There’s a great line from the recent series 86 which immediately came to mind a couple of times while watching this episode: “It’s a child’s right to dream. I do respect that. And until that child wakes up from her dream, and finds herself crushed against the merciless rocks of an unyielding reality, an adult protects her.” Who is the adult and who is the child changes as this episode progresses, but the sentiment still applies.
In the opening flashback, the child is a younger Ryu (according to her novel/Memoria Freese stats, she was age 16 at the time), one still brimming with idealistic notions about justice, while Kaguya (who, according to official stats, was only a couple of years older at that time) is the jaded adult disgusted with how Ryu is missing the bigger picture. Despite that, Jura’s words in an earlier episode suggest that Kaguya was among those in Astrea Familia who sacrificed herself so that Ryu could get away from the Juggernaut, hence fulfilling her role as the adult to the very end. (No, this hasn’t been specified yet in the anime, but such a progression of events is entirely credible based on what we’ve seen of the familia, as is Ryu feeling like she abandoned them even though they pushed her to go.) She hit hard on the “unyielding reality” in that case, with her “justice” turning to unadulterated vengeance; doubtless she has plenty of regrets about that, too. Now it’s her turn to play the adult to Bell’s child – only this time the idealism is about mutual survival! – and she’s determined to follow in the footsteps of her familia big sisters. The difference is Ryu’s far more fatalistic take on the situation. Kaguya may have been a brutal realist, but she showed no sign of seeking death or absolution or having some notion about Ryu being more deserving to live. Hence the tribulations on the 37th floor are as much about saving Ryu’s soul as they are about just surviving. And that means that, once again, Bell has a chance to inspire a character to strive for more.
While that’s the crux of what is transpiring on the 37th floor, it’s also not the full story. Ryu seems well-suited to being an adventurer coach, and Bell is well-suited to being a student; he may have talent, the advantage of his unique skill, and Level 4 status, but he’s still pretty raw as experience and practical knowledge go. That part of the episode also works in some great additional world-building, including the nature of both the 37th floor’s unique construction and the Deep Levels in general. Some additional monsters types are thrown out (although Spartoi did also appear briefly in Sword Oratoria), and the idea presented in previous episodes that the Deep Levels are no place for a solo adventurer is reinforced; even when Ais came down this far to fight Udeaus in Sword Oratoria, she still had Riveria with her.
On other fronts, Bell’s main party has made it to the 27th floor, and thus to the aftermath of what happened back in episodes 9-11. But even with Welf’s potent new sword, they’re still in danger of being overwhelmed by monsters. This does, at least, give all of the melee types a chance to show off their individual styles in a pitched group battle, with Daphne skewering the eel-like denizens while Ouka and Aisha lop heads off. Who ultimately comes to their rescue should not be very surprising, though how this will be handled next episode should be interesting to see; Aisha should know about the Xenos because of being part of Hermes Familia, but the rest of the non-Hestia Familia members don’t. Based on the end of the episode, their plan seems to be to pretend to still be monsters while fighting off the Floor 27 denizens, but how is that going to work once Tsubaki and the maids (who have also made it to floor 27 and are now just a short distance behind the Hestia/Takemikazuchi/Miach party) arrive?
And speaking of that, this is the episode where we finally get to see what the maids can do. Despite her ditziness, Ahnya looks quite capable with her spear, Chloe is no slouch with her knives, and Lunor can take monsters down with just a punch. They all look about as strong as Ryu does, which would put them all at level 3 or 4. Consider that Mia is strong enough to impose her will even on them and that just furthers the notion that Hostess of Fertility is the last tavern in Orario where you want to create a ruckus.
Overall, the artistic side looked a bit more steady this time, so the episode gets a grade bump for putting all of its pieces together well. Next episode should be fun!