Episode 19 – Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? IV

©Fujino Omori/SB Creative Corp./Danmachi4 Project

There’s always that one guy who ruins things for everyone. This week that would be the one Spartoi who sees through the Skull Sheep skin Bell and Ryu are hiding under as they attempt to cross the Coliseum unnoticed by the monsters locked in endless battle there. In the greater context of the series, that’s how Ryu sees herself: the lone survivor of her Familia’s death, she believes that she no longer has the right to live. She says as much when she orchestrates Bell’s escape from the Coliseum – she doesn’t believe that she deserves to live and that her presence is holding Bell back. It’s a selfish belief that denies what Astrea Familia ostensibly wanted for her, but her despair so blinds her that she can’t see that she’s foisting the same exact thing onto Bell.

It’s hard to be angry with her, however. It’s so abundantly clear that Ryu never had the chance to properly process her sisters’ deaths that she’s become mired in her survivor’s guilt and self-recriminations. She’s been lost in the lands of What If and If Only, trying to come up with a solution that never existed, and she’s come to take on all of the blame for their loss. It’s not healthy, and as we’ll see next week, it’s also unlikely to be true, but her trauma is still so raw and immediate that she can’t move past it or even imagine doing so. In Ryu’s mind, she deserves to go out the way the rest of Astrea Familia did: in the dungeon to save someone else.

I don’t think she fully understands the parallels between her actions and those of Alise, Kaguya, Lyra, and the rest. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen her recalling advice and wisdom that they passed down to her, and this week we explicitly see her put it to use. Lyra, who was the most practical of the group (possibly a Prum trait, since both Finn and Lilly are very practical people), basically told Ryu that there’s no such thing as useless knowledge. Everything can be turned into vital information in the right situation, and as Ryu starts quoting Lyra’s training, we can see the truth in that. Ryu doesn’t realize that every time she uses what the lost told her, they live on through her. We’re all patchwork quilts of those who came before us and left us their knowledge.

When Bell returns to save her after she tries to force him to leave her to die, Ryu suddenly starts to understand at least Alise’s words a little better. Alise told Ryu that people who can live true to their ideals are the ones who become heroes, and like much of what Lyra taught her, that doesn’t really click until the moment she sees it in action. To Ryu, Alise was a hero, and her death destroyed her. But by not believing in Bell and his steadfast nature and refusing to compromise his ideals, Ryu fails to truly understand what Alise was saying. Alise might not have considered herself a hero by her own measure, and in perishing with almost her entire Familia, she may not be remembered as one by anyone but Ryu. But when Bell comes back and refuses to let Ryu die (or die alone), he’s carrying on Alise’s wish for Ryu to live and finally making it clear to her that maybe, just maybe, heroes don’t have to die. If Bell had left, neither he nor Ryu would be heroic. If he can save her, maybe they both can be.

It may not be what John Donne meant when he wrote, “therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee,” but I’ll take it.


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