DanMachi III – 12 (Fin) – The Hero (and the Status Quo) Returns

As Asterius walks along Daedalus Street in search of the “ultimate adversary” of his dreams, Hermes clarifies his request for the Xenos to “die”. Rather, he’ll need some of them to die by Bell’s hands, so that Bell’s honor and reputation can be restored. Whatever else Hermes is planning, Bell continuing to be the beloved Little Rookie is a big part of it.

Gros and three others decide to acquiesce to Hermes’ request, and make a big show of attacking a square full of civilians and adventurers. With this “stage production”, Hermes is conceding that Ouranos’ desire for humans and monsters to achieve piece was little more than a pipe dream. He just can’t see thousands of years of continuous enmity ever ceasing.

The moment Eina is threatened by Gros (who I believe is being berserk-ified by Asfi), Bell comes between them, and Gros’ inner voice hopes Bell will defeat him before he kills her. But Bell isn’t altogether interested in playing the exact role Hermes laid out for him.

Rather than raise his blade to Gros, he simply puts his arms up and serves as Eina’s human shield. Gros ends up shoving him back. That’s when a frustrated Hermes has Asfi berserk-ify Asterius, who flies at Bell like a bat out of hell and presses a vicious, building-smashing attack.

Bell somehow manages to hang in there, and DanMachi’s Big Battle Theme starts to play as their epic duel carries through the night and into the dawn. Unfortunately, while the battle is quick, brutal, and fun, it also can’t really hold a T to Bell’s duel with Ais. In addition to Ais being easier on the eyes, it was more satisfying on both a thematic and character level.

Asterius’ whole deal is that Bell apparently beat him once, and he wanted another shot at him, and…that’s it. Everyone else allows the battle to unfold without interruption in part due to Ottarl, operating on Freya’s wishes. Asterius ends up delivering a huge defeat to Bell, and even though the battle served a purpose—both to rehabilitate his public image and serve as cover for the Xenos’ escape—Bell is still super upset about losing.

Satisfied that their head-to-head record stands at one win and one loss apiece, Asterius withdraws. We later see his arm is restored, as Fels heals all of the Xenos injuries once they arrive in Knossos. Wiene is happy where she is and not crying over missing Bell, and the Xenos have a new haven in which to survive and maybe even thrive…just separately from humans for the foreseeable future.

I can’t help but be a little disappointed that more effort wasn’t spent trying to move the peace process forward, but at least from Bell’s perspective part of the reason that process failed was he just wasn’t strong enough. Even though he beat Bell, Asterius isn’t standing still, and continues training the moment he’s healed.

Bell too returns to the battlements of the castle where he and Ais have met and trained so many times, and is surprised when she too arrives at that spot, telling him she had a feeling he’d be there. Bell asks Ais once more to teach him how to fight. He wants to become stronger, and their friendship remains strong enough to have survived the recent adversity.

DanMachi III – 11 – Don’t Speak

Welf and Mikoto manage to successfully stall Gareth with a last-minute assist from Tsubaki, ordered by Hephaistos to assist Hestia Familia. Wiene manages to give Tiona the slip, but the chase continues. In the process, the Amazoness witnesses Wiene save a demi child from a crumbling bridge.

When she corners her again, Tiona can’t go through with killing her, and lets her go, now sensing what it is Argonaut-kun saw in her, and acknowledging she’s more than just another monster.

Wiene reunites with Bell and Haruhime, but it’s not long before they’re confronted by Bete. Again asserting her newfound confidence and strength, Haruhime stalls Bete to allow the others to flee, then uses Uchide no Kozuchi to summon a leveled-up Aisha.

Haruhime may not be that good in an offensive battle, but those who love her like Aisha consider her battles to be their battles, and gladly fight in her place. Even though Aisha loses and doesn’t feel particularly cool about it, the fact is, she is extremely cool, while Bete’s just a hotheaded dork.

That brings us to the titular Decisive Battle, in which Bell and Ais dance once more, only this time with blades instead of eveningwear. As Finn expected, Ais isn’t prepared to make any distinction between Wiene and Monsters Who Make People Cry based on what she’s seen. Wiene went berserk before, she could do so again, and she can’t allow it.

That said, she is surprised that Bell is able to hold his own in their initial scuffle, such that she dispenses with holding back for the sake of their unique bond, and takes things up a notch. Bell can’t keep up, so he spams Firebolt at the stone arch above them and uses the debris cloud as cover to escape.

