Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? Season One [Anime Review]

Title: Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? Season One
Anime Studio: J.C. Staff
Genre: Fantasy / Harem Comedy

Based off of a light novel of the same name written by Fujino Omori and illustrated by Suzuhito Yasuda, Is It Wrong to Try and Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is set in the world of Orario, where adventurers band together and look for treasures in an underground labyrinth known as Dungeon. However, for Bell Cranel, fame and riches are secondary to what he wants to find the most: girls. He soon finds out though, that anything can happen in Dungeon, and winds up being the damsel in distress instead!

Is It Wrong to Try and Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, AKA DanMachi, is a series that I’ve sort of avoided. The title gave away that it’s a harem series, which can be a hard sell for me. When I then read that a character was nicknamed ‘Loli Big-Boobs’, that was enough to lose me. I began to reconsider this back when I reviewed the spin-off, Sword Oratoria. While it didn’t blow me away, it was enjoyable enough to keep me entertained. Then, in more recent times, I read Raistlin’s review of season one, and that gave me a bit more of a nudge. Finally, when I was sent a copy of season two to review, I figured I should probably finally get around to season one, especially as it’s currently on Netflix in the UK.

Which brings me to the review. Honestly, I was very pleasantly surprised. I found Bell to be a very likeable lead; naïve and seemingly far too kind-hearted for his chosen profession, he managed to avoid being a typically dull harem lead through sheer niceness and drive. If anything, he made me want to see him succeed.

The Goddess Hestia, the aforementioned charactered with the off-putting nickname, was actually very likeable too. She was nowhere near as childlike in personality as I expected, and there was a definite sweetness to how much she cares for Bell. Yes, she can be clingy, but she really does put herself out for him. There’s clear chemistry between the two, and it’s really well played out on screen. It’s really quite heart-warming.

Our other main character, Ais Wallenstein, is as much of a badass as she is in Sword Oratoria, which was nice to see. While she absolutely had a presence when she was on screen, I must admit, despite Bell’s infatuation with her, their relationship did feel secondary to me when compared to Bell and Hestia’s. Meanwhile, the supporting cast members are fine in the chunks we get to see them. They occupy that strange middle ground where they stand out in their key moments but otherwise felt wholly unobtrusive in the story for me, almost disappearing into the background. It’s not necessarily a bad trait, but I must admit, I wanted to see a little more of characters like Loki, Bete Loga, and so on.

On the story front, this was fun. I liked the subversion of the male hero becoming the damsel in distress, largely because it became such a strong source of inspiration for Bell. It felt important to the plot rather than being a role flip for the sake of it. I also enjoyed the combination of fantasy and realism in that the characters had RPG-like stats and skills, but still needed to actually learn to fight. They had the gaming aspects, but they still felt less-than-superhuman because they had to work for it.

In a way, the exception to this was Bell himself. His newfound ability allowed him to level up far quicker than those who were there for longer. I’m mixed on that as it allowed him to grow in power far quicker than I’d like, but I will admit that the requirement to learn to fight at least offered some balance to it.

Interestingly, though listed as a harem comedy, this felt slightly wrong to me. Yes, there were harem elements, but these weren’t at the forefront, leaving that aspect feeling more like part of the background. In that respect, the title of the show is perhaps a little misleading. And as far as the comedy goes, I don’t think it ever made me laugh out loud, but at the same time, nothing felt overly bad about it. Of course, we had some fan service too. Interestingly, there also wasn’t as much of this as I expected. I think I had it in my head that this would be leaning more towards being an ecchi series than it actually is. It’s there, certainly, but it’s not overwhelming.

From an aesthetic standpoint, this was fine. J.C. Staff can usually be relied upon when it comes to some nice visuals (the notable exception being Dai Shogun: Great Revolution), and this is no different. I would say it’s a cut below the likes of Flying Witch and Amanchu!/Amanchu! Advance for sheer prettiness, but everything looks the part and characters move well. The soundtrack is fine as well, if not stand out, and the voice cast does a fine job.

So, where do I fall on this overall? DanMachi’s heart absolutely lies in Bell and Hestia’s relationship, but there’s plenty more to like too. It’s a fun series that stands up well to binge-watching and is easy to get into. I give this a solid 4 out of 5.

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