I finally decided the girls in DanMachi really did deserve there own post.
If you’ve been following my blog for awhile you probably already know that I have a silly fondness for Bell from Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon. Whether it is from the first season of the anime or the light novels, I find his nice guy, hard working, character who knows when to really step things up in a fight quite delightful. But even with Bell being an adorable central character even I have to admit it is the girls in DanMachi that really do steal the show.
It is kind of impossible for me to just pick them from their appearance in the anime so some of these became more fleshed out in the light novels than the series. Still, I will avoid directly mentioning spoilers of any events beyond the first anime series.
Also, special shout-out to Welf. He’s an awesome character and kind of deserves to go on the list but I did decide to look at the girls of DanMachi today. Maybe I’ll do a list of my favourite male characters in the series at some point and I can assure you, Welf will be number one (provided I rule Bell out).
Give a shout out to your favourite girls in DanMachi in the comments.
Number 5: Eina
I feel a little bad making Eina number 5 on the list. She’s an awesome character that we meet early on. She works for the guild and supports Bell and is largely responsible for him not winding up dead fairly early in his dungeon crawling career. She cautions him, warns him of potential dangers, makes him memorise the layout and types of monsters he’ll be facing and helps him choose the correct equipment for the level he’s heading to.
While she clearly does have a crush on the Little Rookie, she remains professional and Bell views her more as a big sister character. Still, she’s essential to the story and her interactions with Bell are always interesting and that makes her one of the best girls in DanMachi.
Number 4: Freya
Honestly, Freya should be higher on the list but her appearance in the anime so far has been really limited. Still, even before reading on, Freya was a character who intrigued me. Her few appearances were short but they had a big impact and it isn’t completely off-base to say that she’s really helping to shape Bell into the hero that he’s starting to become.
While she chooses to mostly manipulate from behind the scenes her actions were getting more bold in the series and she’s certainly continued to have a presence in the books. I would definitely love to see more of Freya.
Number 3: Ryu
Ryu is such a great character. She works with Syr at the bar that Bell regularly goes to and for the most part is just a fairly cold waitress. However her knowledge of the dungeon reveals a far more colourful past as does her level of observation and quick reflexes. By the time we see Ryu enter the dungeon it is a foregone conclusion that she’s going to be strong and she does not disappoint.
How could I do a list of awesome female characters from Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon without mentioning Hestia. The bright and exuberant goddess who works incredibly hard to support her small but important familia. Bell and Hestia are a fantastic duo and while they might both be looked down upon in the beginning, they aren’t going to back down as they fight for what they want to achieve.
Number 1: Lily
Lily is just a great character and a much needed one. While Hestia is at times observant, she’s also pretty flighty and being a god doesn’t give things the same weight a human might. Bell himself is pretty naive and overly trusting, so having someone like Lily by his side is essential.
That said, Bell met Lily when she was the one trying to take him for a ride and it was only through his stubborn kindness that she ultimately decided to actually team up with him. I loved Lily’s character arc and her role within the familia is absolutely imperative to their ongoing survival and financial security. She’s a lot of fun and exactly the kind of character Bell needed to have his back when entering the dungeon.
Well, that’s my list today but I’d love to know your favourite female characters in DanMachi. I know I didn’t include Ais. As much as she is vital to Bell’s growth and as a goal for him to achieve, I really find her a fairly dull character, but feel free to tell me why she’s amazing if you like her.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
DanMachi is one of those rare fantasy anime that actually isn’t an isekai (though at times it feels like it should be).
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, and let’s be honest, this is one of my favourite series ever.
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. For all that it isn’t a perfect series, it is a delightful bit of fun and highly addictive viewing.
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 focuses 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.
The biggest flaw might be that the final fight sequence isn’t quite as exciting as it needs to be. 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 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. The Minotaur fight was a personal triumph for a character we’d grown to like and then this final fight was with a boss from nowhere and while it has its place it didn’t feel as rewarding. Worse though, 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 – meanwhile I’ve well and truly read beyond this point in the light novels now and please give us another season).
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.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
For those unfamiliar, the story of Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon mostly follows Bell Cranell who has travelled to Orario after the death of his grandfather to become an adventurer in the labyrinth known as dungeon. His motives aren’t exactly the best however. Bell had a great fondness for his grandfather’s stories and the part that really stood out to him was how the hero always saves the girl and then gets surrounded by a harem. Bell is quick to learn there is more to exploring a dungeon than finding a girl.
Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon Light Novel Review:
I’m going to avoid comparing this to the anime as much as possible so I’m going to get the major point that hit me while reading this out of the way and then simply focus on the book. Aiz actually has a personality afterall. While the anime left her pretty blank and dull in the early stages, the book actually makes me interested in her from her first scene. What a novel idea. I honestly don’t know how that got lost in the adaptation process but it was definitely a loss.
Okay, onto reviewing the book as a book. As I venture further into reading light novels there are certain patterns that I am definitely picking up. One thing that is a little bit odd is that they seem to have no concern about shifting perspective. While more than half of this story is in first person from Bell’s perspective, the rest of the story (and it is a significant proportion) is in third person and jumps from allowing the reader insight into Hesita’s thoughts as well as Freya’s, Aiz’s, Eina’s, Hephaistos’ and probably other character that I’ve forgotten.
While at times it is jarring because sometimes it is a few lines into a new section before the current perspective is clear, it does help to round out the support cast and their motives (certainly if we waited for Bell to notice anything we’d be waiting a very long time, and he’s also not involved in every scene). However, I have to wonder if the consistency of the story might have been better served by leaving Bell’s parts in third person as well. There seems no reason for us to hear it in first person when third person has worked fine to convey the feelings and thoughts of other characters.
Outside of the weird perspective jumps, the writing in this is pretty good comparatively with the other light novels I’ve read. It isn’t exactly going to challenge the great literary minds of the ages, but it flows well and is quite descriptive.
This is kind of important given there’s a lot of information and world building in this first book as the way adventurers level up is explained, as is how monsters spawn in the dungeon, as is the nature of the dungeon, and how the gods came along and started making familias. There’s a lot of information coming at the reader throughout this and if the writing hadn’t had a generally fun and easy style it probably would have become tedious quite quickly.
As to the story, it was pretty good. Bell is a very likeable character. He’s a bit of a dork, but he’s hardworking and nice. His odd motive aside, he really is someone you want to get behind and they do an excellent job during the climax of the book (monsterphilia incident for people who watched the anime) at making you genuinely worry about his safety. I won’t lie: I cheered while reading at the end.
Bell’s relationships with the other characters are crucial to making this story work and not just become another generic harem story, and for the most part these are fairly successful. Bell and Hestia have quite the complex and yet amusing relationship with Hestia being extremely attached to Bell. However, this relationship isn’t one in name only. It is one that causes both characters to act at various times and you can see the genuine connection that they have which is something many harem stories miss as they go through the motions of having characters proclaim love but don’t seem motivated by that emotion to do anything more than pout and cling.
What makes this more interesting is Bell can’t see Hestia as a romantic interest because to him she is first and foremost a goddess. This isn’t the random she’s a year older, she’s my sister, she’s interested in someone else block a lot of other protagonists might face. This is a genuine emotional hurdle Bell would have to overcome if anything was ever to come of this relationship in future volumes. Meanwhile, he does love Hestia fiercely. She is his goddess and his family and he acts in accordance with this motive. Kind of refreshing really.
Meanwhile, the object of Bell’s very immature affections, Aiz, is at the moment beyond his reach in his view. Again, this one is clearly established through the use of the level system and Bell and Aiz’s levels are worlds apart. Furthermore, they aren’t in the same familia which apparently also can lead to issues so Hestia and Eina both kind of discourage his pursuit of that relationship. Interestingly, though Aiz and Bell hear about each other fairly often they have no direct interactions outside of the opening sequence where Aiz saves Bell in the dungeon and he runs away.
Now, there is the issue of Bell’s protagonist plot armour. His unique ‘skill’ literally helps him get stronger just by willing himself to become stronger. It doesn’t happen instantly and it isn’t as though he doesn’t work, but his progress is ridiculously fast. Also, despite a couple of very dangerous situations, which are actually written with some good tension, ultimately Bell comes out fairly unscathed. He doesn’t even lose a finger or break a bone.
So while the situation in the moment might seem dangerous, logically as the reader you more or less know he’s going to be just fine. For some people, this factor is going to be the one that kills the story because while I was pretty invested in the fights and found them pretty exciting, I know some people find the knowledge that the main character will be okay a bit of a buzz kill.
