DanMachi IV – 06 – Mister Popular and Miss Opportunities

DanMachi IV’s sixth episode serves as an epilogue that bridges the Moss Huge mini-arc and the mini-arc to come. What it lacks in excitement and stakes it more than makes up for with character, comedy, and charm. It’s also a rest episode our battered party both needs and deserves.

In the rest area, Lili allows herself an indulgence as Bell’s Supporter and asks if he can speak to him later, after all of his daily business is concluded. Meanwhile, unknown to either of them, the gods are having their periodic meeting/hot god goss symposium.

One order of business is bestowing an official Second Name for Bell, and the other gods (including Freya and Loki) make a mockery of something Hestia wants done properly to honor her dear familia. Hestie eventually gets everyone to settle on Rabbit’s Foot—which is a damn fine and fitting name!

Bell meets with Luvis and Dromel in the hospital, who both bestow their thanks to him for saving them, but also praising Lili for inspiring them with her words and actions in crunch time. He also meets with Ouka and Chigusa, then is immediately snatched up by Cassandra and Daphne…so they can get a store discount!

The gag, which is an oldie but a goldie, is that due to Lili being too deferent and unselfish, all the things she wanted to talk to Bell about later are being talked about already by others, because the business of his day never ends, and then continues into the night. All while she hides around the corner and reacts.

Of my two favorite such reactions, one is when she giddily accepts the praise she hears from her party-mates mouths, and the other is when a drunk Aisha comes on to Bell and Lili reacts by throwing a smoke bomb and getting him the hell out of there, which as Supporter moves go, is pretty aces.

All the pent up frustration both Lili felt and we felt for Lili thankfully get released, when she tells Bell something no one else could: that after the Xenos incident, she was worried he was drifting off to another world (she even uses the word isekai), but recent events of assuaged those worries.

Rabbit’s Foot is better than ever, but also as kind and caring as he’s always been. Watching beside Lili as Bell interacted with his family, friends, allies, and admirers, we were reminded why Bell is so easy to root for; he’s almost too perfect at this point, right?

Lili would agree, and I like that while what she wants to say to him is built up like an imminent confession would, her bond with Bell feels that much deeper. Uchida Maaya does great voice work in a lovely Lili spotlight episode that shows how much she treasures her bond, and how she’s determined to keep growing beside Bell.

As for the cliffhanger that shows that Ryuu Lion might be a murderer? Well, let’s just say I have homework for before next week’s episode: Research what the hell led Ryuu to this place, assuming she’s not being mind-controlled in some way…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi IV – 05 – Gong of Ice and Fire

Without Bell, the party finds itself well and truly against the wall, to the point both Lili and Aisha decide it’s time to bring out their fox in the hole, Haruhime. Thanks to her study of the grimoires, she’s now able to summon five tails from a fox spirit that bestow Level Boost on Welf, Daphne, Aisha, Ouka, and Mikoto. Suddenly, fighting back the monsters is easier.

But there are so many, and even when they’ve slaughtered them all, the Moss Huge eats all the crystals they dropped and becomes even stronger. I don’t know if it knew the party had someone like Haruhime, but it was counting on using their power and effort to increase its own.

The last couple episodes have really built up the fact that this is a smug, ugly brute of a monster whom I simply could not wait to see ethered by Bell.  But before that happens his party has to endure more setbacks. It takes a huge bite out of Aisha’s shoulder with its toothed trunk.

Aisha then proceeds to demonstrate just how tough she is by continuing to try to fight off the Huge, since she’s the only one who can, even with vines growing out of her gaping wound. Meanwhile, her and everyone else’s level boost fades as the monsters continue to swarm around her.

It’s at this point the injured party they found can’t sit around and do nothing anymore. They decide as a group to make their last stand here, to give Hestia Familia a chance to escape and spread the vital news of the Moss Huge. And Lili knows that a Strategist must sometimes be coldhearted and underhanded.

But she doesn’t leave the injured allies behind. She can’t, and still live with herself or look Bell in the eye. She uses her lightning blade to push back the monsters and save those who were about to give their lives for her. And just then, Haruhime’s fox ears hear a tolling bell, signifying that they just managed to hold out long enough for the one-man cavalry.

Everyone finds cover so Bell can unleash a Firebolt that blasts the Moss Huge clean out of and about a hundred meters below the cavern they’re in. There, in a much larger space, Bell, demonstrates how being on these Lower Floors have helped his mana and physique synchronize better. In short, he’s figured shit out.