Finding the barred gate to a secret passage where he once stood up for Hestia, Bell has Wiene go through to meet up with the other Xenos, promising he’ll be right behind her. Round 2 with Ais commences, and Ais is not playing around. Her only accomodation to Bell is to warn him that she is going to cut him and it will hurt, a lot.

If she were to spill Bell’s blood, I doubt things would ever be the same between them—maybe they won’t be anyway—but thankfully Wiene sensed Bell was only lying to protect her (again) and comes back to put herself between Ais and Bell. Ais is shocked to hear her speak and express emotion—specifically concern for Bell.

It’s an inconvenient truth she’d rather not deal with. Things were easier when she thought Wiene was just a monster; now it will hurt her to kill her, but she’ll still kill her, because she has “deadly claws” and a “terrifying wing”. Wiene responds to that by literally tearing off the monstrous parts of her (not her jewel, that would kill her).

Wiene tearfully assures Ais that she ever loses herself again she’ll disappear “like she’s supposed to”, but she doesn’t want to go back to being in the “pitch black”. Bell saved her, and she wants to stay with him. Having witnessed Wiene act not like a monster at all, Ais concludes she can no longer kill her. She tosses Bell a potion and lets them go.

Bell and a healed Wiene meet up with Haruhime, Lili, and some Xenos who got separated from the main group, and Bell and Wiene say goodbye one more time. This time Wiene tells him she won’t cry while they’re apart because she doesn’t want him or the Familia to worry about her. Haruhime suggests Wiene and Bell pinky swear that they’ll meet again.

Unfortunately, that might not happen, as throughout this whole operation, the trickster Hermes was playing the good guys like a fiddle. The main Xenos group encounter a dead end that wasn’t on Daedalus’ map, and Hermes arrives with Asfi to confess he faked the map to corner them. He condemns the Xenos as “heretical” and politely asks them to die. As expected, he has his own personal agenda, and he’s making his move.

DanMachi III – 04 – Seeking the Surface

Hestia Familia’s Xenos hosts provide food and beverage to celebrate the meeting of humans who will accept them. As Bell and the others drink, eat, and dance, they learn a lot more about these intelligent monsters. Like them, they collect loot from the enemies they defeat, be they adventurers or “dumb” monsters.

We also learn that while Lyd is presently the Xenos’ de facto leader, a stronger Xenos has awakened who could challenge his claim as the strongest of them. On top of that, there’s a faction of the Xenos who want no part of the humans, distrusting them every bit as much as the townsfolk on the surface.

Like last week once they reach the Xenos’ hideout, this episode spends most of its time explaining the bigger picture, with “former human” and sage, now skeleton Fels being a useful font of information while Ouranos tells Hestia a lot of the same stuff.

Just as Ouranos hopes Bell and Hestia’s Familia will be the bridge to make people acknowledge the existence of intelligent and peaceful monsters, Dix Perdix and the Ikelos Familia is working to maintain the status quo, killing, capturing, and smuggling the monsters without a moment’s thought to their intelligence.

But neither Fels nor Lyd brough Bell & Co. here to ask for their help, so much as to lay out their plight, as well as their most common desire: to reach the surface and see the sky (and in the Siren Ray’s case, fly in it). Ouranos even posits that it could be the Will of the Dungeon itself (which the Xenos call their “mother”) for Xenos to emerge and yearn to reach the surface.

This is because just as humans die, go to heaven, and are reborn in the lower world, monsters also have a cycle of death and rebirth that starts and ends in the Dungeon. This means someone like Wiene, who learned to speak and act like a human so fast, could have died and been reborn hundreds if not thousands of times.

It’s a lot of fascinating food for thought, but if there’s one demerit to this episode it’s that it is, a the end of the day, one in which everyone is sitting around either talking or listening to people talk about things, rather than watching much in the way of action. The information may be fascinating, but the manner in which it is relayed is somewhat rote.

That aside, the smaller but no less significant immediate ramification of Bell & Co. meeting the Xenos is that Wiene won’t—and shouldn’t—return to the surface to their home. This comes as a surprise to poor Wiene, who cries and screams for Bell not to leave her even though he must, with only a promise he and the others will return at some point.

As Bell & Co. return to the surface and meet up with Hestia to pool share what they’ve learned, the group of Xenos caring for Wiene fall into a trap set by the Dix and the Ikelos Familia, using a brutally tortured Ray as bait. What looks like the strongest of the Xenos charges Dix, and is swiftly killed.