For me though, this was a fun read. It had excitement, danger, dungeon exploration, the forging of unique and powerful weapons, great character relationships being established, and a lot of growth potential as there’s a lot going on in the world that might be expanded upon in later books. All and all, I’m really glad I decided to pick this one up and I’m looking forward to when I can get the second book.
This week I’d like to examine the nice protagonist making a distinction between a protagonist whose main descriptor is being nice to those that are simply self-insert protagonists so common in the vast majority of harem comedies. No, the nice protagonist has the defining trait of being nice, but still has additional personality traits (underneath being nice all the time). They also are usually so nice that it would actually be impossible to self-insert into them because literally no-one is actually that nice (okay, gross exaggeration but why not).
Just like overpowered or complete jerk protagonists, nice protagonists cop their fair share of criticism. They’re boring, they’re unrealistic, they’re just allowing themselves to be walked all over, and – probably the most fatal trait for a protagonist – they’re completely forgettable.
For instance: Bell from Is It Wrong To Try and Pick Up Girl’s in a Dungeon? is a nice protagonist. He’s also adventurous, impatient, ambitious, a little bit lecherous, and a lot insecure. So being nice isn’t his only personality trait. But when you talk to people about this show they discuss Hestia, the fight scenes, the weapons, occasionally Loki, but they don’t mention Bell. Or if they do, they call him the Main Character because half the time they don’t remember his name.
Bell definitely suffers from Nice Protagonist forgettability at times.
And it seems a bit harsh to not even remember Bell’s name. He has some incredible character development both in literal skills and in his focus and goals. He also gives us one of the most dramatic fight sequences I think I’ve ever watched and one where I genuinely cared if this nice character was actually going to make it through the fight. So much so in 2021 I gave this fight its very own article.
The common saying of nice guys finish last seems to apply here. Get anyone to list their favourite protagonists and the vast majority of them will not be nice guys. Instead we’ll see the bad-boy, the laid back and cunning hero, the shouting self-righteous types, as well as the hard-as-nails standard hero model. So why is it we don’t like nice protagonists?
And I already know people will argue, but we don’t dislike them. And that’s true to. That’s why they exist at all. Because they don’t cause people to dislike them. But, in the absence of a truly great story or supporting cast the nice protagonist will just slip off your radar without a second thought.
Which all of course raises the question of what is it about human nature that ‘nice’ is seen as such a dull descriptor of a person? I was watching a rom-com recently (not anime amazingly) where the girl had the choice of two guys and she was describing them to a friend. Mid-way through one description the friend made snorted and then said that she’d literally just fallen asleep. Why? Because the guy was nice. Apparently that’s a death sentence in a rom-com because at the end of the film the girl ended up with the other guy.
So, my question is: Who is your favourite ‘Nice’ protagonist?
Let’s give all the nice guys (and girls) a shout out.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
Fight scenes are everywhere in anime but some stick with the viewer long after the closing credits. Here’s my favourite and why.
There are a lot of action anime and fight scenes that reviewers seem to have paid attention to over the years. However one of my favourites never seems to get a mention. So in this post I want to look at exactly why Bell’s minotaur fight is an excellent anime moment.
While it might be argued that fight scenes are fairly prolific and most follow a fairly routine delivery method and so there is little variation other than the animation between one anime fight sequence and another, I find that for me there are a few key ingredients to making a fight sequence that I am both thrilled by while watching and it sticks with me long after the anime has finished airing.
For a fight scene to really stick the landing it does need to be technically proficient. Frantic cuts and messy effects all over the screen can’t hide lacklustre animation or characters who are going off model more often than not. However, there also needs to be a solid reason to care about the outcome of the fight and the character involved (and I don’t mean by pasting a last minute flashback in to try to suddenly elicit sympathy for an otherwise unpopular character right before they die).
Considering those two components, I’m drawn back again and again to season one of DanMachi (Is It Wrong To Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon) episode 8 which is appropriately titled ‘Argonaut’ and then depending on whether you view it on Crunchyroll or AnimeLab comes with the subtitles ‘wanting to be a hero’ (Crunchyroll) or ‘a hero’s aspiration’ (AnimeLab).
