Go Bell, Welf, Ryu, Mikoto and Lily.
Irina, did you know the reason I love this anime so much, is because of how stupidly optimistic these characters make me feel? And this episode made me feel like literally anything was possible. I love walking away from an episode on a high like that. How did this episode work for you?
It was fun. I was really looking forward to the start of the war games. I tend to like adventure anime and I’m not watching one this season. (Although I am watching the second season of Log Horizon and it is wonderful but that show has a lot of layers to it and ends up with surprisingly few straight forward action episodes.)
I still haven’t actually gotten back to Log Horizon. I abandoned it a few episodes into season one because I just didn’t care about the characters and found it was moving too slowly. It is always on the list to get back to but somehow I never do.
Alright, so the war game begins and despite having three days, Bell’s party launches a string of fairly vicious attacks from the word go. There’s fantastic moments for each character reminding us of their particular skills and we move through this really quickly but it doesn’t feel rushed, more like intense. What did you think?
Not that much. Not in a bad way. I just don’t really have anything to say about it.
Syr gets to farewell Bell and give him a pendant for luck before he goes off to the game. Then she gets to stand around and fret for the episode. A position that Eina, Ais, and most of the other characters who aren’t in either Apollo’s or Hestia’s families are stuck in. Still, there are some nice touches with Mord (the guy who attacked Bell back in the dungeon back in season one and then fought with him against Goliath) betting his money on Bell. It reminds us that some people have seen Bell’s potential and are sticking with it.
There’s something up with Bell. Either he’s a god that has amnesia or he’s the player character. No one would ever bet against Bell. Even though he is a lot less experienced and a few days ago just one of Apollo’s children completely destroyed him, I still never doubted for a second that Bell would prevail. In a way, this drains the tension out of the series but sometimes you just want to see a show where you know everything is going to work out happily ever after.
I kind of wish we had seen Welf preparing the magic swords or something because they kind of came out of nowhere, but I have to admit, Lyu storming the castle walls with the blades was pretty impressive. And once they broke and she went back to her wooden sword we still saw her very impressive skills. My only question is why nobody recognises her once she takes off the face mask given you can still fairly clearly see who she is. When reading it doesn’t seem like such a problem but when you put it into anime with clear visuals it becomes quite apparent how useless her mask is at disguising her identity.
Maybe she has a glamour on?
I also really liked the magical sword scene. Way to stat things off with a bang. I liked the oracle scene as well. I have to admit I don’t really remember the elves’ backstory so the particular significance of those swords, which she hints at at the beginning and is mentioned again by the other elf later on, is lost on me. I assume they were weapons used to attack or subjugate the race. It’s probably a lot more visceral when you know the details though.
I actually don’t remember if the anime touched on that at all. I don’t think it has. Then again, I know we learn more about the Crozzo’s later in the books so maybe it is just information yet to be revealed.
Once again we get to see the gods enjoying the game as an entertainment even though it comes at the cost of the ‘children’ who are forced to participate. Though, we can’t really say the gods are the only ones getting some voyeuristic enjoyment from watching the game given Hermes gets permission to use his power to allow everyone in the city to watch. Incidentally, I loved Ganesha’s random “I am Ganesha” throughout the commentary. It just made me laugh though I imagine dealing with Ganesha in real life would be really frustrating.
Turning the event into magical reality TV really modernized the setting. It made it feel a lot more like Hunger Games that the Odyssey. Seeing the gods laze around opulently just watching the games really brought home that in the end, humans are just pawns to them. It was a nice touch that added a bit of moral ambiguity and callousness to a series that could get a bit over-sweet otherwise.
It also brought up a question I was asking myself the whole time. Are they in fact killing each other? Did Bell and his companions just slaughter a good 20-30 people? I didn’t hear anything in the rules that said this was a simulation or something like that. Usually Bell attacks monsters. If he’s in conflict with other characters, it can get violent but rarely deadly. A lot of this looked fatal and people weren’t getting up or getting treatment. So I was wondering if they’re all dead? It makes the series a lot more grim that I normally think of it as.
