DanMachi Series Review

Overview:

In a fantasy world, Bell Cranel wants to be an adventurer and wants to meet the love of his life in a dungeon. With the divine blessing of his Goddess, Hestia, Bell is going to work hard to become strong.

Review:

Alright, I avoided this anime when it first came out. The name “Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?” was kind of an instant turn-off and I just had this image of the most generic harem comedy in existence and wasn’t going to go near it. No idea why I ended up watching the first episode of it, but I do know that I then watched the entire show in the space of an afternoon.

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Is it generic fantasy? Definitely. You have dungeons and elves and minotaurs and you’ve got a whole pile of RPG elements thrown in with levelling up and stat scores and the like. It isn’t trying to break new ground in its world building but neither is it playing these things as a joke. While the feel of the show is light-hearted they’ve taken world-building seriously and the world you are presented with is a very functional setting for a story.

Do we have a harem? Not quite but pretty close. Bell does have a lot of admirers by the end but to actually describe this as a harem comedy would not do justice to either this or to harems because while there are certainly elements of harem here, that isn’t the main focus despite the title. There is one girl that Bell likes and he uses that like as a motivation to drive himself to get stronger. While other characters flock around him and the usual comedy elements get thrown in, the story focusses very much on Bell developing as a character.

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So what works about this show? The comedy is a little bit childish and over the top at times, but it generally works and is amusing. Hestia in particular can usually make me smile. But then again, the idea of a Goddess taking on part time jobs to buy her hero equipment (or even dinner in the early stages) is pretty amusing in and of itself. Pretty much if you don’t crack a smile during the first episode then this show isn’t going to work for you because from a tone point of view it isn’t really going anywhere and they are only going to get more excessive in their efforts to make you laugh.

Bell Cranel works as a character. Okay, he’s a bit bland as a character (generic self-insert cliché) but the story allows for him to grow and actually begin to make decisions and choices and to start to find out who he is. And unlike so many other characters he doesn’t discover he is actually an ego-maniac. He discovers that he genuinely wants to have an adventure and to protect his friends and he derives great joy from his small (and not so small) successes.

The interactions between the gods and the gods and their families work really well. I feel a little hypocritical on this point because they do a great job of massacring mythology in this and I’ve certainly criticised other shows for this previously, however I didn’t feel annoyed by the way they presented the gods in this show. They also didn’t try to shove their version of mythology down your throat. It was more they had god like characters who happen to have the names of gods you may or may not be familiar with and as a result you may or may not like the way they are represented. That said, the interactions are great.

Bell’s party that slowly forms is fantastic. Originally hiring a supporter (who comes with a lot of baggage) before recruiting a smith (who also comes with a lot of baggage), these additional characters really help to off-set Bell’s general blandness and inject new energy into the second half of the series. Welf Crozzo (the smith) is one of my favourite characters and my only complaint would be his limited screen time given how late in the series he is introduced.

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Then we have the dungeon exploration itself which is just pure fun. Whether the characters are picking off small fry or facing up against a floor boss, the combat is visually entertaining and hits just the right balance between being dramatic and being over the top. Bell’s battle against the minotaur is one I will continue to love forever. It perfectly brought together the previous plot points (Bell being embarrassed when he was cornered by a minotaur and being unable to fight against it as well as his desire to protect), it allowed for some critical character development and a bit of a power-up in the process before we moved into the final arc, and it was an awesome fight to watch. I loved every minute of that fight.

So, we now get to my major criticism and that is the final arc of the series. It doesn’t feel complete and the final boss fight is probably the most boring battle of the entire series. Bigger enemy doesn’t necessarily make for a better fight and it actually felt like all the clever moves and strategies that we’d see previous got tossed out the window as the characters en masse threw themselves at the giant blob of a villain (little bit sarcastic but you get the idea).  Admittedly, it ends the way it needs to for Bell as a character, but as a viewer you gain little satisfaction. And really, it all just feels like a resting point for a continuation that has yet to come, though I guess we’ll see if it ever does (rumours say yes, but they’ve been wrong before).

Okay, I have to mention my other criticism which is the basic dress of every female character (even the armoured ones). Starting from Hestia on, they are not dressed for any practical purpose and while some of the male costumes aren’t any better there is at least a wider variety of clothes for males.

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Is this show going to blow your mind and change the way you think? Probably not. What it should do is provide you with a few smiles, some exhilarating fight sequences, and a whole cast of cute and zany characters to chill out with for an afternoon. If that sounds appealing, pull up a chair and give it a watch.