Incidentally if you haven’t watched episode 8 of DanMachi, I’m going to suggest that you go watch the episode first before reading the rest of this post because there will be spoilers for the fight below. That and it is just a really cool fight that kicks off around the 9 minute mark of the episode.
I’ve also discussed this fight previously as it topped my list of favourite fight sequences involving a blade of some sort. I get there are better sword fighters out there but this scene remains a personal favourite and I’m going to break down why this scene works so well for me.
So why does the scene work?
For those who have watched DanMachi, you will know that the minotaur is a recurring enemy that Bell has to face off against. Now this isn’t a floor boss or a world destroying threat of any kind. For high level adventurers, like Ais and most of the Loki Familia, the minotaurs are just a nuisance that they kill off only to protect weaker adventurers when they venture onto the higher levels of the dungeons.
For Bell, the Minotaur represents a major failure for him on his journey to become a hero. In the very first episode of DanMachi we see Bell running in terror from a Minotaur that had evaded the Loki Familia and entered the upper levels of the dungeons where newer and less experienced adventurers were learning their craft.
He’s quickly cornered and is about to die when he is rescued by Ais. There’s trauma in this situation caused by Bell nearly losing his life before he’s accomplished his goal of becoming a hero, there’s hero worship as he sees his ideal in Ais’ cool and effective response to the threat, and there’s also general humiliation of needing to be rescued – which is further compounded later in the episode when the Loki Familia are having drinks and one of them recounts the story of the young adventurer who was pretty much covered in minotaur blood after being rescued.
Setting the stage for Bell’s minotaur fight.
While episode 8 is not a season finale and this isn’t the big-boss that Bell ultimately comes up against, bringing back a minotaur (not the same one obviously) for him to face off against when he’s a little bit stronger and yet still very inexperienced brings up a whole range of emotions and this fight has meaning for the character and for the audience.
These emotional stakes kick the sequence off as we hear the first rumbling footsteps of the Minotaur approaching Bell and his supporter Lily. It is very clear that Bell hasn’t overcome his earlier trauma involving the Minotaur given after turning to face the looming threat he freezes. It is Lily who makes the first move, diving to push Bell out of the way of the Minotaur’s opening strike and getting injured in the process.
Even then, we clearly see Bell’s fear in the first phase of this fight. He’s striking out blindly using magic and nearly obscuring his enemy to his own detriment more than once. Bell takes an early hit and his light armour is smashed leaving Bell with pretty much just his speed and agility and he’s wearing himself out fast between the injury taken from the hit and his own lack of control in the face of fear. If not for his desire to protect Lily, it is quite possible the fight would have ended fairly quickly and with the Minotaur being victorious.
However, after Lily runs away (at Bell’s behest) we enter the second stage of the fight (keep in mind this battle wraps up in the one episode so we’re not going the bloated shounen route of three episodes to power up a single attack here).
The second stage very much has Bell calming himself. He draws Hestia’s knife as well, takes a more controlled stance and we see him using the skills he’s learned in his short time training with Ais. His movements are definitely more purposeful now but he’s still barely avoiding blows that will crush him if they land. This stage really emphasises the size and power difference between the two with Bell getting pushed back as he blocks, low angle shots looking up at the Minotaur as it strikes down toward Bell, and even a number of foot stamps that Bell struggles to avoid.
Still, the audience can see how much Bell has grown in the first half of the season. While he’s still outclassed and outmatched here, he’s using everything he has to stave off death and land even small strikes against his opponent. And more importantly, while he’s still afraid, he’s not wanting to run. He’s looking for an opportunity and he’s holding on until he can find it.
That said, the fight is realistic in that eventually Bell misses his timing and is cut and then thrown. He’s down and if he wasn’t a protagonist in an action anime he’d probably be dead. It’s at that moment that the Loki Familia make their appearance and Ais moves between Bell and the Minotaur, ready to take down the threat.
For Bell, this is the worst possible outcome. To be rescued once again. To realise his own weakness once again. It is humiliating and it strikes at his own aspiration and desire. He enters the dungeon because he wants to be a hero. Heroes don’t lie on the ground while their idol rescues them from death. So by the power of grit and determination (which is almost as powerful as the power of friendship when it comes to writing anime plots) Bell gets back on his feet.