As a result, he’s able to observe his opponent rationally, and revels in the fact that it’s neither as fast as the Iguazu nor nearly as strong as Minotaur. The rest of the party is relegated to the grandstands, but that’s fine; at this point both they and we the viewers have earned the right to sit back and enjoy this decisive battle.

DanMachi brings out all its most epic and bombastic battle music for this one. When all of Bell’s melee attacks amount to nothing due to Moss’ ridiculous regenerative abilities, he takes off the kid gloves, imbues his black dagger with Firebolt and awakens its runes, naming the attack “Argo Vesta” after an alternate name of his goddess.

This finally does the trick, and if I have any complaint about the Moss Huge’s demise, it’s that it doesn’t suffer nearly as much or as long as it made so many others suffer. For a being of such obvious intelligence to use it purely to hurt and kill and make itself stronger…it was a bad dude and I won’t miss it!

With the defeat of the Moss Huge, the parasitic vines growing in Chigusa and everyone else vanish, restoring them back to normal. Marie, not interested in meeting his friends, thanks Bell, says she loves him, then waves goodbye. I was hoping for more Marie Time!

But that’s okay, there’s no shortage of allies and hugs waiting for Bell after his impressive feat. But the members of Hestia Familia and their colleagues must understand that their role wasn’t simply to await rescue. Everything they did bought them and Bell crucial minutes he needed to get to where they were.

Everyone contributed, from Cassandra’s well-timed heals to Haruhime’s clutch five-fold boost. And conducting it all was Liliruca, who like Bell learned a lot from being down here. For her, that meant learning that a Strategist doesn’t have to be coldhearted or underhanded, and sometimes luck will reward them.

DanMachi IV – 04 – The Seaweed’s Always Greener

When Bell first lays eyes on the mermaid who applauded his performance against the Iguazu, his first thought is probably that he really shouldn’t stare at her for too long considering she’s topless. His reaction spooks her, but it isn’t long before Marie (no “Miss!”) is offering the finger she bit for him to suck on (her blood has healing qualities).

It also helps that Marie is friends with Xenos like Rei and Rido. I thought she might be the classic siren keeping Bell occupied while her Moss Huge ally picks of his party one by one, but it doesn’t seem to be like that. If anything, Marie is clingy because she’s lonely: her friends have wings and feet while she’s tethered to the water.

The Moss Huge doesn’t need Marie or anyone else’s help to create a huge shitshow for Bell’s party, led in his absence by Lili’s brains and Aisha’s brawn. It’s implied the Moss Huge has not only been stockpiling monsters but also influencing their movement patterns, such that the party ends up in the middle of a “pass parade”, when hordes of monsters are coming at them from all directions.

Despite overwhelming difficulty of avoiding getting flattened by the parade while still keeping the injured safe and mobile, Lili, Aisha & Co. manage to keep it together. Welf has to go through his magic swords like potato chips, but they’ve gotta do what they’ve gotta do.

Ouka proves masterful with his axe, while Makoto also whips out one of her new special techniques which splits a rampaging giant urchin clean in two, showing Aisha that she and Bell aren’t the only ones pulling their weight.

When Bell sufficiently promises neither he nor Marie will be killed if they leave the safety of her lagoon, she uses her song to locate a friendly monster and leads Bell back to his friends. When she runs out of water to swim in, Bell finally does what the show’s title has always promised and Picks Up a Girl in a Dungeon—and if it’s Wrong, I don’t want to be Right!

Even after their small victories and getting time for Cassandra to heal them, the monsters just keep coming in waves. Lili knows they can’t keep running without reducing the number of foes, so Aisha tells Haruhime that it’s time for her to unleash her Level Boost on everyone.

Hopefully that bullet isn’t used too early, and the resulting boost will keep the party afloat long enough for Bell and his new friend to arrive. But the fact that they’ve done so well without Bell for this long speaks to what a talented, coordinated, and resilient party they’ve become in a short time. You could say greatness is being forged in the watery crucible of these lower floors.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi IV – 03 – Meeting Their Mossy Match

Whelp, the fun and swagger didn’t last long, did it? Cassandra tries in vain to heal Chigusa and Luvis, but the parasitic plant that has infected them is beyond her abilities. Simply cutting them only speeds their growth. With time against them, Bell opens the floor to ideas, as he admits he’s best suited to combat.

Cassandra says they could retreat to the surface and enlist the services of a higher-level healer, or they could confront the enhanced monster in hope the plants within their people will wither and die if it’s defeated. Ultimately, the group goes with the latter plan.

