Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, Vol. 12

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 Winifred Bird.

It stands to reason that over the course of a well-written series, you’d expect the characters to grow and change. That said, it’s rare we get such a direct look as we do here. This entire volume of DanMachi is about Bell and his familia’s growth over the course of the last eleven books, and it underlines several times how they’ve matured and are growing up, even if they may not be aware of it themselves. Sometimes the growth is mental, sometimes physical, and sometimes both, but these are not the same people that we met in the first book. It helps that this book is also a pure dungeon crawl, the first in a very long time, and that they face off against a very clever Irregular monster – not one of the Xenos that we’ve gotten to know in the last few books (and we meet another one here), just a monster who was smarter than his brethren, and then started to eat their cores, and now is smart *and* evil.

Bell and Lilly are on the cover, and it’s appropriate that this growth metaphor focuses the most on them. Bell’s has been easier to see in terms of battle prowess, but now we see how he’s matured as a person as well. His “mind has caught up with his body”, as Mikoto puts it, and this has made him a more capable adventurer. That said, he’s still Bell, much to Lilly’s relief, as she worried he was getting too far ahead of everyone else. As for Lilly, she’s learning more how to be a leader, being trained by Daphne here and also imagining a Finn in her head that she strives to be like. (The real Finn does not always match the Finn in Lilly’s head, and I wonder if she knows that his last-minute plan is basically “make myself lose control and go nuts”?) She’s also dealing with abandonment issues, both not wanting to be forsaken by the man she loves and also when she’s told to abandon the injured in her party and escape and seriously considers it. Her maturity is in realizing that’s the most sensible plan… but not doing it.

We meet another Xenos here, a mermaid who seems nice and sweet and has already fallen for Bell, and I suspect we’ll see her again in the future. (I am grateful to the author forgetting her farewell confession to Bell out of the way BEFORE Lilly and the rest arrive – it’s a heartwarming scene that did not need a jealous harem added to it.) We also see that Hestia’s group is now a D group, meaning they have to accept missions from the main office. This first mission was “conquer a new floor”, basically, and it’s implied they failed as they got derailed by this nightmare of a monster, though I’d argue the fact that they took it out should work in their favor. That said, it looks like the next volume may be a murder mystery more than a dungeon crawl, judging by that cliffhanger.

I’m in danger of sounding like a broken record, but DanMachi is simply very well written, and benefits well from being confined to a single volume for once. Any fan of fantasy light novels should have it at the front of their queue.

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