The wonderful summary quote for this episode on HIDIVE tells it all: “Some monsters you must fight and from others you must flee. But beware the Juggernaut lest you simply cease to be.”
The DanMachi franchise has had no shortage of intimidating foes over its run, whether it be a giant ape, a Minotaur, a Goliath, a Moss Huge, a Demi-Spirit, or even other adventurers. But no creation of the franchise has been more viscerally unsettling than the Juggernaut, a sleek, angular creature designed to simply obliterate anyone nearby in the defense of the Dungeon. And while the series has always made a point of emphasizing how unforgiving the Dungeon can be, no scenes in the franchise drive that point home more forcefully than the wholesale slaughter the Juggernaut carries out in this episode. It has speed that even a Level 4 has trouble tracking, claws that can skewer foes or rip them half, a bit that sever a person just as a well, a whipping tail which can throw opponents into walls with the force of a sledgehammer, and defenses which can reflect magic attacks. It’s not exactly wiping out chumps, either; most in Riviria are at least Level 2, yet they don’t even have time to react. Even Bell, the hero, cannot stand against it for long, and suffers uncharacteristically harshly for the hubris of thinking that he could.
Supporting all of this is some of the most truly outstanding sound design I’ve ever heard in an anime series. I have sung the praises of the soundtrack and sound effects before, but this episode takes those to another level. The Juggernaut’s unearthly screeches are what a true monster should sound like, the macabre sound of the bases drive the heavy tone of the dark revelations about the monster’s origins, mournful cellos speak to loss, and the tense symphonic orchestration powers the action scenes – or, rather, slaughter scenes. If you’re not listening to this episode on a headset or high-quality speakers, you need to, or you’ll miss out on all the neat little audio touches.
The whole episode isn’t just the Juggernaut, though. Jura and Ouranos take turns explaining how this is the creature which ended Astraea Familia and how that accidental summoning of it five years ago has been kept a secret for fear that adventurers knowing about it would make matters worse – and Jura is living proof of that. Implications are cast out that Ryu only survived at the cost of her fellow Familia members, though Jura’s insistence that she personally threw her comrades under the proverbial bus just to survive doesn’t jive. (And Jura is the farthest thing from an unbiased source here.) Quite possible that Ryu’s not denying it because she may see it that way herself, but the more likely scenario is that they sacrificed themselves so she, at least, could get away. Likely we’ll find out the truth of that in upcoming episodes.
And this definitely isn’t the end, because there’s no way that the franchise can do without Bell; he is the series’ identity more so than just about any other fantasy series character in recent memory. Yes, he lost his arm, but that did fall in the water, and someone waterborne is clearly headed this way despite her own terrors. Yes, it certainly looked like Bell was down for the count at the end, but notice how carefully the scene of him getting whacked by the Juggernaut’s tail showed the tail striking against his scarf – the scarf made of Goliath hide, the very one that the prescient Cassandra insisted that Welf make for him. The series doesn’t need to pull something out of its ass to save Bell under these circumstances, as the mechanism has been carefully built in over the last few episodes. No, the more interesting question is how Ryu, who spends the entire episode overwhelmed by fear and loathing, will react, especially in light of Jura’s insanely dangerous scheme.
For all that the episode does well, though, I still cannot give it a full A grade. That’s because the info dump which spans the middle portion of the episode saps some of the intensity and bogs the episode down just a bit. Yes, those are relevant and important details Jura and Ouranos are spilling, and yes, the episode needed some stall so that it could end on the right cliffhanger, but the episode spends just a little too long on them.
Strap in folks, because the ride’s far from over, despite the looming end of the cour.