I like Bell’s dedication to deliberation and consensus…in theory. In practice, it’s a little odd that Chigusa, Luvis, and his party members are able to survive as long as they are considering their bodies are being eaten from the inside by parasitic vines. Frankly, standing around talking about it saps (no pun intended) the urgency a bit.

When they find Luvis’ party mates, they’re clearly being used as bait. As Strategist, Lili delegates duties amongst the party members, with Bell and Asha focusing on the Moss Huge. But Moss is crafty, and arranges things so the weaker members of the party are closer to it, forcing Bell to leap in at the last minute to save them.

His Fire Bolt hits, and the Huge doesn’t seem to like it one bit, so it grabs him by the leg and dives into the water. Bell is about to run out of air when he is suddenly released by the Huge, and the current shoots him straight out of a massively high waterfall. Just like that, the party has lost its leader and strongest member.

Lili momentarily loses it and tries to rush after him, but Aisha reminds her of her duty as Strategist to keep a cool head. She also ruefully admits that Bell is stronger than her now, and has surely found a way to survive whatever fate has befallen him.

So Lili crafts a new plan: the party will head back to where they started on this floor: a high enough vantage point that they’ll avoid further ambush, but also an enticing spot for the Huge to attack them. Once the Huge is where they want him, Makoto will use her gravity magic to bring down the rocks and crush him.

It might work! Certainly Bell isn’t in a position to fight the Huge as he’s now several thousand feet below everyone else, but he is alive. No sooner does he get back on his feet than something slices him in the arm: one of the laser-quick Iguazu Eina warned him about.

At first he hides behind a crystal, which gets eaten away pretty quickly by the onslaught. So he considers what Ais would do in this situation, and then does it: faces the threat head on and fighting it off with his quick swordwork. He gets nicked more than a few times, but in the end he’s still standing and the Iguazu are gone.

For his efforts, he receives a surprise round of applause…from a mermaid he didn’t even know was watching! Hopefully she won’t try to kill or eat our dinged up Little Rookie.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi IV – 02 – Not-So-Laid-Back Camp

On the verdant final floor of the middle floors, Bell’s awesome mega-party makes camp. Haruhime was initially worried about whether Bell could still fight and kill monsters after his dealings with the Xenos, but Bell tells her he’s committed to being a “hypocrite hero”.

Bell’s performance against the monsters thus far earn him high praise from his comrades, though Lili worries he’s “drifting away”. Welf says it’s then the job of a supporter to keep chasing after him. Aisha also remarks that Bell is having a positive influence and looking like a true hero, not just dragging everyone along but making everyone around him grow stronger.

After a meal ’round the campfire, everyone retires to their tents, where we get some nice combinations of characters chatting. There’s Mikoto swearing to be Haruhime’s shield (any shippers?), Daphnie praising Lili for her Strategist performance thus far (Daphnie is so cool!), to an increasingly agitated Cassandra warning a drowsy Chigusa about her premonition about a creepy Green Moss that covers everything.

We also have nice moments between Bell and Welf as well as Bell and Aisha when he relieves her for the change of watch. It’s a welcome reminder that as affable as things have gone so far, they are still in dangerous territory. And Aisha warns that it’s going to get a lot more gnarly as they descend into the lower floors. If Bell gets himself killed, he’ll likely take the whole party with him. To Aisha’s delight, Bell doesn’t flinch at these words.

The landscape turns from green to a vivid blue as the party descends to the 25th Floor and the Great Falls of Water City. DanMachi puts out some serious Abyss vibes here, as our heroes are absolutely dwarfed by the massive waterfalls and rock formations.

Their first encounter with monsters (blue crabs) is relatively uneventful, but just walking a bit too close to the water’s edge nearly costs Haruhime her life. Thankfully, Mikoto isn’t just talk, and impresses all when she dispatches the giant piranha.

When Welf spots an extremely rare and valuable material, even the level-headed Lili decides it’s worth the risk (especially considering how expensive this expedition is costing the Familia). Part of a Strategist’s job is deciding when the risk is worth the reward, and even when another monster ambushes Mikoto in mid-air, she shows how much her training paid off by delivering a dazzling somersault kick.

The haul of expensive material and Mikoto’s heroics leave the party feeling confident about descending just a bit lower before heading back to their 24th Floor camp…and then Cassandra’s premonition begins to come true. They spot a wounded Luvis emerging from the darkness, and right behing him is the most formidable monster yet.

Bell rushes ahead to take it on, but it seemingly reads all his moves, and he identifies it as an “enhanced species”. When it unleashes a hellish fusillade of woody projectiles, everyone does their best to avoid them, but Chigusa gets caught by one—only one—and her resulting shoulder wound is infected by a rapidly growing plant that no doubt threatens her life.