Dix has a huge host of humans and demis under his command, and he clearly relishes the monster hunt to come. He and his ilk represent the extreme challenge any attempt at human-Xenos co-existence, as it will be everything the Xenos can do to simply continue existing period!

There’s also the matter of Hestia being reluctant to risk her children and Familia being branded enemies of their own kind and in league with monsters, thus destroying all the progress the Familia has made and resigning them to ostracization and worse. But if they don’t do anything to help Wiene and the Xenos, who will?

DanMachi III – 03 – The Fam Meets Xenos

The Guild hall is overrun by enraged humans and beastmen demanding to know what’s going to be done about the monster in the city that threatened a child. Tulle is pulled away by her boss, who has a very special task for her: she’s to deliver a Mission for Hestia Familia. It’s a simple directive: Take the “dragon girl” and go to the twentieth floor of the Dungeon. Unlike a quest, it cannot be refused.

Once the entire Fam is aware of the sitch, Bell apologizes for getting all of them into this, but Haruhime won’t hear of it. No matter what, he mustn’t regret saving Wiene. She herself was saved, and knows how happy it made her, and Wiene surely feels the same way.

Even mini-stick-in-the-mud Lili concedes that they’re a family, damnit, so they’ll support each other in this too. They come up with a plan for surviving a trip to the Twentieth, where they’ve yet to venture. For her part, Wiene is scared to go to the dungeon, but as long as Bell and everyone is with her it will be fine.

The guild letter also features a very ornate border that catches Hestia’s attention. It turns out to be a hidden message only she could read, directing her to be at a certain place at a certain time. After seeing off her Fam, she follows the letter’s instructions and is approached by a grim reaper-looking person who is actually in disguise.

The reaper leads Hestia through a twisting secret labyrinth until they come to a staircase, and from there on Hestia is on her own. I feared for our beloved flip-flop wearing homebody’s safety, but turns out all this rigamarole was so that Ouranos could meet with her as privately as possible.

Meanwhile, thanks to Haruhime’s buffing ability, the Fam is able to reach the Twentieth floor. When they arrive at the spot indicated on the map, it appears to be a dead end, until Wiene hears singing that leads them to a crystal, which when broken reveals a new route.

The party trudges into a pitch-dark cave, which Bell scans with a torchlight until stopping on a massive Lizardman wearing armor and wielding swords. He’s not alone, and the party is soon surrounded by similarly armed and armored monsters, something they’ve never encountered before.

It’s a tough fight—this is their first time on the twentieth—and the show takes care to make that evident. There’s just so many foes, and not only are they strong, but they’re using weapons! Haruhime prepares to sacrifice her body to shield Wiene, but Makoto and Welf arrive in time to parry the Lizardman’s blade.

That gives Bell enough time to summon his Bell-Fist Attack, which he uses to punch the everloving shit out of the Lizardman’s face, sending him flying. Then something odd and wonderful happens…the Lizardman laughs a monstrous laugh that gradually turns into a human voice! He stands up, dusts himself off, and is joined harpy Bell and Welf first met in the woods.

The lizardman and harpy have names—Lyd and Ray—and the battle was merely a test to see if Bell and the others would turn tail and abandon Wiene when things got rough for them. They didn’t, and so they pass and are welcomed as friends of Xenos: a new and growing race of intelligent monsters.

Turns out Ouranos didn’t summon Hestia as some kind of nefarious plan, nor does it seem he’s a villain (at least not yet). On the contrary, Hestia Familia has already done with Wiene what he intends to do with all of Xenos: protect them. He very carefully reached out to Hestia because he believes she and her Fam can help bridge the gap between the species.

Not all monsters are monsters anymore. It’s a massive paradigm shift, and if not managed properly, it could spell doom for Xenos. I just hope Ouranos’ intentions are as honorable as they seem to be so far.

DanMachi III – 02 – An Adorable Bomb Waiting to Go Off

After consulting with gods she can trust, Hestia determines her Familia will only find answers about Wiene back in the Dungeon. However, Makoto and Haruhime stay home to keep Hestia and Wiene safe. Bell, Welf, and Lili manage to recruit Aisha, who just happened to be passing.

Ryuu initially didn’t want to take off work but is determined to protect Bell’s honor from Aisha, so she comes too. Whether it’s because Wiene is somehow sapping his power or the mere fact the monsters they face resemble Wiene, Bell’s fighting just isn’t up to snuff, something both Ryuu and Aisha find strange.