This clear link back to the opening scene, the demonstration of character growth, the purposeful motivation of the character for continuing this fight (personal stakes rather than some nebulous world-saving goal that could as easily be accomplished by another) all work together to give this fight real emotional weight. The fact that each stage is well choreographed to show exactly Bell’s mental state just elevates the entire sequence to something that, for those invested in the series, becomes impossible to look away from.
Truly an excellent anime moment.
When you combine the smart narrative choices with solid visual work and direction, and toss in a beautifully thought out sound design, moving from the ominous footsteps, to the sword scraping, to the slow build-up until we get to Bell’s battle song essentially by the final stage of the fight as well as the ringing sounds of the blades, the breath and roar of the Minotaur and Bell’s own thoughts and movements, you get a sequence that really carries the viewer into the moment. And what a moment it is.
The final phase of this fight is one where the Loki Familia stand in for the audience, watching this rookie adventurer taking on a superior foe and actually getting the upper-hand. They are awe-struck and mesmerised even as they see the flaws in Bell’s assault, they respect the effort and that even as the fight progresses he’s finding new strength.
At the close of the battle, as Bell stands completely drained of magic and energy, there’s a real sense that something amazing has occurred and the audience cheers for Bell even as we too want to know what has changed with his status after that momentous feat.
Everything about this fight works for those invested in the series and even for those who go in without liking the character or much knowledge of the story, will definitely find that there’s a real thrill in watching this fight. That’s why even after so many other anime and so many anime fight sequences, I always remember DanMachi and Bell vs the Minotaur. This is one fight that deserves to be remembered and is a truly excellent anime moment.
Images in this article from:
Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon. Dir. Y Yamakawa. J.C. Staff. 2015
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime. Join the discussion in the comments. Karandi James
Bell’s reputation took a serious hit at the end of volume 10. The people of Orario saw him stand between adventurers and monsters and in the end they now see him as someone who puts his own needs above protecting them from monsters. However it isn’t just Bell who has been affected as his whole familia is now on the back-foot with everyone wanting to take their shot at the family that rose to fame so quickly.
It is a really interesting turning point in the series as prior to this Bell was looked down on for being small or inexperienced. Then he began his rise to fame and gained respect from so many people and other adventurers that while there was jealousy and some hostility, for the most part Bell has had a steady climb in status over the previous 10 books.
Volume 11 turns the tone of the series on its head. Seeing Bell despised is actually kind of hard, particularly when as the reader you know what bell was actually trying to do and you also know that even if he explained it very few would listen to him or take his side. And that’s the strength of this volume. Bell is in a position where he has to gain back some of the trust that has been lost or it is more or less the end for his familia, but at the same time he can’t turn his back on the xenos. This conundrum nearly paralyses him and makes any action seem more or less impossible. Harder still when even those in his familia are starting to wonder if the cost of helping the xenos was too high.
That said, Bell has drawn the attention of quite a number of gods through his meteoric rise and they aren’t happy to leave things as they stand either. The question is, will their meddling make things better or worse and will Bell be happy with the outcome?
While earlier books in this series were fun and exuberant as Bell launched into new adventures and took on new foes, volume 11 brings a much more serious tone to the entire story. It is no longer a simple matter of monsters bad, kill the monsters, and Bell as a character is forced to grow beyond the naive youth he’s represented previously.
The situation also strains a lot of the pre-existing relationships and forces characters to question the basis of those relationships and whether or not they can continue. Particularly strained is the relationship between Ais and Bell as Bell put himself directly in Loki familia’s way during the previous volume and the conflict between them isn’t over as Loki familia works to restore the status quo.
On the one hand, I kind of preferred the light and energetic tone in earlier volumes but on the other, I really enjoy watching Bell grow up. This volume gives him a lot of time to really question his goals and what he wants and I feel in terms of the greater narrative it does an excellent job even if it wasn’t quite as fun individually to read.
Despite the more contemplative tone, volume 11 does deliver a thrilling climatic battle on par with any that we’ve seen so far. Bell is going to get pushed to the limit physically and emotionally before this book is done and while this volume does bring a nice conclusion to the current arc, it also leaves you wanting the next book.
Clearly I enjoyed reading volume 11 of Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon and I’m looking forward to seeing Bell after this book to see what lasting impact these events have had.