Proof positive that adventuring in the Dungeon is all fun and games…until one of your party gets struck down. Now comes the true test of Bell’s leadership, Lili’s guidance, and the other party members’ physical mental fortitude. Can they overcome this setback, or is it only the first of the dominoes?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi IV – 01 – The Children Are All Right

Hot on the heels of the Battle of Knossos and the dealings with the Xenos, Bell is now Level 4, and Hestia Familia is kind of a big deal. As such, they’re being given an official mission to break their own record for descending the dungeon and gather certain items. But it’s a pretty open-ended mission; they can choose to go as far and deep as they like…and they will.

That means putting together perhaps their most impressive team to date. There’s obviously the Hestia core of Bell, Lili, Welf, Mikoto, and Haruhime; plus former Apollo now Miach Children Daphne and Cassandra; Aisha, formerly of Ishtar; and Chigusa and Ouka from Takemikazuchi. Lili will be both supporter and strategist in the rearguard, while Bell hits the books at the guild and Eina realizes she kinda has a mondo crush on the guy.

With such splendid Children getting all the preparations ready, all their gods and goddesses can really do is sit in a tavern and drink, eat, and marvel at how capable and impressive said Children have come; particularly former crybaby Bell. On the early morn before they set out on their open-ended expedition, Welf presents Ouka with a masterpiece of an axe (he expects to be paid for) and gives Bell a unicorn horn dagger called Hakugen.

When the 10-person party hits the dungeon, they all show off their stuff, as well as their teamwork and coordination, but it’s Bell who impressed everyone by showing what his Fire Bolt looks like now that he’s ranked up. Risks and perils will abound the deeper they descent, but Bell couldn’t ask for a better team to delve with. The huge ensemble should prove a similarly deep font of fun character interactions.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Combatants Will Be Dispatched! Dropped

With a full slate of shows to follow this Spring, I needed Combatants to really knock one out of the park in its third week to justify keeping it around and…it just didn’t. It was a dull, dreary affair, full of sloppy character models, sketchy animation, unfunny comedy, and a cast that are rehashes of Konosuba characters, only less likeable. Agent Six it probably the show’s biggest misfire, as the show is well aware that he’s supposed to be an dishonorable bastard, but gives us zero reasons to want to watch him.

Combatants Will Be Dispatched! – 02 – Assembling a Team

With far less exposition to dump on us, this week’s CWBD is an improvement, flowing much better structurally and focusing on its kooky characters, like the artificial combat chimera Rose and Grimm, archpriest of Zenarith, god of undeath and disaster.

While both are eccentric to say the least, Alice deems them two of the more powerful assets at their disposal. With their ultimate goal of defeating the Demon Lord in mind, they can’t be picky about personalities.

And just like KonoSuba, there’s nobody here whose personality you’d call “normal.” Alice comes closest, but she’s an android. Six continues to be a cad, racking up Evil Points. Rose is a timid glutton who has a sinister chuunibyou side. Grimm wants a man, and Six would seem to do. Grimm and Rose were both exploited by the military as frontline weapons.

The newly-formed party first tastes battle after harassing a demon lord army supply train, which distresses Snow because she wants more exciting frontline combat so she can affort to pay off her sword (the news she clawed her way to where she is from nothing makes her character more interesting).

Then two of the Demon Lord’s Elite Four arrive: the voluptuous Heine of the Flame (whose “cosplay” reminds Six of his comely bosses back home), and Gadalkand of the Earth, who straight up murders Grimm, just like that!

Even though his sole interaction with her was catching a glimpse of her thong, Six still wants to avenge Grimm, but Gadalkand and Heine both withdraw before he can fight them. Then he learns from Snow and Rose that due to her demon blood and position as Zenarith priest, she comes back to life no matter how many times she dies…which should prove quite handy!

While Six continues to be, for the most part, pretty scummy, he comes off far better this week, especially when he sits vigil over Grimm’s corpse in the temple of Zenarith. When she wakes up, she’s surprised he’s there because he didn’t want her to be lonely.

The episode closes on a sweet note, as Six orders her a spiffy new Kisaragi-brand wheelchair and the two go on an adorable date racing through the wastelands and breaking up couples in a village. This is still no KonoSuba, but I came away from this second episode feeling like it’s starting to find its own voice, and liking everyone just a little bit more.