While Lili keeps the other two women busy, Bell and Welf return to the wood where they found Wiene. They don’t really learn anything, but they do encounter another talking monster, who has feathers and asks them if it’s possible to coexist rather than killing each other. They also cross paths with the gang-like Ikelos Familia, led by Dix.

Back on the surface, Ikelos is sent by Dix (he’s the odd god who is given errands, rather than issuing them) to investigate the missing vouivre, and Bell isn’t able to mask his shock about being asked about a talking one. Fortunately Hermes happens to be passing (seems to happen a lot with Bell while in Orario) and bails Bell out, while warning Ikelos he’d better not be up to no good (he is).

Back home, while Wiene plays hide-and-seek with Haruhime, Lili tells Welf, Mikoto and Hestia her earnest belief that their Familia should cease harboring Wiene. Taking emotion out of the equation, Wiene is no better than a bomb going off, so even if she’s despised for it, Lili knows they, and not Bell, must decide before it’s too late. Wiene overhears everything, is devastated, and flees.

As if to underscore Lili’s very legitimate concerns, it only takes a couple of minutes for Wiene to cause havoc, by no fault of her own. When she saves a little girl from falling cargo after a rope snaps, she uses one of her wings to do so. When the girl turns around, she doesn’t see her hero, just a vicious monster. A mob soon gathers and starts stoning her. Before Bell leaps out to save her, Lili goes ahead of him in Elf Mode.

Meeting back in the secret room of Hestia’s old cellar, their original home, Bell holds Wiene and tries to comfort her. But neither he nor anyone else can ease the pain of knowing that on the possibility of her being able to stay with Bell and the others, it’s not looking good at all!

This season of DanMachi is taking a good hard look at the long-established structure of society in its world, tossing an adorable bluish-gray wrench into the works. Yes, monsters have always been mortal enemies of humans and demihumans. But Wiene clearly isn’t. She doesn’t belong in either world right now, but not we know she’s not the only one.

That means either she and her brethren will be destroyed, or the world will have to change to accommodate their existence. Whether Lili likes it or not, Bell and their Familia has been chosen as the ones who will either keep the cycle of hatred and death going, or herald a new era of coexistence.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi III – 01 – Monster in the Family

Cranel Bell and the Hestia Familia are riding high after their recent victories, but all that could be threatened by one chance meeting in the woods of the nineteenth floor of the Dungeon.

Bell happens upon a naked and positively terrified little monster called a vouivre, who is being attacked by humans and stronger monsters alike. With a heart as soft as his hair, Bell protects the monster, covers her up, and brings her along when the party returns to the eighteenth.

The problem is, once the monster trips and reveals she’s a monster (and not another girl Bell has picked up in a Dungeon) everyone but Bell pulls out their weapons and orders Bell to step away. That’s because monsters and human/demihumans have never and will never get along. It’s just The Way Things Are.

While Bell doesn’t dispute that basic truth, the fact is it’s possible there are exceptions to that truth, and that this monster could be one of them. For one thing, she starts to say words, something nobody has ever heard a monster do. More importantly, she’s not trying to kill them. She seems far more frightened of them than they should be of her.

The other Familia members allow Bell to bring the monster home where Hestia can issue a ruling, but despite being a goddess this is uncharted territory for her as well. For now, she has Bell take responsibility for something that looks like monster but is acting like a human girl, and has him name her Wiene.

From there, Bell spends all his time with Wiene, showing her the ways of the human/demihuman life goes. Haruhime assists and organically comes to take a very maternal tack in caring for her, making sure she’s clothed, fed and happy.

Then there’s an scary, heartstabbingly sad moment when Wiene is just having fun roughhousing with Bell, and her monster claws accidentally dig deep into his arm, causing a spray of blood. After hours of harmless fun, everything seems poised to go sideways in a split-second.

But ultimately what matters isn’t the act of scratching Bell, but the intent—there was none; it was an accident—and her reaction—she’s shocked and terrified to tears. More importantly is how Bell responds, not with anger, but with a warm smile and assurance that everything’s okay. When he smiles, Wiene knows she can smile too.

Mikoto admits to being afraid of Wiene despite how harmless she seems—it’s hard to overcome millennia of instinct. Even so, when Wiene praises Mikoto’s cooking, she gradually joins Haruhime in the Wiene Fan Club.

Even Welf files her claws down into stylish black nails, allowing her to playfully poke Bell’s face without hurting him. It seems the entire Familia is chipping in to take care of the poor girl—and they’re starting to see her as one of their own.

