Review: Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

Short answer: maybe.

Long answer: well, depending upon who you are, who the girl is, where in the dungeon you are, what you’re doing in the dungeon, and what kind of equipment and party members you have. There’s a lot of variables in play here, you see.

Anyway, this show’s long and strange title captured the attention of a few of my friends; thus, they started watching it, and pulled me in as well. I frankly probably wouldn’t have bothered with this series if it weren’t for those friends.

(The show’s title is usually shortened down to “DanMachi”, based upon the Japanese title.)

An Introduction

This alternate universe is basically an RPG come to life. Concepts like “levels”, “status points”, “item drops”, and so on are real things that each person deals with in one way or another. The economy revolves around people called warriors entering into dungeons, defeating monsters at a level they can do well at, and use the monster’s drops in exchange for money and goods. Like I said, it’s like a real-life RPG.

So who’s our protagonist? Why, he’s this white-haired, young warrior with a lot to learn, named Bell Cranel. Bell is your well-meaning good guy, just wanting for himself and those he cares about to be happy. He goes out to the dungeon each day, sticking to the low-numbered levels (as he’s not that strong yet), and uses whatever items he gets for money so he can live in a cozy house, just himself and the goddess he’s sworn loyalty to, Hestia.

Our story begins with Hestia discovering a powerful ability that Bell possesses, but she keeps it a secret from him. Sure enough, thanks to this ability (along with some pure luck), he becomes an increasingly powerful warrior with almost unprecedented speed. However, his quick rise towards the top has not come without catching the attention of a few shady folks…

The Plot and Characters

The world these characters are in was one of the most fascinating things I find about this series, and I’m glad they spent a decent amount of time on world-building here. As much as I might (and shall) complain about everything else, the world and concept of this story keeps me fascinated and enticed.

DanMachi’s plot surprised me to some extent with a few of its unique plot points and characters. Liliruca, Bell’s “supporter” (someone who follows you around in a dungeon, carrying everything you could want or need) first appeared in episode 3 and I found her backstory surprisingly emotional (well, for this show, anyway), and she became my most favorite character in the series (her snarky comments in later episodes solidified it for me). The conflict between Hestia and the other gods also intrigued me too.

However, this all being said, the show has some generic-ness to it. Bell, for all intents and purposes, is your generic kind-hearted protagonist: he’s extremely powerful, attracts the attention of multiple girls, but yet is ridiculously kind and ridiculously dense. Hestia plays the generic jealous love interest in most aspects, although she sometimes has some interesting moments. Most notably, though, is the generic ending to the anime series. To not give away too many spoilers, the ending focuses upon a battle against a giant monster, with everyone “holding the monster back” until Bell could show up in the last two minutes and use this brand-new, super-powerful finishing move. The show’s ending really wasn’t that impactful, and I wish they went with something more clever.

Other supporting characters in the show are: Aiz Wallenstein, a revered warrior filling the “silent but deadly” trope, she caught Bell’s eye after she saved him from a minotaur (admittedly, seeing the two of them grow a bit closer later on in the series is a bit cute); Welf Crozzo is a blacksmith-turned-warrior who appears too late in the series to really leave much of an impact (despite him being shown prominently in both the opening and ending animations. You’d think that when he finally makes his appearance, he’d instantly become someone really memorable, but unfortunately, he’s not); Syr Flova and Eina Tulle are two girls that work at a pub and the guild building, respectively, and both have feelings for Bell, but are overall not too noteworthy.

I really liked DanMachi when it focused upon the world and the actual conflicts, and those were enough to keep me intrigued week after week while it aired. However, when it spent time on Bell’s interaction with all these girls that had crushes on him, that’s where it started to drag. If the characters were less generic or if there was less of the generic dense-male-lead-with-harem going on, I would have enjoyed the series a lot more. The generic ending really disappointed me too, keeping me from walking away from the show with a positive reaction.

