By Fujino Omori and Suzuhito Yasuda. Released in Japan as “Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darou ka?” by Softbank Creative. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Gaippe.
Writing books can be difficult. In addition to actually making sure that you have a decent plot, characterization, action scenes, etcetera, there’s always so much that can go wrong when your target audience is reading it. Maybe they don’t like a new character you introduced to be loved, or perhaps that scene you thought was really romantic is seen as a bit creepy when talked about by others on the internet. There is also page creep, a little-known malady that affects many long series, in which each successive book seems to get longer and longer, till you suddenly realize that you don’t so much have a book as you have a tome. That’s the case with the latest DanMachi, which is so long that you could fit three Kagerou Daze novels inside it. That said, it doesn’t feel all that padded or overdone. Sadly, it does have two major issues.
But first let’s talk about what did work. The new volume manages to build on the events of the last one while also undercutting it, as for a moment it looks like everyone wants to join the Hestia Family… till they hear about Hestia’s huge debt for the knife she bought for Bell, and all that just vanishes. Bell’s strength is less easy to hide, and things get even more difficult when Ishtar, the goddess in charge of the city’s prostitutes, discovers what Bell’s secret really is – she sees the stats on his back. Ishtar is a good villain, suffering from an obvious case of second best syndrome and overcompensating because of it. She’s second best here as well, as Freya simply wipes the floor with her. In fact, this book is packed with fights and chase scenes, and they’re all done quite well, and are what make the book so long. Mikoto finally gets a chance to shine, and she’s awesome, even if she reminds me a bit too much of Kyuubei from Gintama. And we also meet Haruhime, the newest addition to the cast, with her tragic past, terrible secret, amazing power, and self-hatred that’s more powerful than all of those.
I have two issues with this book, one small, one large. The first is more “I hate this cliche” than anything else: Ishtar’s prostitutes are all tall, strong, gorgeous Amazon warriors… except the strongest of them, who is a frog-faced crone who goes on about her beauty while making everyone around her shudder. Phyrne is a giant pile of “ugly = evil”, and that’s one stereotype I’d love to see end. The other is far more vexing. This novel revolves in many ways about prostitutes and virginity. Bell is, of course, a pure, virgin hero, and this purity is so blinding that he can even resist the charms of a goddess – in fact, it’s part of his basic nature. (This of course only makes them want him all the more.) And Haruhime tells Bell that she’s was bought and forced to work as a prostitute, and is therefore not worth saving. Bell rejects this, saying that even if she *is* a prostitute, she still deserves to be rescued as much as anyone. I liked this. It’s possibly the major theme of the book. So then WHY would you have the reader be told at the last minute “Oh, she was such a bad prostitute that she always fainted, so is still a virgin?” Why would you undercut Bell’s entire point? It is a really, really terrible moment.
But apart from those two things, this is a solid entry in the franchise. I believe that the next volume is short stories, so we may have to wait a bit to see what the fallout from this book is. Worth a pickup, but you may grind your teeth towards the end.