NOTE: Due to me somehow forgetting that I hadn’t written up episode 13 yet, these two episodes are being covered together.
Rating – Both Episodes: B+
After focusing almost exclusively on Bell’s crew in episode 12, episode 13 gives a roughly even split to Bell/Ryu vs. Bell’s crew, with just a little bit of time devoted to what’s going on with the rescue party as well. In the latter case, Tsubaki, the leader of Hephaistos Familia (who appeared in the main series a couple of times back in season III and had a more prominent role in Sword Oratoria), has gotten involved in the rescue mission effort as well and is leading the trio of Hostess of Fertility waitresses, who are all decked out in adventuring gear. She seems to have no qualms about going down to the 25th floor with them, so even anime-only viewers should be accepting at this point that they’re stronger than they may look. But that encounter with Dormul and Luvis (whom Bell and crew rescued during the matter with the Moss Huge) is the last we see of them in these two episodes – and right so, as there’s plenty of other business to attend to.
Essentially, both episodes 13 and 14 split time between the two main fronts, with Bell/Ryu getting more attention in 13. Though both are level 4, their situation is dire, as they are injured, out of supplies, and isolated in the Deep Floors, with the surprisingly effective threat factor of the Skull Sheep haunting them even after they manage to gain some separation from the Juggernaut. Here the ambiance promoted by the series has its greatest effect, as the crushing despair engendered by these dark depths is not hard to understand, nor is why a past adventuring group may have committed suicide after being trapped down there. Ryuu has dealt with this before, and her experience and maturity is more vital to keeping Bell in the game than she initially gives herself credit for, as is keeping watch while they exchange short naps. She still hasn’t overcome her sense of fatalism by the end of episode 14, as her goal is about getting Bell out alive, not both of them.
Ryu coming to a turning point on that is likely to be key to the two of them surviving their situation, and perhaps the dreams of her past – which we get the first taste of in episode 14 – is the starting point for that. This is Astrea Familia, Ryu’s former familia members who are, in current time, buried on the 18th floor. If the anime follows the novel closely, we’ll see them pop up more in flashbacks as the story progresses.
Meanwhile, the main group has its hands full as the fight against Amphisbaena stretches out across both episodes 13 and 14 before finally coming to a resolution. Granted, this fight and its immediate aftermath covered close to 90 pages in the original novel, so it should have been a long fight, but even so, spreading it over three episodes in the anime version still feels a bit stretched. At least the anime adaptation makes up for that by keeping things active throughout the fight. There’s always action going on, or always a threat, or always someone who needs to struggle to keep their wits about them, and the way the fight ends is plenty satisfying, with the cost of such a rough battle also seeming commensurate with the threat factor. The battle is also significant for finally giving Aisha a chance to shine. Those familiar with the Sword Oratoria novels past where the animation ends know that she’s not commonly on the winning side. The collapse of the floor – presumably triggered by what Jura did below to summon the Juggernaut – finally pushes their side of the story to the next stage and gives Cassandra her first real validation and, perhaps, sense that the calamity she foresaw can be avoided after all through correct interpretation.
The musical score continues to be outstanding throughout, but I am concerned that the quality control in the artistry is becoming increasing unsteady, especially in episode 18. Though action scenes look well-animated, too many other shots had a roughness to them not commonly seen in earlier seasons.
In an adaptation sense, the first three episodes of this half have been spot-on so far, though they are adjusting some timing here; in the novels, the Amphisbaena scene concluded and scenes that will probably compose much of the next two episodes transpired before getting back to the Bell/Ryu situation. Whether splitting time between the two story branches in alternating fashion is the better way to handle things in debatable; on the negative side, it is responsible for stretching the separate scenes out, but on the plus side, it does allow for the more immediate contrast of the similarities and differences in the threat of despair on both levels. If the page counts are added together, these two episodes cover roughly a third of novel 14. This is the longest novel in the series, but I still feel like eight more episodes is probably two more than will be needed to finish this adaptation, and I don’t feel like putting extra content about Astrea Familia in will be enough to pad the story out. We shall see what they come up with on that in time, I guess.