When the whole Familia is relaxing in the living room, Wiene learns the word “love”, and Haruhime leads the charge in declaring her love for Bell. Hestia, Welf, and Mikoto echo the words, leaving Lili as the sole holdout, who finally relents and admits she loves Bell too when Wiene flashes those big orange eyes in her face. Bell in turn tells everyone he loves them too, because that’s what a family is.

But later that night, as she lies wearily on the couch, Lili tells Welf that something isn’t sitting right. If they play their cards wrong and word gets out they’re harboring a monster, it could mean the ruin of Hestia Familia. That aside, she just can’t trust a monster, even an obviously adorable one in Wiene. Things can’t stay the way they are.

Bell and Hestia likely realize this as well, but Wiene’s well-being, comfort, and happiness are coming first because they are kind-hearted, nurturing people who will protect the weak and help those who need help. Is Bell getting too emotionally attached?

Wiene’s disturbing “dreams” where she’s “very angry” and everything “gets dark and red” seem to support Lili’s worries about her; she may not be a monster now, in bed with Bell and Hestia, but they have no idea if or how the monster within could emerge.

It’s a complicated development to open the third season. Both Bell and Lili’s positions have their merits, but hopefuly a compromise can be made that doesn’t end up hurting Wiene (if she doesn’t end up being a threat). Meanwhile, Hermes’ Fam is searching for monsters being smuggled as well as chasing rumors about talking monsters; maybe others like Wiene?

In addition, we’ve a harpy character waiting in the wings (no pun intended), a dragon dude who can make a stone clone of himself (I think!) and a moment in the ED when Ais points her sword at Bell—will they end up on opposite sides of this issue after getting along so well last season? We’ll soon find out. DanMachi is back, and it’s humming as usual.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi II – 12 (Fin) – A Goddess’ Love

While last week’s cliffhanger, in which Bell, Hestia, and Ais literally fell off a cliff, hinted at more action and peril in the finale, we end up with no such thing. My expectations were duly subverted; thank you, DanMachi! The episode skips to the part where Ais has already effortlessly saved everyone, and Hestia is in bed recovering from a fever.

They end up in a gorgeous mountain village, whose mayor Karm and daughter Rina are more than happy to host a goddess. When Rina proves more than capable of taking care of her, Hestia puts Bell to work helping the villagers prepare for their harvest festival. Ais joins him, donning some very fetching village garb.

So…what’s the twist? Isn’t everyone in this village a bit too kind? When does the other shoe drop? Well, it doesn’t. Bell and Ais never encounter any more enemies, be they Ares’ children or anyone else. The village doesn’t even have a dark secret; the scales of the legendary Black Dragon are on proud display for all to see, their mere presence keeping monsters away and enabling the village to prosper. Ais gives them the stink-eye, but that’s all.

The lack of any classic conflict allows the episode to be a meditation on the goddess-child relationship, represented in the present by Hestia and Bell, and in the past by Karm and his goddess Brigid. Once a brash young adventurer himself, he and Brigid loved one another, so much so that she saved his life at the cost of returning to heaven.

Filled with grief and regret, he swore never to take a wife and instead adopted Rina, who keeps him going. But as his life continues to wind down, he impresses upon Bell the importance of honoring and protecting his goddess at all costs.

Bell takes that to heart when a recovered Hestia joins him and Ais at the festival. Rather than bookending DanMachi with Bell-Ais dances, Bell remembers Karm’s words and how he spurned Hestia last week by saying the wrong thing, and formally asks her for a dance.

The fun is interrupted by Rina, who brings Hestia back to speak to Karm, who is very near death. While everyone around her is weeping, Hestia maintains an ethereal calm about the whole thing, keeping things light and upbeat as she speaks to Karm.

Turns out she and Brigid were best friends (though, like Loki she used to call her a shrimp), and she lets her hair down so Karm can see her as Brigid with his failing eyes, calling him to join her in heaven. Bell can’t help but weep as Hestia shuts the departed Karm’s eyes—he can’t help but see his own future in the scene.

Bell wanders off on his own, but is soon found by Hestia, who suspects he’s worried about their very lifespans and resultant perspectives on time. But she tells him not to overthink things. If he wants to be with her—and he very much does—then there’s nothing to worry about. She’ll be with him, all throughout his life, even when he grows old.

Even when his soul rises to heaven, is wiped clean, and returns to earth as someone else. She’ll simply find that person and ask them to be in her Familia. There’s no need to fear their love for each other, because even if his body isn’t eternal, she, and that love, most certainly are.

