This Season Bell Comes Face-To-Face With The Downside of Fame.
Ever since the first season of Is It Wrong To Try To Pick up Girls in a Dungeon? won me over with its charm and adventurous spirit, not to mention one of the coolest fight sequences ever when we saw the young adventurer Bell, I’ve had a soft spot for the franchise despite the ridiculous name that ultimately doesn’t really have much connection with the events in the series outside of Bell’s initial reason for becoming an adventurer. I’ve soaked up the story through the first season of the anime and then through the light novels. While season two of the anime was a little less on the thrilling side, it didn’t dent my overall enthusiasm for Bell and his familia as well as the other characters who were starting to feel like old friends.
Some spoilers in the review.
And so season 3 begins with Bell in the dungeon and through a series of events saving a monster girl. There’s nothing overly surprising about Bell playing the white knight and being unable to resist a girl in distress (it is how most of his fan club has formed around him) however there’s definitely a moral quandary involved this time around that forms the central issue of the whole series and fundamentally makes viewers take another look at the world building of the story. The monster girl can speak and has awareness, including memories that seem to be her former life. Imagine being an adventurer in this world and realising that all the monsters you’ve been busily slaughtering in order to gain money and levels might one day remember and be aware of all that had gone before.
I will admit, I loved this particular arc in the light novels. Before things had always been very much black and white. Monsters were bad and adventurers hunted them. The villains Bell has faced off again were largely deluded, crazy or greed driven so there was seldom any reason to really wonder about who was in the right. It meant that Bell could stay this naïve child playing at being a hero and safely blush as people praised him for his actions.
Season 3 brings us a hard dose of reality as Bell has to first overcome his own feelings about the idea of monsters who are able to think and reason, then has to deal with those who are praying on them, and finally turns most of the city against him when he stands between other adventurers and the monsters. Fame definitely has its downsides as when Bell falls from being the toast of the town he falls hard and there are more than a few people happy to see the hero brought down to earth.
Affiliate Link – Play Asia
I think pacing is where season 3 really shines. While there are some things I am going to criticise about this season, the three phases of the journey are really nicely paced with each taking about 4 episodes of the 12. It meant easy bingeing as I could watch 4 episodes, come to a reasonable pause point and contemplate my thoughts, before charging onto the next section. I’m not sure how this would go week to week as each part of the story would stretch over a month and maybe that would make it feel like it was dragging, but now that the show has finished airing that isn’t really a drama anyway.
There’s a lot to like about the story as we see Bell growing up, the Hestia family having to pull even tighter together, and we get more of a glimpse at the way the gods of this world manipulate their children. Hermes in particular steps up his brand of interference with Bell. While at times he has made himself out to be an observer, Hermes remains someone who has a clear agenda with Bell firmly in his sights. There are also appearances and reactions from most of the gods and characters we’ve encountered in prior seasons which kind of helps feel like the story is progressing and building on the events that have previously occurred.
However, the visuals are at times about as subtle as a brick to the face. Various events in the story force Bell to choose a different path to Ais (who has been his idol since she saved his life in the very first episode). It is kind of a necessary step in order for Bell to grow up and to stop just being that love sick kid, however the distance between Ais and Bell isn’t just emotional as the visuals place them further and further apart throughout the series. While it gets the points across, it feels a little on the clumsy and obvious side.
Of course, the visuals in this season as a whole felt a little underwhelming. From the OP which is largely made up of stills to the general feeling that there just isn’t a lot of movement in this world, while the city and dungeon remain essentially the same as they did in prior seasons, there’s a sense of them being lifeless here. In the sporadic fight sequences throughout the season they do capture some of the energy of prior seasons but even the final fight sequence relies on more stylised art rather than letting us see the action for what it is. When comparing that fight to the sequences in season one, there’s really no comparison. Season 3 comes up poorly.
Though, it isn’t exactly a deal breaker. The characters more than carry the season and the introduction of the Xenos (the talking monsters) opens up a range of possibilities for future conflicts and narrative possibilities. Bell’s development over the course of the series was much needed as it really was time for him to step things up if he was actually going to be a hero rather than going through heroic motions. The clear throw back to his old fear (not going to spoil it for those who haven’t watched) gives this arc a sense of purpose and ultimately will leave fans of the franchise pretty satisfied with where this season ends things even if there are still some questions leaving plenty of room for another installment.
Ultimately I really enjoyed watching season 3 of Is It Wrong to Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? I like spending time with Bell, and watching him grow over the course of the series was very satisfying. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the visuals for the Xenos, I enjoyed their introduction into the world. I might have liked the fight sequences to have been a little more exciting, but these are petty niggles. What I got was a story that was well adapted from the source and fun and entertaining. Fingers crossed we’ll get a season 4 to continue the journey.
Images used for review from: Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? III. Dir. H. Tachibana. J. C. Staff. 2020.