Danmachi: Sword Oratoria – Review

Sword Oratoria is side story based on one of the main-ish characters from Danmachi and basically what amounts to the clan she’s in, or as the show calls them the familia. I loved Danmachi to the point that it was almost my number one show for the year it came out. It was something really special even if a lot of people shit on it for no reason. I’ve discussed why in the comments section of some post on here awhile back but it’s shit on for illegitimate reasons for the most part. Anyway, the point is I loved it and was super excited when they announced another series…sure, I’d prefer a sequel, but a Railgun-style parallel story going on with one of the cast members (let alone one I liked a lot)? Sounded great. Sounded.

The biggest reason I felt so positively towards Danmachi was the talent behind the writing and directing when it came to the very main focus of the show: Bell Cranel. It wasn’t an action series, wasn’t an adventure series, wasn’t a drama series – it was a character study that had all three of those and some other things like comedy and a bit of light harem, but at it’s core it was entirely dedicated to the development of Bell as a person, an adventurer, and as someone with a bunch of insecurities. That’s nothing new, there are loads of shows that are character dramas and focus on building the cast, but Danmachi just did it in a way that I’ve rarely come across and used the setting and context to great effect. That setting being a really cool JRPG styled world without the overdone “we’re stuck in a game” antics attached, it’s just a genuine actual fantasy world that happens to be similar to what we have in video games and they handle it in some pretty unique ways.

Danmachi does an incredible job of making you really care about Bell and just as fantastic of a job at making you feel what he feels and without making him a self-insert. You’re emotionally invested in him and the show makes sure of it by, while having a bigger overarching story, almost entirely dedicating the focus on Bell as a person and his desperate struggle to be something more while giving him a motivation that is down to Earth (essentially wanting to be good enough to protect the girl he loves) rather than some big world saving thing. Everything that happens is done to develop him from starting out as this cowardly weak kid into someone much stronger physically and even more importantly in terms of fortitude and willpower. Even the action sequences in Danmachi (that’s 11 minutes long but if youtube hasn’t taken it down you should watch it) serve less of a role as being cool action scenes (they ARE REALLY DAMN COOL too though) and are more emotionally powerful than anything else because you care about what happens, you care about Bell, and you care about how this fight will change him one way or another and you want to see him able to take another step forward and the show KNOWS that and focuses on directing those scenes in a way that puts that front and center (again, rather than just making it look cool) and blows you away when Bell takes a huge leap forward from time to time. The fights are really filled to the brim with emotion every time they happen because they MEAN something. It sounds kind of generic but it really isn’t – the level of depth Bell has is really good and they made him such a likable character with such a simple but really genuine goal that he’s perfect for making you want to see him grow.

Sword Oratoria on the other hand throws that all aside. Aiz is super strong and super capable, you might think that’s why this suffers in some of the areas Danmachi thrived in while dealing with someone so weak fighting so hard against everything, and that’d be a valid issue that’d take some good directing to get around BUT that isn’t the problem here. In fact Aiz is a really good character with a really solid amount of development to be had too – the problem is Sword Oratoria doesn’t treat her like that at all. She’s practically the OPPOSITE of Bell in that she’s barely relevant in her own spinoff and she’s even overshadowed by this really bland elf girl who has almost nothing about her that makes you give a shit about her. She’s fine and I get the concept of focusing on ALL of the Loki Family (not that it does, it really mostly focuses on that elf) but everyone involved in this, both staff and fans, knew what was expected from this – Aiz Wallenwhatsit and what she was up to when she wasn’t with Bell. Not some elf, not some midget leader we only saw one single time in the original series, not slutty twins that while fun were clearly never intended to serve as more than jokey-sexy side characters, and not some random story that makes no sense and has no importance to anything.

The focus NOT being on Aiz causes a lot of problems. Aiz is really a great character – she deserved HER SHOW to be about HER, and instead she’s barely relevant, there’s not much more to say on that point. Then there’s the action in this is just bland and generic feeling because that’s exactly what it is – nothing is on the line for the characters aside basic survival which is ALSO barely on the line because Aiz as well as everyone else in her crew are SUPER strong and pretty much never ever have a single point where they are in any real danger. Even the times they end up that way – oops – they were just half-assing it then “get serious” and just literally punch through acid-worms while their face melts off and magically gets healed after and barely hurts them anyway. You can still make those action scenes mean something even in that case if you just had some sort of character based motive or emotion behind what was going on even if “what was going on” amounted to the characters kicking ass without any trouble. At the very least make them cool to watch.

Here we get battles usually of a few people and Aiz versus like 30 monsters at once and you end up with a really boring scenario playing out. Look, everyone is doing super moves or being hurt and then grinning because they love the fact they’re so strong. Truly amazing and unique. Meanwhile in Danmachi you had almost every action scene being Bell versus ONE enemy and yet everything felt so much more powerful to watch play out. Not only because of Bell’s strengths and weaknesses but because of similar reasons to why Hero Academia can manage incredibly emotionally powerful moments at least once an episode – because it’s not ACTUALLY about that fight it’s about what’s going on behind it within the people in it. Well, okay, both Danmachi and Hero Academia also just have some REALLY FUCKING COOL fights too and that helps a lot and is another element that, again, this is missing – but they still aren’t the POINT.