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23 thoughts on “DanMachi Series Review

  1. I must admit, for a while I wanted to love DanMachi, as the manga version was one of the first manga series I started reading back in 2013. But by the time the anime came around I began to recognize and be irked by a lot of the flaws you mentioned in this post. Particularly the final arc being boring as heck and the overly cliched nature of Bell Cranel, as well as a general lack of respect for it’s female cast (in my opinion not only in regards to their clothing). That said, I must say I found the nature of the setting decidedly interesting. It detailed a overtly video game-esque leveling system and an economy based on monster item drops and trading. Its too bad it didn’t do very much with these ideas as the story went along. I can definitely see this being a show that was easy to marathon in the course of an afternoon. Nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess I was one of the few here who actually watched the show BECAUSE of its goofball title. Loved it, still love it, and yes, that minotaur fight was the best part. I like how Bell is a combination of underdog and badass and that fight encapsulates both.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a really stupid title for the show, particularly when that aspect of it is the focus for about two episodes out of the whole thing (okay, he’s infatuated with the girl the whole time but it isn’t like it’s thrown in your face every couple of seconds).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounded a little like Magi from the description. Would you say that the tone is similar?

    In any case, my wife seemed interested in this, so it’s probably something I’ll end up watching at some point. Thanks for sharing this review!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Because I’ll watch anything fantasy themed, I checked this one out right around the time it first aired. For the most part, I really enjoyed it as well. I’m a big lover of comedy, from generic to total slapstick. I grew up watching Monty Python and Benny Hill, so that’s probably why. Deeply broken sense of humor as well. The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy is one of my all time favorite books, so I obviously enjoy absurdist comedy the most.

    You are right that they did an amazing amount of world building for this show, and many of the characters were actually really cool, especially Hestia, who I enjoyed way more than I probably should have. I forget the name of the woman Bell had a thing for now, but I remember that she actually broke the mold and was a really nice person, instead of being stuck up or something, like they usually do with a main characters crush.

    Bell’s goddess, who’s name I’ve also forgotten, annoyed the crap out of me, though.

    Overall, they did a great job of setting up an interesting world, and building some really interesting characters into it. Quite the feat for a show that nobody expected anything from.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been avoiding this anime like the plague so far because the name makes it sound like it’d be a trashy harem show…and I really hate trashy harem shows. But after your review, it sounds like it’s worth a shot. Do you think I should save it for when I’m in the mood for comedy rather than fantasy/action, or the other way around?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Some combo of all three? I’m a terrible judge of comedy because my sense of humour is either warped or broken depending on who you ask. And the comedy elements of this were probably the weaker parts for me though they weren’t irritating and didn’t make me roll my eyes which for me is the mark of reasonable comedy. I enjoyed the fantasy/action parts of it but it is very light hearted for most of it with the exception of a few fairly dramatic action pieces later in the series.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My humor sense isn’t all that normal either tbh. More like unstable in that what appeals and what doesn’t is mostly random, though gallows humour has the best chance. I guess I won’t find that here but fantasy with a side of dramatic action sounds good enough.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Okay this is really funny: I avoided this show pretty much for the same reason you did. When I now read that you finished it pretty much right after watching the first episode, I might have to rethink this and watch at least the start of it. As I have been a Dungeons and Dragons player in the past, I recognise the comments about the outfits of the women. With every new supplement for the game that was released for it, at times there would be pictures/drawings of women wearing totally stupid and almost nonfunctional armour. I always thought that was seriously dumb as well, so it is sad to see that things have not improved over the years (unless ofcourse they meant this to be some kind of tribute, Nah probably not 😂).
    Anyway great post, and I might check it out someday soon !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Little bit yes, and a little bit no, I’d say.

      Much of the world setting is from traditional fantasy archetypes, so odds are, that was a major influence on the character designs, which more or less explains the wardrobe choices. It was obviously meant to have a bit of a throwback feel in a lot of ways.

      That said, it’s also an anime, and, well, we all know women’s wardrobe in anime tends to the skimpy side. So, yeah, that’s definitely part of it.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I actually really loved this show when I first watched it. I loved Bell as a character, and I really felt sorry for him, especially that scene in the early episode when he runs out the tavern, crying over his own failure to be the awesome adventurer he wants to be. That scene was very powerful and made me realise “wow, this series just might be more than its title suggests.”

    It was a little bumpy here and there, especially because of the fan-service and lame comedy, but neither of those things were too prominent to ruin it for me.

    Also, that fight with the minotaur was outstanding. Probably one of the best fights of 2015. I was blown away by the whole sequence.

    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed, it has a few bumps along the way and moments that don’t quite hit the mark but it is such an enjoyable show. I also felt really sorry for Bell at some points which made it so much better when you saw him get back up and keep working toward his goal.

      Liked by 1 person

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