Welcome to my OWLS post for February (full schedule of OWLS posts here). In February, we will be exploring love and romance. The word selected is “adore” because it has two main connotations: to be loved and respected or to feel worshipped. We will analyse characters that give us a feeling of admiration and explain why we love those characters. We will also be exploring different forms of love (familial, friendship, and even self-love) and how those types of love influence our lives.
Bell Adores His Goddess
It won’t be much of a surprise to regular readers to know that I adore DanMachi. I avoided watching the anime for so long because the full name, Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, seemed too stupid for words and like it would be either an idiotic comedic harem anime or something really sleazy. I’m really glad I finally watched it and I’m really glad that while waiting for the often promised but yet to be delivered season two that I got into reading the light novels, because the characters here are very worth it.
While there are definitely harem elements at play and we could throw the words love and adore around between a lot of the characters there are two specific relationships I want to look at in this post. The first is Bell and Aiz, which is kind of a catalyst for growth and one where the word admiration is probably far more fitting than adore. The second is Bell and Hestia, where the word adore is the absolute perfect fit.
Starting with Bell and Aiz, we kind of have to go right back to the very beginning of both the anime and the books. Bell is a rookie adventurer who enters the dungeon alone only this day he gets chased by a Minotaur that is on a floor far higher than it should be because it managed to get away from Aiz and her party on a lower floor. There is no way for Bell at his level to even try to fight it and ultimately he gets cornered and believes he is going to die. That’s where Aiz turns up, slays the beast, and in the process covers Bell in blood.
For Aiz, this is a moment of regret because she feels responsible for letting the Minotaur go in the first place, but also because she doesn’t get a chance to apologise to Bell before he scampers off (something that becomes something of a pattern). Bell on the other hand feels intensely embarrassed that he needed to be saved given he wants to be a hero, but more than that, he is inspired. He has found his goal. Someone so much stronger than him. The person he wants to catch up to no matter what.
While he declares that it is love, nothing in the story after this point really suggests romance between the pair. At times they have a mentor/student relationship, at others they have distance because they are in different familia and serve different gods, Bell continues to admire Aiz and aims to get stronger… okay, he also continues to be intensely embarrassed around her which might suggest he continues to hold a crush. Aiz also continues to be fairly observant of Bell and when he takes actions she doesn’t approve of she feels disappointed, so maybe there will be love between them.
However, as the title of the anime initially suggested, Bell sees Aiz as a goal rather than a person. Not so much that he wants to own her (which would be the sleazy version of the story that we fortunately didn’t get), but more as someone he wants to stand equal to. Their relationship remains defined by Bell’s admiration and almost hero worship of Aiz. It is hard then to see how they will move beyond this point to a romantic relationship, assuming of course that either one actually wants that development in the future.
But, Hestia, the goddess in Bell’s life very clearly wants a more romantic relationship with Bell. She flaunts herself in their home, she clings to him, she is openly jealous when other girls get near, and she drags him out on a date around the town. In the light novels, she continues to have him go with her at various times on ‘dates’ and she continues to be very protective of him and who gets near him (even more so than in the anime). However, she also trusts Bell to make the right decision and supports him even when some of his decisions will have consequences for the family (big consequences at times). Hestia very much loves Bell and wants him to see her the same way.
And there is the problem. Because Bell genuinely adores his goddess, but he can only see her as a goddess, not a woman and certainly not a romantic interest. More than anyone else, Bell would lay down his life to protect Hestia, would fight for her, would do anything to make her happy, but to him she is the goddess. She’s the centre of his family, the one who took him in when he was rejected elsewhere, and the one who gave him the blessing that allowed him to pursue his dream of becoming a hero.
Where Aiz and Bell would have a lot to overcome before they could become a genuinely romantic possibility, with Bell and Hestia it seems nearly impossible given the way Bell views Hestia. I genuinely love the two characters and their interactions, but I have to admit I feel a little sorry for Hestia as she tries to have Bell see her as a woman and not just a goddess (that seems a little like a downgrade but it would be an important step if anything were to develop between them).
It is the complexity of these relationships, and the relationships Bell forms with the rest of the members of his familia, that keep Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon a remarkably interesting story despite following more or less the usual tropes. I really hope that second anime season does eventuate because reading the books there is so much great stuff still coming and I’d love to watch it someday.
