By Fujino Omori and Suzuhito Yasuda. Released in Japan as “Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darou ka?” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Dale DeLucia.
The term ‘gaslighting’ has gotten so overused lately that I hesitate these days to mention it in a review. But, I mean, the definition of gaslighting is ‘manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity’, and that’s exactly what’s happening for most of this 17th volume of DanMachi, so… there we are. I expected this volume to be really dark, and indeed it was, with the first half of the book in particular being nothing but punches to the gut over and over again. But that’s something this author specializes in, and for once we don’t have to worry about the turnaround and hope spots coming in the next volume. No, this is not the end of the arc, but at least this book is allowed to come to a definite emotional conclusion, as Freya plays her last desperate card and ends up losing. Now it’s just a question of what’s going to happen to her… assuming that her Familia don’t just murder everyone.
After Syr is rejected by Bell at the end of the last book, Freya finally snaps. Hestia’s family is taken out in approximately two seconds, and Freya basically tells Hestia “give me Bell”. Hestia refuses, and Hermes reminds Freya of a rule that shows off to the reader the ludicrous timescale of this entire series. As a result, Freya decides to go all out and brainwash ALL OF ORARIO, including the Gods, into thinking Bell has always been with Freya Familia. The exceptions to this are a) Freya herself, b) Bell, who rapidly loses his mind when everyone seems to recognize him as someone else, c) Hestia, who fired off all her divine power at once to avoid this, and d) Asfi and Lyu, who were able to escape the city in time. Now Hestia has to figure out a way to stop this before bell finally breaks and accepts that he’s under a memory “curse”.
I joked on Twitter that Books 1-10 supposedly starred Hestia, but really starred Aiz, and that Books 11-20 were the same but with Lyu. Hestia has been Bell’s goddess, but as a character she’s always played a supporting role in the series, and sometimes barely shows up. Thus it’s nice to see her actually managing to save the day, and her entrance at the end is appropriately awesome. That said, once again the thing that saved Bell from cracking and giving in is not Hestia, or any of the other women in love with him, but Aiz. All of the women with strong attachments to Bell are less affected by Freya’s mind control (and bravo to Eina, who gets a great scene of defiance before she’s beaten down by EVEN MORE MIND CONTROL), but it’s seeing that Aiz is able to remember a different past with Bell, one where she trained him, that gives him hope and strength. All the other female leads are still chasing after her.
And so we’re ready for another War Game, with Freya Familiia vs… well, possibly everyone else, though I suspect the rules will winnow down the opposing team a bit. Still it, should be great fun to read whenever it comes out. It’s still not out in Japan. But this was an excellent psychological torture volume with a pump your fist ending.