Really the battles mean nothing here, they are just fights so the show has action in it, they serve absolutely no fucking purpose aside putting something flashy on screen for a little bit. They illustrate pretty much everything wrong with Sword Oratoria. Meaningless, vapid, and a waste of time.

Another disappointing factor is that this really takes fucking forever to bother connecting to the main show. You get very few 1-3 second cameos of Bell from time to time which is really fun because they’re all scenes you should remember happening in Danmachi from HIS point of view (like waking up in Aiz’s lap and ROLLING AWAY) but apparently 90% of this happens BEFORE she even starts training him somehow – though once that point finally shows up (episode 9 of 12) he at least is around for some bits of the stuff we saw in Danmachi. I wish I could say that was a good thing but they did it very lazily to the point of just cutting out very short 2-10 second clips from their old footage and reusing them while recording one or two new monologue lines over it for Aiz. As opposed to, say, Railgun S’s Sister Arc wherein even scenes that are directly in both Index and Railgun were redone entirely and they also didn’t skip by just saying “ok here’s 2 seconds of that since you watched index you know it already” while here they just give you glimpses of maybe a minute at most at anything that might involve Bell even if Aiz is there for perhaps a full episode for this same scene in the original show. A good example would be them training together which was pretty prominent in Danmachi through several episodes, while here you see like less than a minute.

They do include one of the most important and emotional fights in the show that Bell has which is kind of cool to just be watching from the sidelines but even then they cut away from it to show really irrelevant shit – for example show the elf…just walking in town. That’s it. Not even something happening or her monologueing. Then cut back to the fight, killing the flow. Yet even so this was one of the best moments in the entire spinoff, and sadly just reminded me how much I loved that original series and how much more meaning it all had. It just makes caring about Sword Oratoria that much harder when they shove in your face the exact reason why Danmachi was good and why this kind of sucks. There’s also a couple very short cameos of Hestia but that’s all she gets as well as the rest of Danmachi’s cast.

Is that you Mikasa Ackerman?

To make matters worse, they retcon in a bunch of new shit that never happened. Obviously with stuff that just involves Aiz that’s most of the show because the original isn’t about her but then there’s a bunch added in that directly involves Hestia and Bell even BEING THERE WHEN IT HAPPENS and this never ever occurred in the original show nor ever remotely came up. You can’t just retcon big events in like that. Something small like them adding in him avoiding the elf on his way to meet with Aiz for training is one thing, but this is all big story elements and near-death situations they’ve tossed in with no attempt to explain why they never existed in the original show.

The conclusion to the story also just doesn’t exist. I get leaving it open ended to continue later like Index and Railgun but EVEN THOSE fully give you closure for the story you’re dealing with at the time. Here you’re left with absolutely no progress, they outright even say it in the finale by having the baddies talk about how this really did jack shit and was barely even a test and had no real impact on their ultimate evil goal we know nothing about. Honestly the biggest plot-related issue without closure would be Aiz being mistaken for her mother by literally every single enemy character that can speak even including a few monsters and at least one God. There’s no explanation of why at all, not even one line, it’s just something that keeps happening for no reason. Unless they plan on making season 2 in like 3 months then there’s no excuse for that, though I probably wouldn’t plan to watch a sequel of this anyway.

The show is fine. It’s not BAD but it’s definitely a fairly big disappointment and as a show in general it’s nothing more than “fine”. Okay, I might actually say it’s bad, I’m just not sure as it’s more of a “I couldn’t give a shit about it because it was fucking stupid and pointless” than an outright shitty thing. I really wish they just made a season 2 of the original instead and because of that I hope this does well regardless of my feelings towards it because the better it does the more likely the real Danmachi is to continue. I don’t really recommend watching this even if you loved the first series – as a really huge fan myself I ended up getting practically nothing out of this aside annoyed at what they were doing to the franchise. Just go watch Danmachi if you haven’t and don’t worry, Aiz is actually more prevalent in that somehow so if you like her you won’t be missing out.

One response to “Danmachi: Sword Oratoria – Review

  1. >Even the times they end up that way – oops – they were just half-assing it then “get serious” and just literally punch through acid-worms while their face melts off and magically gets healed after and barely hurts them anyway.

    I think this might be one of the biggest problems. So many of this show’s scenes are just OH NO THIS ENEMY SURE IS TOUGH I GUESS I SHOULD STOP FUCKING AROUND AND GO MORE HAM THAN SORA AT THE END OF KINGDOM HEARTS 2. Even the final fight in the show is literally just that. Oh wow this monster can spellcast oh it can do two powerful spells one after the other oh no that sure hurt OH WELL WE’RE TOTALLY FINE THOUGH LET’S WRECK IT’S SHIT WITH VERY LITTLE EFFORT.


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