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This review contains spoilers. You’ve been warned.

Holy—! This episode may have suffered from a rushed pacing, but hot damn they gave us one of the best and most emotional fight scenes in the entire series! But before we discuss the episode itself, let us refresh ourselves of the previous one.

Last week, the operation to save the Xenos finally begins. Though initially alone, a lot of Hestia Familia’s allies decided to help them out of good will—from Nazha of Miach Familia to Aisha and Ryu. But despite that, Loki Familia proved nearly unstoppable, and our favorite heroes found themselves in an even more difficult spot.

Today’s episode continues with the fight against Gareth. And surprisingly enough, they actually went on with Tsubaki’s arrival. Now while the battle is quite short, it turned out to be well-executed nonetheless. Welf’s magic sword and its ice magic is portrayed well, and even Tsubaki’s attacks were good, finally stopping Gareth by trapping him in a wall of ice. But one thing that is really interesting are the three major changes they made for this particular scene.

First, the fact that Welf’s magic ice sword actually managed to trap Gareth, a Level 6 Adventurer. In the novel, Gareth was still moving while encased in the ice and could even comment that it is equivalent to Riveria’s magic, which proved how strong Gareth is. Then we have Mikoto getting knocked unconscious, which never happened in the novel either. But perhaps the biggest change is how Welf, Mikoto and Tsubaki are not even hiding in the anime adaptation, allowing Gareth to recognize them.

This is really interesting because now Loki Familia knows who are helping the Xenos, and I don’t know why the director made this change. The implication alone is enough to make you wonder how this alteration will affect the story itself; after all, the Loki Familia and Hephaistos Familia are long time business partners, especially when we take Sword Oratoria into account, and knowing that Hephaistos helped the Xenos is a big deal. Will this put a strain in their partnership? We can’t say, but I’m betting they can work it out again.

Most of the scenes after this has mostly retained their core elements, though in a very rushed way. Wiene’s encounter with Tione and the rescue with the kid is the same, but with one big difference: in the novel, this kid was one of the three orphans who admire Bell(refer to my previous review for the full story). But in this scene, it was just another random girl that Wiene saved. Then we have the standoff between Haruhime and Bete. And while they excellently portrayed Haruhime’s determination to face a Level 6 Werewolf, it didn’t show how Bete respected her courage to face him. It would have made for a nice character development for the temperamental Werewolf, and I hope we get to see it in some form if ever we have a second season of Sword Oratoria.

The urgency of the story has been downplayed a little as well. In the novel, Bell was literally running non-stop from destination to destination, even jumping from one building to another using his high Strength and Agility stats. It comes to the point that Haruhime screamed once while being carried by Bell. But in this episode, we never see any of that. Even when Bell and Wiene has escaped from Ais, they simply acted as if the Sword Princess was not pursuing them. Frankly, that is a weird portrayal of the scene, but not that big of a deal to take away the enjoyment of the story.

And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the much anticipated battle between Ais and Bell! And oh boy! This is the most epic and heartbreaking scene so far, easily surpassing Wiene’s death and revival.

First, yes I will agree that the fight itself didn’t properly portray how these two fought. Much of it can be attributed to the fact that the series barely had enough time at this point, especially since this is airing at Fall season where most anime would take a break. That, and the fact that someone as stoic and cold as Ais is a little hard to animate. Moreover, they arranged the scene to switch with Hestia’s pep talk with Wiene every so often, which breaks the focus.

BUT, and that’s a really big but, this particular scene is less about the fight and more about the emotions swirling around between these two characters. While it didn’t exactly convey what was in the novel, especially the brutality and ferocity of Ais, J.C. Staff did a fine job in animating the expressions. You can tell that Bell never wanted to fight his idol, and Ais never wanted to hurt her semi-rival/secret crush/pet rabbit. The voice acting simply blended well with that, and Matsouka’s talent proves incredible once more.

Of course, the flaws didn’t mean that the fight is not good; IT IS GOOD AND EPIC for what we were given. The choreography, the sound effects and music, even the animation is top quality and has improved. It is the best one so far in this season, and much better than all the battles shown in season two.

One thing that is just slightly disappointing is how little they gave focus to the verbal exchange between Ais and Bell. In the novel, these two were shouting at each other like real lovers in a heated quarrel, and you can feel how one refused to budge for the other. But in this episode, the exchange was pretty minimal apart from the end where Bell let out his reasons for helping the Xenos.

But what really sold the entire episode as the best one yet was Wiene’s decision to protect Bell. This is the moment where her character arc goes full circle as she finally saves the one who first saved her, even going as far as to harm herself in front of Ais just to convince the Sword Princess. The voice acting becomes the focus once again, and mixed with perfectly delivered lines, this scene is definitely the most tearjerking moment in the franchise.

The penultimate episode for Danmachi season 3 may have been subjected to a rushed first half, but it paid off with its second half, especially with how they animated the emotional parts. It easily deserves a 9/10 despite quite a few flaws, and now I can’t wait for the season finale where a fallen hero rises once more!

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