Log Horizon – 03

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Shiroe, Akatsuki and Naotsugu trek through the underground “Depths of Palm” in order to reach Susukino and Celara, who is staying in the house of the kindly cat-man Nyanta. Susukino is under the iron rule of “Brigandia”, a guild of PKers led by the ruthless Demikas. Shiroe falls from a great height when a stone bridge collapses. He survives, but while he’s out he dreams of his times with the Debauchery Tea Party, which he remembers fondly. The trio defeat a rat boss and reach the surface, where they’re met by a stunning sunrise.

After three episodes, we’ve decided to log out of Log Horizon after all. There are some charming and satisfying aspects to it that will make it harder to drop later, and we can’t overlook its flaws. For one thing, it’s far too safe. You’d think a series about a fantasy RPG brought to life would have a little more immediate peril to it, but the characters are already Level 90, and everything is a breeze. Add to that Shiroe’s rather annoying tendency to narrate, and we end up feeling like we’re watching a tutorial or walk-through of an RPG rather than experiencing a story firsthand.

Our impressions of an anime are informed by our not-inconsiderable past anime-watching history; if we find ourselves watching something awfully similar to something we’ve already seen, it had better either surpass that past series in some way, or offer something new. We can’t help but hold Log Horizon up against Sword Art Online and find the former lacking. Not that SAO was perfect, but it did set a standard in both production values, empathy with the characters, epic scale and genuine danger that this series can’t match. Sayonara, Log Horizon.


Rating: 5 (Average) (Series Dropped)

Log Horizon – 02

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With little else for players to do to stay occupied, PKs (player killings) are on the upswing, and security situation in cities is tenuous. Shiroe, Akatsuki and Naotsugu engage a party of PKs, exploiting the holes in their teamwork to emerge victorious. Shiroe gets a call from the Crescent Moon Alliance, asking if he’d look after the guild hall while they’re away rescuing their comrade, Celara. With Akatsuki and Naotsugu’s support, Shiroe makes a counter-proposal: the three of them will head north to Susukino to rescue her instead.

We’ve decided not to drop Strike the Blood or Log Horizon for now, but we’ll only be reviewing episodes as gaps in our schedule allow, so we probably won’t be johnny-on-the-spot with either.

In Sword Art Online, if you were KO’ed in the game, you died in the real world, but here in Elder Tale, you merely re-spawn at the cathedral of the nearest town, which is a lot less …final. But while the threat of oblivion is off the table, this presents a different quandary: endowed with virtual immortality and all the weak enemies needed to harvest enough gold to live off of, what exactly are 30,000 immortal players going to do with themselves? The answer becomes clear this week: prey on each other for kicks.

Shiroe’s trio proves more than up to the task of dispatching upstart PKers. Their battle was relatively interesting, but the foes were a bit too stupid, the animation was underwhelming, and most importantly, Shiroe’s constant explanation of everything going on kinda kills the urgency. The trio finds something to do, and the Shiroe/Akatsuki romance is at a nice, gentle simmer. But so far show is relying too much on telling, not showing, which needs to change.


Rating: 6 (Good)

 

Log Horizon – 01

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The strategist gamer Shiroe suddenly finds himself trapped in the MMORPG “Elder Tale”, which has become his new world and reality along with 30,000 other Japanese players. He finds his former partners – Naotsugu, a guardian who had logged on for the first time in two years, and Akatsuki, who was a quiet male assassin in the game but turns out to be a girl. She uses one of Shiroe’s potions to take female form. The three form a party and set out in search of enemies on which to test their skills.

Sword Art Online must’ve been a hit in Japan; otherwise, why would a series like this exist a year later? We’re not saying the two shows are identical, but the similarities are striking: a male lead who isn’t as tall and handsome as his game avatar; his trusty, bawdy male sidekick; the loyal badass female lead; and oh yeah, they’re stuck in an MMORPG. Mind you, this first episode was quite lighthearted and lightweight; there was no foreboding announcement by the programmer, and it doesn’t sound like a KO in the game kills you in real life. We didn’t really mind the lighter, jauntier tone, but we’re not sure it can be sustained for 25 episodes.

SAO started out fairly jokey too, but by the end Kirito’s sister was falling in love with him and the villain was planning to coma-rape Asuna…so yeah. We know we could do with a bit less J-bro humor from Naotsugu, Shiroe’s pretty bland, the visuals and costumes didn’t really impress, and the soundtrack was thoroughly forgettable. Akatsuki gave a nice first impression, and we dug the trio’s positive attitude in the face of the sudden extreme change in their lives. Still, we’re not sure we can commit to two cours of what was awfully similar to SAO, only with a weaker first episode and so far, much lower stakes.


Rating: 6 (Good)

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