Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon IV episode 20

Rating: A-

The inevitable has arrived: the episode-opening flashbacks on Ryu’s past with Astrea Familia have finally led to the pivotal moment where the rest of her familia gets wiped out by a Juggernaut while trying to pin down Jura and his Evilus compatriots. And as expected, the perspectives of the only two survivors of that incident – Ryu and Jura – skew what actually happened.

When Ryu first brought the matter up back in episode 12 of season 1, she made it sound like her familia sisters had died in Rudra Familia’s trap. Jura’s conversation earlier this season clarified that this wasn’t the case, with the cameo by Fels a couple of episodes back explaining why Ryu earlier excluded the presence of Juggernaut in her explanation to Bell. (And it’s not like claiming that they died as a result of the trap was totally inaccurate, since the trap did summon Juggernaut.) The slaughter shown here in explicit detail makes this the most graphic single scene in the entire franchise – and keep in mind that this was done to a group of 11 young women who were all level 3 or 4 at the time. (Astrea Familia was at the top end of the middle tier in Orario’s power structure.)

More importantly, the whole incident shows that the last few surviving members of Astrea Familia – Lyra, Kaguya, and leader Alise – made a conscious choice to save Ryu at the expense of their lives. Part of their decision was clearly practical: Ryu was the least severely injured (and so the best able to escape), and the only one with the magic that could strike the Juggernaut down once its reflective scales were torn off. But some of it was emotional, too: Ryu was the youngest, and in Alise’s eyes in particular, the most pure in her beliefs about justice. If Alise was the familia’s heart, Ryu was the familia’s soul. Ryu never understood that, and her inability to strike down Juggernaut leading to their sacrifice only saving her only compounded the guilt she felt over it. Who wouldn’t be deeply traumatized by something like that?

Most of what transpires in the following scenes, where Ryu systematically goes about destroying Rudra Familia, has been described before in the series, with the added details that she briefly encountered Rudra himself (an anime-original scene) and asked Astrea to leave Orario beforehand so she wouldn’t see Ryu lose herself to vengeance. But what’s interesting here is how Ryu takes the most negative possible interpretation of everything which transpired. She believes that Astrea’s comment about how Ryu should “give up on justice” was an excommunication, but since Astrea never withdrew her Blessing, was it really? From a more neutral perspective, she could have just been cautioning Ryu not to lose herself to a more vengeful interpretation of justice. Ryu regards her ruthless pursuit of vengeance as her forsaking the spirit of justice, but would the citizens of Orario at the time have seen in that way? As ugly as her actions were, she did all but destroy one of the main branches of Evilus, who had been terrorizing the city for years up to that point and had come close to destroying Orario just a couple of years earlier. (This is described in detail in the Memoria Freese event “Astrea Record,” which is currently being rereleased in the game and can be seen in summary video form here.) The Guild – or, more precisely, Ouranos – did blacklist her because they had no choice, but never actively tried to hunt her down, and both Mia at Hostess of Fertility and Asfi of Hermes Familia are certainly aware of who she is but still accept her anyway. Her actions also led to a period of relative peace in Orario for the first time in almost a decade. Could not her actions to eliminate Rudra Familia be looked at as justice? And while her actions certainly weren’t moral and arguably weren’t righteous, was there anything actually impure about her motivations? As much as Ryu believes otherwise, Alise wasn’t wrong about her.

That’s why Bell’s perspective on Ryu is absolutely critical here. He might not know the idealistic version of Ryu, but he has seen her at her best, as the Elf who always gives him good advice, who contributed mightily to the defeat of Black Goliath, and who helped both him and his familia out on multiple occasions. As ugly and tainted as Ryu sees herself, he can see that she still has a good and noble heart. (And if this sounds like a familiar pattern, it is; see Liliruca and Haruhime.) He can help her accept that it’s okay to live on, that dying here would be shirking the unintentionally-cruel burden of carrying on for her familia laid upon her by Alise and Lyra. Perhaps he can even help her understand that, in her dream image, the rest of her familia wasn’t turning away from her as a rejection; they were turning away because it wasn’t her time to join them.

On other random points, the discovery of what looks to be a safe zone in a tunnel directly underneath the Colosseum is a fitting irony for the Dungeon. Also, notice that Ryu was specifically using the daggers left to her by Kaguya in part of her vengeance – the ones that Kaguya specifically told her to use. (And I think that Kaguya would have approved of how she used them.) I also must continue my regular praise of the music here, in particular the use of the insert song which plays out during the Astrea Familia’s final moments against the Juggernaut and the mournful strings arrangement which follows. Ryu’s seiyuu, Saori Hayami, also turns in a fantastic effort, especially in the scene where she’s casting Luminous Wind against Juggernaut.

This episode remains remarkably faithful to the source material and animated up through page 337, leaving about 80 pages for the remaining two episodes to cover. Is it finally time for the Juggernaut to show up again? We’ll see next episode.

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