With that, Bell, Hestia, and Ais return to Orario. They vow to return to the village—I can’t blame them, place was super-cozy—and Ais has Bell promise to bring her along, inviting Hestia’s ire. Haruhime invites it too when she welcomes bell home with a big hug.

As action-packed, world-changing finales go, this…wasn’t that. In a way, it was something better—or at least far truer to what a goddess like Hestia is all about: the warmth and comfort of the hearth, and the kindness and love of a happy home.

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 II – 10 – For Whom the Bell Tolls

I loved how many challenges and formidable warriors stood between Bell and freeing a single prostitute, because it just meant he’d have to beat every last one of them, on top of convincing Haruhime that yes, she actually is worth saving, stop saying you’re filthy and a burden! He’s there, and he’s going to finish what he started!

He may not be one of the heroes she loved growing up, who would never sully themselves with her ilk, but he was the hero she needed. Meanwhile, Freya’s forces have already set to work burning the pleasure district, while the goddess herself will seek out Ishtar for a goddess-to-goddess, woman-to-woman “chat”.

Bell’s next opponent is Phryne, who orders Haruhime to boost her level with Uchide no Kozuchi. Instead, Haruhime uses it on Bell, allowing him to fight on more-or-less equal footing with the giant Amazoness. After watching Phryne easily win every match she’s fought so far, it’s immensely satisfying to see Bell give her fits, until she falls through a hole in the floor her own substantial mass has created.

On a lower level, Phryne encounters Freya’s right-hand beastman Ottarl, who easily overpowers her. She pleads for mercy by offering her body, but ends up blaspheming his goddess’ name, so he pummels her. As awful a character as Phryne was, I kinda felt sorry for her in the end. After all, like Ishtar herself, she didn’t expect this battle to go so badly for their Familia, and so wasn’t sufficiently prepared to lose everything.

Aisha is Bell’s next opponent, and the fight is made fairer when Haruhime’s spell wears off. Still, Bell has a full head of steam and stays with Aisha, dodging her kicks and countering her Hippolyte spell with his own Firebolt, the bells tolling as he charges it up. It’s yet another glorious, fluid kinetic attack between two very different fighters who both know what they’re doing.

Unlike Phryne, I always liked Aisha, who after all had suffered a lot more than Bell, Phryne, or even Haruhime in Ishtar’s clutches. She also didn’t go mad with fury, but actually respected Bell’s transformation into a real man, someone who could impress and best her. I hope she lands on her feet somewhere after her Familia disperses.

That’s right: almost as soon as Isthar’s ridiculously rich, seemingly invincible empire showed up on the DanMachi scene, it crumbles to dust before Freya’s calm, elegant figure. She charms and strides right past Ishtar’s last lines of defense and delivers a divine bitch slap, sending her back to Heaven, never to return.

On the roof of the hanging gardens, Bell removes Haruhime’s collar and they bask in victory (and the morning sun) as Hestia and the others arrive. Turns out he didn’t need the cavalry at all. Just like that, Bell Cranel has played a pivotal role in toppling another great divine power. Now it’s time to head home and relax!

DanMachi II – 09 – Your Hero is Here

After stewing in self-hatred for a quick spell, Bell regains the nerve to rescue Haruhime despite the consequences. Mikoto is with him; they’ll get yelled at later together, but with Hestia, Lili and Welf stopped at the gates, the two are on their own. Mikoto will sneak her way to where Haruhime is being held, which will require a diversion.

Bell provides that diversion by rushing the front door and spamming Firebolt at the waves of Amazons who come at him. That only works for so long, especially once a dual-wielding Phryne enters the phray. At her Level, she can swat his Firebolts away like flies. He’s “saved” by Ishtar, who figures it’s time to deflower the Little Rookie, but to her dismay he’s immune to divine charms—even hers.

Freya, another goddess whose divine charms are wasted on Bell, gets a report about Isthar Familia’s movements and starts to move, while it looks like Hestia’s party will also get in, just not in time to help save Haruhime (I imagine they’ll serve as the cavalry later). Mikoto gets to Haruhime, who continues to believe herself unworthy of being saved by a hero due to her profession. Mikoto isn’t hearing it. She’s getting rescued.

That means Mikoto has to go up against Samira, who’s a Level higher and batters her with her bare hands and feet. With Haruhime’s execution imminent, Mikoto pulls out some ninja trickery, pulling Samira into a hug and releasing a huge magical discharge before falling over the side of the building.

