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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.