Monster slaying, treasure hunting, and a suspicious lack of pick-up lines in our review of Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?
Anime Review: Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
A review by Christopher Kinsey
I think before I begin this review I need to set a ground rule. The name of this anime is absolutely terrible. Not only is it a terrible description of what this series is about, but it sets forth an expectation of yet another excuse to use the roleplaying game and fantasy dynamic to cater to fetishes and desires for a ‘waifu’. Yes, the light novel has the exact same name, but it has a brilliant English subtitle: Familia Myth. This title is not only shorter and easier to put on a coffee mug, but relates to the central background mythology of the series history. So for my own sanity, and to avoid a rather terrible looking acronym (IIWTPUGIAD) I will refer to the series as Familia Myth. May my scorn form the purists be light and merciful.
Familia Myth centers on the fictional country of Orario, known to be the entrance to a spiraling extra-dimensional tower to the heavens known as the Dungeon. The very gods themselves have limited their powers in a bid to learn what is contained within, and in their quest have pretty much established a kind of dungeon adventuring ecology that makes sense in a way. Gods form Familia which act a sort of base guild for people to prepare, train, and equip for exploring the Dungeon. The system mirrors many familiar concepts to the viewer, levels, stat increases, special powers unlocking depending on individual and class, and what have you. If you’ve ever played a tabletop or video game roleplaying game then you will immediately understand the dynamics of the situation, and as a good turn of the trope it doesn’t feel as forced in the many anime series that are emulating a massive multiplayer online roleplaying game system to build a world history from.
Against this backdrop we meet our hero, Bell Cranell. He’s just started his journey as an adventuring hero under the very small Familia Hestia. Hestia herself is, sigh, is in the form of a well-endowed teenager who seems to really obsess over Bell as not only her only follower, but as a potential boyfriend. However Bell knows what he wants out of life, and it’s not to be the FWB Hestia seems to want out of him. Bell wants to become strong in his travels to feel at ease to protect and be worthy of asking Aiz Wallenstein to be his main squeeze. Aiz is a powerful swordswoman who is a favored champion of the goddess Loki, and it is by her measure that Bell stakes his desire of adventuring power.
But this desire, and the fact he is our hero after all, grants him a few notable abilities over his peers. The first ability he gains after a lot of hard work is an ability to level up faster called Realis Phrase. This ability is a mystery to Hestia and indeed any of the gods or goddesses who get a whiff of this power are quite curious, as it’s the only time it has ever manifested. His second ability he develops is called Argonaut, which in dire situations with seemingly million-to-one odds he can attack with godly force. One would think that these abilities would pretty much write Bell as utterly and totally a write off as a hero, being as he has the power to deus ex machina his way out of anything. However Bell’s powers may exist to mitigate a threat larger than he could handle alone, it never comes without exacting a cost, and then there is the mystery of why the gods are so curious about these abilities which hopefully further series might bring to light.
Bells adventures don’t delve into harem territory like the title suggests. Sometimes girls like him, sure, but at his core Bell is doing what he feels is right by admitting to himself who he likes and not playing these girls along in that insufferable way you get in a lot of anime series. Hestia is the closest we get to that sort of dynamic, but he continually rebuffs her in a manner reminiscent to Ranma ½ and the constant battle against suitors. Instead of making the women of this series merely fodder for an army of body pillow covers, fellow adventurers each have their own reasons and desires to adventure and help Bell. A lesser series would just attach ladies to Bell as the sole reason anyone ever gets together, but instead it’s a party of equals. Even Aiz finds herself drawn to help Bell train not due to some sort of inexplicable lover’s destiny, but because she sees something within that will make him a great adventurer.
And it is a great adventure. The action scenes and animation are really good for this kind of production. There are many times I could get lost in the detail of the backgrounds alone. That isn’t to say there aren’t any pitfalls to the series. Fanservice rears its head a few times beyond the constant assault of Hestia’s character design, usually for no reason other than the popular excuse: “Eh, it’s been eleven episodes, why haven’t we seen girls in a bath?” Something that kind of tickles my inner nerd rage is the depictions of the gods and goddesses in this series. Hestia (yes her again) doesn’t really inspire that whole Roman hearth, domestics and architecture with her so-cute-please-stop character design. Hephaestus is a beautiful one eyed middle aged (For anime) woman who plays a mean anvil, but doesn’t invoke any frailty like the actual Greek pantheon’s club footed armorer. Loki I understand taking a female form, dude will play any role when it suits him. But pointless genders bending aside, most of the gods are depicted well.
A larger concern of mine is a cast of characters that will simply bewilder with how little many of them have to do. It seems like each of these people are pretty well fleshed out, but in the personal story we have with Bell they seem to take away from the story. It’s the kind of technique that works well in a longer or more drawn out work. In the light novel series it’s based on its probably easier to let these complex characters out a bit more, but in the confines of a TV series it’s really hard to do more than wonder if a character is really important to the story or just some really well articulated background dressing. If that is the case, then if further seasons are in the works we will need some heavy focus on people who seem to be very important, but are glossed over because of the pace of the series.
But for its faults I have to admit this series did something that hasn’t happened to me in a while. It drew me in. I wanted to know the nuances about this dungeon exploration based society. Those background characters I mentioned earlier, I want to see what they’re all about. I want to play in this world and meet more of its denizens. I want to enjoy stories not just about Bell and his quest to be a greater man, because he already is pretty great as a person and protagonist, but show me more of the deeper conflicts and mysteries of this world. Do that with more sweet battles and I’ll come back for a second season, even if you continue making Hestia such a piece of fan bait.
- Familiar fantasy tropes used in a way that doesn’t alienate new fans or old.
- A detailed world that is fun to learn more about.
- Art and animation that lends itself well to a sense of adventure and improvement.
- Hestia’s character design seems to have been made by distilling all the worst traits of the “Cute and Clingy” girlfriend in an over sexualized package.
- Many characters to keep track of, any of which may or may not be important in the long run and no indication if there may be a second series to back it up.
- Can I mention Hestia again? No? Well then I hate the ending animation and theme song’s twee-ness. The tooth brushing dance is stupid, not cute.