If you missed it, check out YumDeku’s OWLS post from yesterday and be sure to check out Dale’s post tomorrow. The full schedule for the month is here.
Volumes 9 and 10 are more or less one story so I’m reviewing them together. That means there will be spoilers for the end of volume 9 in this review.
Previous reviews for Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in A Dungeon can be found here.
Volumes 9 and 10 plunge us back into the dungeon at first but with a slight difference on what we have seen before. These volumes are actually looking at explaining a bit more about the odd nature of the dungeon and we meet some new and interesting inhabitants as well as coming across another slightly undesirable familiar.
Yes, Bell is back in the thick of things, rescuing a monster who kind of looks like a girl and can speak. Initially taking her from the dungeon to protect her from those hunting her, trouble brews on the surface and soon, with new allies, Bell is forced to return her below and with that they are plunged into yet more trouble. I’m not going to talk to much about what happens in specifics because I really feel any real details that I give you are just going to take away from the experience of reading this story.
For someone who has always wanted to be a hero, Bell is faced with some really tough decisions in these volumes and while you might feel his rescue the damsel in distress thing is well established, the difficulty in choosing to extend a helping hand to an inhabitant of the dungeon isn’t overlooked here. It is made the centre-piece of a fairly tragic series of events that forces Bell to turn his back on even Aiz, his ideal, in order to protect who he believes he needs to be (and it will be very interesting to see the ramifications of that in future volumes).
As such, the journey these two volumes take us on are a little more emotionally wrought than previous ones. The light hearted banter, the oddly placed fan-service, and even the over-the-top heroics of the previous volumes have kind of taken a back seat as we see the truly dirty reality where doing what is right is not an easy choice and what is right is something that is difficult to ascertain.
While Bell’s familia stand by him through the mess, much is lost and those that were becoming his friends now see him in a different light. Despite everything Bell accomplishes in these volumes, and he does accomplish a lot and overcomes some really huge challenges, the cost is almost heart-breaking.
That said, it isn’t as though these volumes just plunge us into a downer for the sake of it, and as we learn more about their gods and their plans we can already see that there is a light awaiting us in future stories. The question is, will things get worse before they get better?
I really do recommend these two volumes (though read them together because volume 9 will just kind of leave you wondering what all that set-up was for that didn’t quite deliver anything). There’s some great characters introduced, a large showing of the support cast, some truly amazing battles, and a villain that seems really worth taking down. Bell is at his absolute best here as he really is forced to step up and not go with the flow.
I really had fun with these and I’d love to know your thoughts on them if you’ve read them.
This volume felt like a breath of fresh air after volume 7 and there was plenty to enjoy about it. There’s an army marching on the city of Orario but let the bigger familias deal with that crisis. Inside Orario there are better stories to be told.
I mentioned that this volume felt like a breath of fresh air and I mean that in the most literal sense. Volume 7 felt like the fight dragged on far too long and the single minded focus on characters trying to catch Bell made the volume start to drag. Volume 8 couldn’t be more different essentially presenting a series of vignettes focusing on the support cast as they go about their lives in the city of Orario. Sure, Bell is ever present in each of the stories and at times plays pivotal roles, but this volume really works on fleshing out that support cast that kind of got sidelined over the last few books and also fleshing out the city just that little bit more.
The back drop for all of these stories that holds them together is the invasion of Rakia driven by the god Ares. This means that Freya and Loki’s familia are spending a lot of time out of the city and fighting off the invaders and we’re reminded of this throughout but it isn’t really the main point.
Instead, we break from the war to see what Hestia familia is up with an initial focus on Mikoto who is trying to buy a gift for her previous god (and the one she will return to after a year). It’s a cute and funny story that has very little weight and yet really helps consolidate Mikoto’s character and role in the family. And any story that involves a deity having a cake thrown at them is going to be kind of amusing.
Not outstaying its welcome, we transition to a story that looks at Lily (from Hestia familia) and Finn (leader of Loki familia). I will admit, this story kind of comes out of nowhere given we haven’t really got a sense of who Finn is previously and his sudden decision to propose marriage to Lily seems a little bit random, but at the same time this story does help to do some world building about the nature of the Prum’s which is an area that had previously more or less been ignored. It is also another chance to get Lily and Bell together and away from the rest of the familia which is something we haven’t seen really since Welf entered the picture so I really enjoyed this story.