Good point and you are right in that they don’t spare even a moment of time on those who have been taken down. My assumption would be that they were treated with magic potions (part of why I like fantasy is that the whole magic potion fixes anything except actual death means you can get characters into some really bad situations and still not break your own rules to save them).
Still, my favourite moment of the episode, hands down, was when Bell prepared to blow up the tower. After all the frantic racing about and fanfares we’d gotten throughout the episode, his quietly standing as the bell rang out and his power charged was such a powerful moment and one that was great to watch. Bell certainly did need the help of his friends to get to that point but no one can deny his power in that moment.
My favouriter moment was the Lily reveal. I remember right at the start, the oracle talking about Trojan horses as Luan and the carriages slip in. It’s a pretty nice bit of foreshadow misdirection as the more credulous audience members are going to wait for Bell to burst out of those carts the whole episode.
I remember it bothering me. Why wasn’t anyone asking the girl what she meant or listening to her? How fitting for a Greek tragedy. I also remember immediately thinking that Luan was super cute this week. Too cute… He was so much meeker and more accommodating than the last time we saw him. But I didn’t think much of it a the time.
Then when he came out to give the orders for half the soldiers to exit the castle I became very suspicious. I even though of the possibility that it was Lily in disguise but it was one of many. Afterwards, I realized how well this had been set up and telegraphed.
They had already shown us Luan in a stressful and confrontational situation were he was part of the larger group but still in danger so we would know exactly how he reacts under those circumstances. He covers his fear by acting annoyingly cocky and pouring on the fake bravado. Not by cowering. If you’ve been paying attention you will feel something’s off, even if you can’t consciously figure out what.
More over, we had last week’s bad guy (I don’t remember anyone’s name) Soma’s vp, mention that he wanted to use Lily’s shape-shifting power. It was a blink and you miss it line that the narrative didn’t insist upon but it did pre-establish everything that happened. It should have been obvious. And maybe it was to most people, but there was enough doubt in me that I was delighted at the little twist.
This is where not having read the books would have made that moment so much better. Though you are right in that the anime did an excellent job of laying the ground work and making that reveal feel incredibly satisfying. They left in all the essentials for it to make sense.
Naturally though Bell isn’t going to win a fight without getting beaten up at some point. As much as DanMachi is a pretty feel good show, they really put Bell through some incredibly punishing situations. Lily saving Bell from certain death was wonderful but despite her best efforts he still took a fairly major hit.
It sort of Bell’s brand. He’s not the smart alec hero with quippy on liners or the smooth and collected cool guy. He’s the determination who always gets back up no matter how many times he gets pushed down. It’s probably the most common hero archetype, I think it’s the same basic character outlines in all the shonens I’m currently watching. It happens to be one of my favourites. There’s a reason this formula gets used over and over again, it works!
Lastly, however, what did you think of Hestia’s reaction after they won the game?
I liked it, it felt true to herself. The only thing is, I felt like the victory was a little easy, or maybe a little quick. It didn’t truly feel earned. The go out of their way to set up Apollo as one of the most powerful and well established families around and Apollo himself as a particularly influential god. I was settling in for at least a 3 episode arc where they would set up both families, have some brilliant tactical back and forth and completely insane gorilla warfare techniques to make up for the numbers advantage.
When they mentioned the games last at most 3 days, I really thought they would stretch out single days over multiple episode or at least give us a day and episode and a last minute win. Instead, a tiny rag tag team of capable adventurers but not that experienced and not considered that powerful, manage to just wipe out the Apollo familia in a few hours and the god himself got expelled from the land without complication. It makes no sense. I bet Apollo’s going to come back for vengeance and sooner rather than later. I know how these things go! They can’t just be the strongest familia now and have everything they’ve ever wanted at episode 4. So now I’m nervous!
Oh there’s plenty of other strong families and hopefully we’ll very soon see just what they can do. Looking forward to the next episode.
