of enemies aren’t much of a problem. But then the waves keep coming, and coming, and before long the party is overwhelmed.

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DanMachi does a great job escalating the situation into near-chaos, as minor injuries get worse with subsequent attacks, magic fatigue sets in, and hordes of enemies surround them menacingly, never relenting. As Ryuu warned him, the dungeon is a cunning place that toys with you until it finds your weakness. Bell’s isn’t that hard to divine: he’s inexperienced on this floor, pure and simple.

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Hestia, who had a worrisome look about her when Bell set off, has her fears confirmed when her friend Take’s familia emerges from the dungeon and reports that their party initiated a “pass parade” on Bell’s—dumping their enemies on to him. It was a selfish move, but I can’t fault the party leader, with the responsibility of a lot of people on his back, for choosing his party’s survival to that of “strangers.”

Hestia lets them know, however, that if Bell never returns, she’ll never forget (though she won’t hate them). She also formally issues a quest, and she’s never looked as goddess-like when the light shines through the stained glass as she asks for volunteers.

Take offers some of his familia to assist her (as amends), but Hermes (a fellow god who we haven’t seen thus far, but assume is fast) and his adjutant, Asfi also join in.

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Bell’s party survives a hellhound attack thanks to Welf’s “Will-o-the-Wisp” ability, but he’s in a bad way. Obviously Bell isn’t going to leave anyone behind, so when three minotaurs corner them, he relies on his “Argonaut” skill to overcome them. But this winds him; if this were an RPG I’d say both his HP and MP were critical, and they’re nowhere near the exits.

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Bell’s got skills, but his power isn’t limitless, so it’s a good thing the cavalry is on its way. I really like the idea of Hestia taking an active role in her familia’s rescue, ignoring the rules forbidding gods from the dungeon. I’m curious what the consequences for breaking that rule are, as well as what battle skills she’ll be showing off. I’m also pleased that Ryuu Lion is joining the party, coming out of semi-retirement.

All in all, a nice illustration of how tough and unforgiving the dungeon can be, and how while Bell may have his detractors, he also has a good number of people looking out for him. All he has to do is sit back (as much as one can do so on the middle floors of a dungeon) and wait for his friends—and his family—to come get him.

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DanMachi – 09

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DanMachi – 08

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Syr makes Bell wash a lot of dishes, and Ryuu helps out. She says he has a difficult task ahead of him, and she’s only joking about the dishes, but it turns out to be true on another level, as he won’t be able to level up until he goes on an “adventure”, the definition of which is different for everyone.

There were also enough closeups of Syr for me to wonder if she’s up to something nefarious, or merely giving Bell a chance to clear his head with mindless dishwashing.

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Hestia doesn’t get a lot of time with Bell, who is so intent on discovering what his adventure is and executing it that he doesn’t even stick around for her to read the latest report on his stats. As far as he’s concerned, whatever that paper says, he’s not yet good enough.

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In his final spar with Aiz before her familia goes on a mission to a floor in the dungeon never before reached, Bell is finally able successfully counterattack her. She counters his counter, but his immense growth in so little time impresses her, and they part on amicable terms, telling one another good luck and to do their best.

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Still, Bell likely wishes he could have sparred more with Aiz and gotten to the point where he could fight on her level, but he is told to his face and behind his back that he may never be able to catch up to her. Not that he shouldn’t try, but surpassing her is not his “adventure” Ryuu speaks of.

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When the Minotaur that the Strong Dude in cahoots with Freya toughened up confronts Bell and Lili (just as they apparently planned), Bell freezes, and only survives thaks to Lili putting her body (and huge backpack) in harm’s way. She’s knocked out, but Bell tosses her aside to fight the Minotaur. When she wakes up, he ignores her desperate calls for retreat, telling her just to run while he buys time for her. Cue Epic Boss Fight Music!

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The Minotaur destroys the armguard Eina gave Bell on their sorta-date, and it looks like it’ll be curtains for our young adventurer, but Aiz, hearing he’s in trouble from her comrades, breaks protocol and rushes to his aid…again. This is when Bell shakes off his pain and gets stubborn.

At first I questioned what was so wrong with her saving him again, but that wasn’t going to do this time: This, he decides, is his adventure. He gets back up, dusts himself off, and re-engages with the beast, in a grudge match that’s as brutal as it is thrilling. He swipes his foe’s sword, carves him up, then shoots firebolts into him, literally blowing him up.

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The minotaur goes up in smoke, but so do the Loki Familia’s preconceptions of Bell’s ability, as they were all spectators to his convincing victory. An examination of his back by Riviera indicates all of his stats are “S-rank”, indicating even more astonishing growth in an unheard-of pittance of time.

Unfortunately, he also passes out on his feet, unable to savor that victory or see the impressed looks of the Loki familia. He’s placed in bed to recover, tended to by Hestia, glowing with both relief and pride for what Bell achieved, but assuring him it’s only the first page of their journey, with far more trials in store. That’s certainly true if Freya—who seemed to get off on his fight with the minotaur—has her way…and I’m pretty sure she will.

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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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