Rating: 4.5 (of 5)
NOTE: An episode 0 does also exist for this season, but it is entirely a recap of the first three seasons narrated by Bell and Hestia, with scenes from the trailer for season 4 thrown on at the end. It is fully skippable.
DanMachi has returned for another season! Like with the previous two seasons, it opens with an episode that is mostly set-up for the new arc, but in this case there’s plenty enough set-up to go around as the standing cast positions itself for the featured activity: Hestia Familia’s first official expedition.
In Orario, familias that register as exploring (i.e., Dungeon-delving) familias are expected to go on Guild-ordered expeditions with set goals once they reach a certain status, all to prove that they are as capable as their status indicates. And Bell leveling up again – to Level 4 – has pushed Hestia Familia up to the level of getting expeditions. Though the requirement may be a pain, Bell is motivated anyway when he hears from Fels that reaching the bottom of the Dungeon will be necessary for the Xenos to live peacefully with surface-dwelling races, so this episode primarily becomes about assembling and structuring the expedition centered around Hestia Familia. Ouka and Chigusa join from Takemikazuchi Familia, Cassandra and Daphne join from Miach Familia, and Aisha joins Just Because. (That she’s a plant for Hermes is not out of the question, though between her interest in Bell and her protectiveness towards Haruhime, she has plenty of her own motivation.)
This results in some standard preparatory content, which will doubtless result in most expedition members showing new tricks. The most important of these is probably Daphne convincing the still-level-1-Liliruca to follow the path of fellow prum Finn Dieme and serve as the expedition’s commander. She has effectively been the strategist of Bell’s parties (and later Hestia Familia) ever since joining Bell, so this seems like a natural role for her, and Daphne’s not wrong that a group of ten needs someone like that to be efficient. The episode-ending action scene already shows some of the kind of impact she will have despite being under-leveled for an expedition that looks to be heading to floor 25. What Haruhime’s new power will be will have to wait (although it has been hinted at in trailers), but we do get to see Ouka’s new Welf-forged axe and new battle garb for several of the characters.
And that’s all that really happens in the episode, aside from Hestia going out drinking with her fellow goddesses and Eina dealing with elf and dwarf adventurers who seem enamored with her. Despite a seeming dearth of meatiness, this is still one of the series’ best downtime episodes to date, as it balances well the attention it spreads among various participants and provides all kinds of set-ups and lead-ins to things that will happen later on. It even finds a way to work in the aforementioned elf and dwarf, who were introduced in print in a novel 8 short story that the anime skipped adapting but who will unavoidably figure into later events in this arc. Solid technical merits for this episode also don’t hurt.
In general, the episode also is a reasonable adaptation of the first 57 pages of novel 12, with the one significant omission being the Denatus which takes place right after Bell levels up again. Skipping that Chigusa leveled up and earned a title isn’t a big deal, as it will hardly be relevant, but I am surprised that no mention is made of Bell earning a new title, too. It also skips references to some minor details that were not adapted in previous seasons, but those are trivial changes. In all, it’s a quite satisfying start for what should be a good run.