Thanks for Reading From
Irina and Karandi
Want more discussions of DanMachi Season 2 from Irina and Karandi?
Images from: DanMachi 2nd Season. Dir. T Hideki. J.C. Staff. 2019.
5 thoughts on “DanMachi Review Season 3 Episode 4 – The Winner Takes All”
Some thoughts on some matters:
1. On the lack of tension
I think the War Game arc, as neat as it is conceptually does fall into an all too common problem in these type of stories: the stakes are so high, and the consequences of defeat sufficiently premise altering, that it’s difficult to conceive of the story actually allowing the protagonist to fail. If you go back to the heights of Season 1, such as the Minotaur fight, part of the tension ironically is supported by the presence of the Loki Familia. There, even if Bell couldn’t transcend his limits and defeat the Minotaur, the Loki Familia would have stepped in and eliminated the Minotaur upon Bell’s defeat. Therefore, Bell’s defeat was a distinct possibility, because failure wasn’t a plot/premise terminating event.
But I think that ironically, the swift pacing of this episode also contributes in eliminating this tension – once we see the Hestia Familia’s game-plan proceed according to plan without any deviations from said game-plans, once the Apollo Familia became reactive rather than proactive in this battle, the outcome was sealed. Similarly, by cutting out over 70% of the fight between Bell and Hykanthios, in favor for an emphasis on the final minutes of the fight, the climax of the War Game becomes a triumph without much “weight” placed within it. That’s probably the unfortunate cost of the decision to keep the War Game in 4 episodes, and if this results in the next arc being better paced and more clearly set-up, that’s so much better. The next arc has quite a few more moving parts compared to the War Game.
2. Death and the War Games
I do agree the fridge horror question: what happens to all of those people knocked out of the War Games could be explained by a “potions” solve everything. I think that conclusion could have been better sold, had they even had a brief scene of the Guild being buried in preparations. We did get a brief scene of the Guild workers being overworked by the logistics of the games within the source material, and I think it’s a shame that this scene was one of the several casualties of the adaptation being forced to omit out and summarize the story.
3. Apollo Familia is only in the mid-ranks.
In reality, the Apollo Familia is a mid-ranking Familia within the Orario political scene – Apollo is simply more established in that scene compared to Hestia. But if you think about it, there are many things even in the adaptation that makes it clear that there are far more influential political players and Familias compared to Apollo. Hermes had the literal influence to use his control over Orario’s communcations to get Ryuu to participate in the War Games, with Apollo none the wiser. Freya literally turned the Denatus to demanding helpers with a single sentence.
So no, the Hestia Familia hasn’t taken down one of the big Familias in the city – they have taken down a mid-rank Familia they have no business of successfully taking down; but there are still a good number of Familias more powerful than Apollo. Remember, Apollo only has a single Level 3, his captain. The antagonist of the next arc has control over an entire district in Orario, several times more members than Apollo, a Level 5, a Level 4, many Level 3s, a small army of Level 2s and more. In the grand scheme of things, Bell simply painted a larger target on his back, and ironically, Freya’s interest in Bell keeps things from getting worse.
That helps contextualize. Thanks
I was looking forward to this post, and it certainly didn’t disappoint for one second! I absolutely loved this episode. It had me grinning from ear to ear pretty much throughout the entire viewing time. I do have to agree with you though: I had expected this arc to last a bit longer too. It was over very quickly and I had expected for Apollo to last a little bit longer than this. Other than that though: no complaints, it was just a fun ride from start to finish! I do wonder what they are going to come up with next now though 😊😊
It was just a really fun episode. I liked that they didn’t do the shounen thing and drag it out over episodes. It probably would have made this decidedly less fun to watch. DanMachi isn’t always the most logical but it is normally pretty good at being fun.
Definitely! As I said over on twitter, I was grinning ear to ear while I was watching this, and I’m not even kidding when I say that 😊 Fun is definitely the best description for this show: you simply can’t help but fall in love with this anime and it’s characters 😊