In fact, there’s something called the Bechdel test, which basically states that for a show/movie/etc. to pass, it must have two women talk to each other about something other than a man. I don’t generally like to spend my time talking about such tests, as something like that never tells the whole story, but I would say that this show probably doesn’t pass this test. Where the show’s female characters do interact, it’s usually to continue with the whole harem thing the show is trying to push on us. DanMachi can do better without it being there. But of course, it’s what helps sell anime (or what the companies think help sell anime).

The show’s pacing was as you’d expect for an action series, with it generally sticking to a rather decent not-too-fast-but-not-that-slow pace, and with it sometimes picking up and slowing down depending upon the scene and action.

The Atmosphere

The show’s visuals are good. I really liked the color scheme used in the show, with a variety of colors used, and a number of them being bright and vibrant. The backgrounds are detailed and the character designs just work for the show. The animation was good, even during the action sequences. Simply put, the battles were really cool to watch.

(Actually, one other thing about character designs: that of Hestia. That small purple ribbon that’s purported to hold up her breasts ended up creating a bit of a meme in Japan as the show started up; halfway through the show’s airing though, the interest in it died down. Personally, I don’t really have much an opinion on the design, but if I were forced to say something, I’d have to say it looked a bit ridiculous.)

Audio-wise, it’s basically your standard orchestral stuff you hear in most anime nowadays. Frankly, unless a show does something special or uncommon with its background music, I won’t even remember it when I look back on the show. So that being said, there’s nothing really memorable about this one’s, but it does suit the show well enough. DanMachi’s opening theme isn’t particularly great, but it’ll get stuck in your head, whether you like it or not. I also took a liking to the opening animation, although it wasn’t really that extraordinary. The ending theme and animation are, in my opinion, great, though; I really like the bright colors and the upbeat song with the interjecting horns.

I almost wish they casted someone else for Bell other than Yoshitsugu Matsuoka. His voice isn’t annoying or anything, and there were spots where I think he was voiced rather well. I also know the voice actor is talented due to how he does Sora in No Game No Life. However, I feel someone else’s voice may have hit Bell’s character more on the mark than his. Other than that, in regards to the voice acting, there really isn’t anything to mention. I don’t know if Sentai will dub it, but if they do, I’ll be expecting a “decent-but-not-great” performance. (EDIT: Sentai announced at Anime Expo 2016 that they will be dubbing it. I stand by my remark.)

Final Remarks / TL;DR

The most interesting parts about Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, besides its title, are its fascinating world and the points where it stayed away from all the girls and their crushes on Bell. The show’s visuals are deceptively good though. All in all, the show kept intrigued and coming back week after week; however, the generic elements and disappointing ending soured my experience of the whole thing.

Despite everything though, I can’t not recommend this show. The action is definitely present in this series, and it is a lot of fun to watch. The way that RPG elements are handled here, as if they were real life concepts, is an interesting concept that will add to people’s enjoyment. This is an obvious choice for action series lovers. For those wanting a show that stays away from some of the more common pitfalls of anime though, DanMachi probably won’t cut it for you.

Rating: Average

Recommendation: If You Like This Genre

+++ great visuals featuring bright colors and well-animated action, fascinating world, Liliruca is a fun character

— harem stuff detracts from enjoyment, ending is disappointing, Welf doesn’t show up until too late in the series

3 thoughts on “Review: Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

  1. I really liked this show (after initally not watching because I thought the title was ridiculous). It is really generic in places but I found it charming and really liked the world and the action. The haremesque qualities I just kind of let pass by because they are just so prolific in anime that unless they are stalling the story there really isn’t any point paying them attention.

    Like

    1. sorry for the late response! I never really thought about how often I’ve come across harems in anime shows, to be honest lol. it’s more than I originally thought. I guess it just passes by me too! In this show’s case, I felt they made it rather more obvious and upfront than in other shows, and that’s why I pointed it out a bit more. Funny, my friends and I decided to watch the show _because_ of the ridiculous title! lol

      Liked by 1 person

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