Speaking of Welf, his story comes next and it is probably the most directly tied to the war going on outside the city (see the book didn’t forget its own set up). Turns out Welf left the Rakia kingdom and they kind of want him back given he can actual forge magical swords. There’s quite a story here and we learn more about Welf’s family and Rakia but all of that is overshadowed as we see more of Welf and his love for his former goddess, Hephaistos. It also comes with a what must be one of the most straight forward and probably embarrassing confession scenes ever and it is just delightful to read.
I’m not going to give any details about the next couple of stories because they certainly up the danger a bit more and end up being a bit more focused on the external threat but Eina, Syr, Hestia and Aiz all get a moment to shine as the story continues.
If I’m honest, I actually prefer this format of short stories told within the greater narrative over the drawn out confrontation offered in volume 7. Each story is fresh and energetic and none of them over stay their welcome. It is exactly what this series needed to re-energise things and I really had a lot of fun reading it.
After the fantastic conflict in volume 6 I had to wonder what they would do next. I’m not entirely sure I’m sold on this particular volume of Is it Wrong to Try to Pick UP Girls in a Dungeon, though I still had a lot of fun reading it.
If I’m totally honest I’m going to admit that Volume 7 is perhaps my least favourite of this series so far (admittedly when I’m writing this I’ve already read the next couple of volumes so I know the story picks up again). There are a couple of reasons why this particular volume didn’t really work for me but let’s start with what it is about.
Essentially we aren’t going dungeon crawling this time around, at least not much. Mostly this story is about Mikoto (now a member of Hestia familia) going into the pleasure quarter looking for someone she used to know and Bell and the others getting caught up in it because the pleasure quarter is run by the Ishtar Familia and apparently Ishtar is every bit as crazy for Bell (or at least crazy for getting into Freya’s business and messing with Bell seems like a good play at the time).
The end result is we spend a good chunk of the book with Bell being pursued through the Pleasure Quarter by a rampaging group of Amazons who want to violently have sex with him (he may or may not survive the process) and once he escapes he turns around and goes right back in because he wants to rescue the friend Mikoto was looking for in the first place.
Now we’ve watched Bell evading capture before. First when he was trying to keep Hestia safe when the monsters escaped Monsterphilia and he spent a great deal of time running and trying to hide. Then we saw a more complex chase with other adventurers from Apollo Familia in book 6. That chase sequence was great to read and felt really intense. This time it all just seems kind of lame. Sure the Amazons are incredibly high levelled adventurers and they are tough and determined to catch their prey, but I just couldn’t really bring myself to care mostly because it seemed unlikely that after six books Bell was actually going to be ravaged by an Amazon. I’d sooner believe a monster killing him off then him actually getting it on with a girl at this point.
Then there is the sheer length of this volume. Now, I have no issue with reading longer stories, however this one didn’t feel like it needed all those extra pages. What it felt like was bloat. As though instead of editing out all those moments that maybe sounded cool individually but added little, they all just got left in. To be honest, if this story had been told in perhaps half the length it probably would have been a much tighter and more enjoyable read.
So is there anything good about this volume?
Of course there is. We’re still getting to spend time with Bell and Hestia and the slowly growing Hestia Familia. These characters are awesome and while the focus was more on Bell and Mikoto than the other familia members, they were doing a fairly solid job.
I also like that Freya, Hermes and the other gods all seem that little bit more aggressive in their interference with Bell in this volume. There’s been a lot of string pulling from the shadows in prior volumes but this one brings Freya Familia out into the streets and on a rampage to wipe out the Ishtar Familia. It starts to lend weight to all those warnings about feuds between families that have been given throughout the previous books but with the exception of Hestia’s fight with Apollo we hadn’t really seen a lot of this.
While this isn’t the best book in the series by a long shot, it does do some essential world building, there’s some important character moments including the introduction of a new character who is going to stick around, and there’s a fairly decent climax. Despite its length, the writing style remains fairly familiar and this is an easy read that just kind of pushes you forward from page to page. Overall, it is fun to read so while there are plenty of minor issues I might take with the story I didn’t dislike it.
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