To a certain extent, this part of DanMachi has become a tale of two redheads. On one side is Alise, the Captain of Astrea Familia and, once, Ryu’s closest friend. Back before she discarded her pride for revenge, Ryu was a very proud and dignified elf, which made her the subject of much teasing from the (all-female) members of Astrea Familia, though clearly it was a loving teasing, and Alise was the kind of lively spirit who could inspire anyone; she certainly got Ryu to practically idolize her. That only makes the tragedy that Ryu’s dream is leading towards all the more heartbreaking. A year after the infamous Nightmare on the 27th Floor (which has barely been mentioned in the main series, but has been described much more extensively in Sword Oratoria), Evilus baited Astrea Familia into the trap Jura mentioned in a previous episode. In other words, this is the clearest picture yet of what, exactly, Ryu lost. After seeing the others and especially Alise’s winning smile, it’s not hard to understand how the noble elf turned into the vengeful vigilante who almost single-handedly ended the remnants of Evilus on the surface. Would Alise have approved? Probably not, and that Ryu knows that may well be her greatest sorrow.
At the other bookend of the episode is Welf. Ever since he was introduced, Welf has always been in the midst of any group action scene and an active participation, but outside of his release of Full Moon in the battle against the Black Goliath in episode 13 of season 1, he really hasn’t had a true feature moment. Without question, he has always contributed, and the swords he makes have been critical to mission effectiveness on many occasions, but he has always been more of a team player than a star. This is where he gets to be a star, and that’s why the scene beginning at the end of the episode was one of my most-anticipated moments of this season. And he’s doing it by playing to his greatest strength: being a smith, anywhere, anytime, under any conditions, even if that stretches the logic of what’s appropriate to do in the Dungeon. Who better than the talented descendant of a legendary family to potentially revolutionize weaponcrafting by actually making magic swords in a Dungeon? Unlike with Ryu, his idol would approve.
As a follow-up thought, Aisha is also interesting to watch here. While she allows Lily to be the brains of the operation, she is much more of the take-charge, lead-by-example type, and that aspect of her is what’s keeping this mission from collapsing maybe even more than her combat ability. The discovery of Bors and how she reacts to him, versus how she reacts to Welf, is typical of how she has been portrayed so far in the franchise. She respects a male who stands strong and has no respect for one who doesn’t.
And we cannot forget about the other strong women present in this episode: Tsubaki and her troop of Hostess of Fertility maids. Tellingly, they flinch more from having to climb down than from any threat that the 27th floor (which they must descend to after seeing the disaster that is the 24th floor) might offer them. I pity any monster that actually runs into them, even as Ahnya offers more hints about who else in the franchise she might be related to. (There’s only one truly strong male cat person who’s ever been introduced in the anime side of the franchise. . .)
On the technical side, the artistry seems more stable this episode, though that could partly be because the animation is also less ambitious. The musical score also continues to shine with its variations on core themes. Overall, it makes for another solid episode, though the best is still yet to come.