The rest is up to Bell, who deflects the killing blow of the woman tasked with killing Haruhime, and shatters the Killing Stone, rendering the ritual impossible. It’s yet another thrilling episode from a show that has proven time and again it knows how to pull off epic action. Mikoto really shone this week; I hope she’s okay.

As for Bell, well…maybe he can quickly get leveled up by Haruhime and at least hold his own until the cavarly arrives? ‘Cause he ain’t charming those Amazons off that roof…not after he just torpedoed their chances of beating Freya.

DanMachi II – 08 – Whatever It Takes

Mikoto arrives in the midst of Bell’s beatdown at the hands of Aisha, but the latter takes her down with one strike, then continues wailing on the Little Rookie. Turns out Haruhime, donning a red cloak, is the source of Aisha’s power boost. Phryne also gets in on the game, snatching up Bell for herself and chaining him to the wall of her secret love nest.

Bell is lucky he couldn’t manage an erection, because Phryne has to leave him to find an “enhancement” medicine, allowing the one other person who knows about the dungeon—Haruhime—to sneak in and rescue him (after slipping the keys to the captured Mikoto).

Bell mentions his and Mikoto’s present efforts to buy her, for which she’s grateful to the point of tears, but it doesn’t seem like she’s interested in going anywhere or doing anything other than what was decided for her long ago: as Take tells Hestia, she’s to be sacrificed to the Killing Stone, a magical object that optimizes Renard power.

In Haruhime’s case, she’s able to provide a level boost to Aisha, but once the ritual is complete and the stone shattered, that power can be spread to many other Ishtar Amazons, giving them the offensive edge they need in a war against the more powerful-on-paper Freya Familia.

Once Haruhime gets Bell back to the Pleasure District and urges him to flee, Mikoto meets up with them, having learned about the Killing Stone thorugh books in Ishtar’s palace. Aisha also arrives, and snatches Haruhime back up. She dares Bell to do something—anything—to try to get Haruhime back, but Bell freezes. In that moment, he wavers between the desire to save her and his reluctance to get Hestia Familia tangled up in a war they can’t win.

He’s so frozen in hesitation, Mikoto has to grab his hand and run before the other Amazons can capture him. In short, this episode was a bit of a downer, as Haruhime has seemed to be a doomed character ever since her introduction. One wonders if her fate is sealed now that Bell lost his last best chance to save her, or if he can summon the same resolve Haruhime has and risk everything to challenge her death wish.

Heck, even if Bell wasn’t particularly emotionally invested in Haruhime’s fate, it just seems like a very bad idea to let Ishtar gain such a dangerous military advantage, considering she basically screws her underlings (like Aisha) into obedience. Here’s hoping for some kind of light at the end of this tunnel.

DanMachi II – 07 – Symbol of Destruction

When Hestia learns Bell went to the Pleasure District and spent all night there, she’s not happy to say the least. Still, Mikoto, Welf, and Lili pitch in on his punishment (cleaning up for the neighbors), since it was Mikoto’s fault they all ended up in the district.

As it happens, Haruhime was the renard Mikoto was looking for. Despite Haruhime’s line about being no good for a hero, he wants to help Mikoto save her. Lili warns the two that nabbing Haruhime would likely start a war they probably can’t win against Ishtar; Welf agrees.

Hermes, fresh from being ravaged by Ishtar, wants to speak to Freya, but only ends up getting the ear of Syr, who is very concerned that Ishtar somehow found out about Bell. Not that Hermes had any choice; it’s clear he’s the lesser god in that particular equation.

At the Guild, Eina is as unsettled as Hestia that Bell spent the night in the Pleasure District, but also confirms Ishtar Familia’s formidable economic and military power, telling him that many of its Amazon soldiers may be grossly underrated in the official books—not a crew to be trifled with, but we knew that.

That night, after Aisha gifts Haruhime with some candy from the Far East, Mikoto stops by to say hello, only to be rejected. Haruhime has clearly closed the book on the part of her life before she became a prostitute, so as far as she’s concerned, Mikoto is a stranger. Aisha catches the whole encounter, and if anything, looks guilty.

Mikoto fills Bell in on the details of her past with Haruhime; she and Chigusa lived in a shrine with other kids and gods; Haruhime was a noble lady, but alone. Sensing her loneliness, Mikoto led nightly raids to set Haruhime free to run and play with them.

