DANMACHI SEASON 4 EPISODE 20 REVIEW – Finding Hope Amid Despair
Since the second cour of Danmachi’s fourth season started, we all expected to see the full story behind the destruction of the Astraea Familia and Ryu’s path of vengeance.
This episode delivers that, and more, in what is arguably the series’s most emotional and heartbreaking episode so far.
The Tragedy of Astraea Familia
Near the end of the first season, we’ve been introduced to a brief backstory regarding the mysterious Ryu; the death of her entire Familia. And while it did feel quite sad, we’ve never really placed too much thought on it as the series progressed.
That is, until this season.
Episode 20 finally gives the full story behind that tragic incident, and we finally realized that what Ryu had told Bell before is a very censored and condensed version of the massacre.
For it was indeed a massacre. Worse than a massacre, it was a one-sided, hopeless slaughter fit for a horror show.
We know the Juggernaut is a terrifying monster ever since it first appeared. But the thing is, Jura had bounded it to his will, perhaps lessening its instincts. Yet the Juggernaut in Ryu’s past is more a demon than a monster; it’s faster. It’s more violent. It’s more resilient.
Astraea Familia was a powerful familia; enough to corner Jura and Evilus and survive a trap set by them—which inadvertently led to their fate. They were a fun group as well, and their witty comebacks were a treat to watch. There’s an air of invulnerability surrounding them akin to present familias like the Loki and Freya familias.
Sadly, that air of invulnerability, and even their experience, could not help them against the Juggernaut.
The massacre itself, as mentioned above, is something straight out of a nightmare. Ryu’s horrified expression, like something has snapped inside her, reflects what the scene evokes to the audiences. It is the most graphic scene the series has shown thus far with limbs and blood showering everywhere, people suffering horrible deaths, and the atmosphere feels heavy and depressing.
If we hadn’t known that Ryu had survived and this is simply a flashback, we would believe that this scene would end in her savage death. In fact, even the Evilus isn’t left unscathed, with a very lucky Jura being the sole survivor.
But we already know how this ended. Despite that, it is still heartbreaking to watch as Alise fulfills the familia’s unspoken principle: sacrifice lives in order to save someone. In this case, Alise, Kaguya, and Lyla, the only ones left, chose to sacrifice themselves to weaken the Juggernaut long enough for Ryu to defeat it using her Luminous Wind.
There’s a sense of surrealism as the final members bade their farewell, particularly Kaguya who left Ryu the weapons that the elf would later use in her future battles, especially with the insert song playing in the background. It’s not a pretty scene, and Ryu’s tearful reaction to seeing her remaining friends die one by one in the most gruesome way possible mirrors the feeling of despair that a lot of audiences would feel, particularly when Alise, the last one standing, gives her last strength to hold the Juggernaut long enough for Ryu to try to finish it.
The final nail in the coffin, however, is even after all those sacrifices, the Juggernaut still survived and retreat to lick its wounds. It is enough to break Ryu, though her tenacity and will to continue on and avenge her friends is a testament to her devotion to them.
Considering what happened to Alise and the other members of Astraea familia, it is no surprise that Ryu would begin a hunt for everyone who’s involved in the massacre. Indeed, her first objective was to beg for the Goddess Astraea to leave so that the Guild wouldn’t include Astraea in the punishment that Ryu would face.
Obviously, Ryu already knew that the crimes she will commit is unforgivable. And frankly, she is prepared for the inevitable. As a goddess of justice, Astraea understood the elf and agreed to her request, though not without practically excommunicating Ryu. Strange enough, the scene didn’t show Astraea’s reaction to the death of her familia members, which is unusually cold for a goddess of justice.
In any case, Ryu’s rampant rampage that would rival the Juggernaut is justified enough. And though this part of the story is condensed and glossed over the gory details, it showed enough for us to see how far Ryu would go to avenge her comrades—to the point that she would cause even the death of several gods.
While Ryu’s vendetta is purely for personal reasons, there’s no denying the effects she had unintentionally caused. At this time, Orario was in its dark age when Evilus ran rampant in its criminal acts. But Ryu’s actions brought their downfall, ending the reign of one of Orario’s most evil syndicates.
The Cold Shell Begins To Break
As is natural in dangerous situations, it is only expected that a connection will deepen between two individuals.
In this case, Ryu has started to feel something for Bell, though not necessarily vice-versa. Bell, obviously, is a kind-hearted soul, so it is easy for women such as Ryu to develop feelings for him. He is stubborn, as depicted in this episode when he gladly saves Ryu despite all her crimes, viewing her as a hero.
In a way, he is right; Ryu did a lot for Bell and his familia, and though it won’t exactly erase her sins, it doesn’t matter to Bell as he accepts Ryu for who she is, rather than who she was once.
Thus, Ryu’s cold shell cracks. It is cute and heartwarming to watch her trying to convince Bell that she is bad, only for Bell to point that she is good. The highlight comes when Bell has to fake being in danger to lure a monster, with Ryu calling out his name in despair for the first time.
Her blush when she realizes the truth is just icing on the cake. But more than that, it is an admission, both to herself and us audiences, that the Gale Wind has finally fallen in love with the Rabbit Foot.
The past ended in tragedy, but the present leads to hope. Episode 20 is full of emotions that whiplash the audiences in 24 minutes. And yet it is arguably the best episode of the series so far, giving our two characters the chance to develop their relationship.
Episode score: 9/10