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.
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IS IT WRONG TO PICK UP GIRLS IN A DUNGEON?
- The Pride of the Protagonist
- Accepting Being Rebuilt
- What’s Important Is What You Do After The Miracle
- One Foot in Front of the Other
- The Small Words That Make a Difference
- The Compliance Trap Within Soul Society
- Bell Adores His Goddess
- Finding Happiness In and Out Of Your Comfort Zone