They eventually moved to Orario to seek their fortune, but Haruhime was deceived by a “heartless person”—I’m thinking Aisha, who may not be so heartless—and sold into sexual servitude.

After a chance encounter with Hermes, he echos Lili and Welf’s worries about crossing Ishtar, but proposes an alternative: if you have enough money, you can buy a prostitute; one of Haruhime’s purportedly low status would only cost 2-3 million; a very doable fee for Mikoto and Bell.

He also mentions to them, as friends, that he delivered an artifact to Ishtar the other day called the Killing Stone, and tells them to make of that what they will. Back at Ishtar’s palace, she orders her top soliders (including her Captain, Phryne) to hunt Bell down, capture him, and bring him to her unspoiled. Once she’s done with him they can do with him what they will.

She’s also gung-ho about starting a war with Freya, so whatever Bell and Mikoto do or don’t do, a sizable war is inevitable. Eager to make the money needed to buy Haruhime quickly, Mikoto and Bell head to the dungeon to waste some beasts; Welf and Lili heard their plan and agree to help out.

Only Ishtar’s people are lying in wait, and once Bell is separated from his party, he’s scooped up and attacked…by Aisha, who seems to have gotten buffs thanks someone who looks like a disguised Haruhime. As a Level 3 going on 4, Aisha is more than a match for Bell, and soon has him on his back. Barring an unforseen miracle, it would seem Ishtar has her prey, and the perfect provocation to spur Freya to war.

DanMachi II – 06 – Orario Vice

When Bell, Lili and Welf are concerned about Mikoto acting weird, they follow her one night, and to her surprise she ends up meeting with Chigusa and entering Orario’s famous pleasure district, which is run by the wealthy and powerful Ishtar Familia (Ishtar is the Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of love, war, and fertility).

Turns out Mikoto and Chigusa are searching for an old friend of theirs from their original home in the Far East, where she was a noble. Chigusa spotted her in the district and came to Mikoto, who saught confirmation before coming to the rest of Hestia Familia.

Lili, and certainly Hestia, would rather the adorable Bell be anywhere but the pleasure district, where he is  almost constantly approached, accosted, and embraced by dozens of beautiful, available women, including Aisha, one of Ishtar’s higher-ups. Separated from the others, Bell never had a chance to escape their clutches.

Right before he’s surrounded and picked up and taken to Ishtar’s palace to be passed between several eager Amazonesses, he spots an ethereal, yukata-wearing fox woman in a window, who judging from the glimpse of her last week, is the person Mikoto and Chigusa were looking for.

Ishtar herself has no time for a first-timer like Bell, but her underlings are all but willing to suck him dry, so to speak. The start of their fun is interrupted by the huge and grotesque Phryne, and Bell uses the distraction caused by the Amazons’ bickering (and his adventurer’s sneaking skills and speed) to slip away.

He ends up in the courtyard of one of the district’s fancier-looking brothels, and who does he encounter within one of the rooms but the straw-haired fox woman, named Haruhime, who assumes Bell is there to buy his first sexual experience.

It seems despite being more experienced than Bell, the sight of his collarbone still overwhelms her, giving him the opportunity to tell her he’s not there for sex, just to hide from the Amazons. She can understand; it’s tough to be a first-timer in a district where it’s the occupation of so many women to kidnap and have their way with you.

As they spend the rest of the evening chatting, discovering that they share a love of stories about heroes that originally drew them to Orario, Ishtar has a meeting with Hermes, who has delivered something to her that is of importance in her ongoing rivalry with Freya. When Hermes is reluctant to tell her what other weaknesses Freya might have that she can exploit, she removes what little clothing she is wearing in order to force the issue.

Haruhime tells Bell that while she loved those heroic stories, she no longer sees herself as someone worthy of being saved or protected. Despite her noble appearance and cushy digs, she doesn’t seem to see any nobility in her profession, only filth. It really brings Bell down, who doesn’t agree that she should have to sacrifice her dreams simply because circumstances, many of them not of her making, landed her in a brothel.

Still, he runs off into the night none too soon, as Aisha shows up immediately after to escort Haruhime back to her chambers. As for Ishtar, she gets the information she wanted out of an overwhelmed Hermes in bed: Freya is obsessed with Cranel Bell, and she can hurt her by stealing him from her.

So now Bell finds himself in the sights of not one but two distinct and powerful goddesses of love, war, sex, and fertility, and almost certainly doesn’t want his first encounter with Haruhime to be his last. If he’s the hero he thinks he is, he’ll no doubt try to find a way to free her from servitude.