Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Astrea Record, Vol. 1

By Fujino Omori and Kakage. Released in Japan as “Astrea Record Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darou ka?” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jake Humphrey.

Before we begin, congratulations to Jake Humphrey, who joins the ranks of the translators on the world’s most cursed light novel series. I think this may actually push the total into double digits, if we count all the various spinoffs. I’m sure everything will be fine. Probably.

In retrospect, there were many things that were a mistake about this book. First, there’s the fact that it came out a mere six weeks after the 18th volume of the main series, which had already totally exhausted me. I understand that the three volumes of Astrea Record were released monthly in Japan, and I am so glad that’s not happening here. Secondly, I need to beg publishers: please stop forcing authors to write novels based on your spinoff game. First we got KonoSuba, and now Omori is being forced to toil away at this trilogy, which is probably why 19 in the main series isn’t scheduled here yet. But third, I knew going in that this series was going to be depressing. It stars everyone in Lyu’s old Familia, which means by definition everyone is going to end up dead in it except the goddess herself and Lyu. However, good news! This book is not a longer version of the canonical deaths we know about from the main series. That is the end of the good news.

This book takes place seven years before Bell Cranel arrives in a peaceful (ish) Orario. It’s far from peaceful here. The Evils are making everyone’s lives a living hell, and it’s all the various Families can do to keep the peace. This is, of course, in addition to going down and dungeon clearing, which the guild is also making them do. Fourteen-year-old Lyu, a rookie with Astrea Familia, is overly serious and quick to anger, but seems to be fitting in pretty well… that is, until a mysterious guy shows up and starts to ask her questions like “what is justice, really?”. Which, given Lyu is an emo teen, works like a charm in terms of throwing her off her game. That said, this book is not about Lyu. It’s about the series of bloody terrorist attacks that completely destroys the fragile city populace, and all of the adventurers trying to stop literally everyone from dying.

The goal of this book is to show off how much better things are in Bell’s time, and it achieves that admirable. It’s some of the most depressing prose I’ve read in a while. Lyu has a friend, the younger sister of Shakti, who is a bubbling beacon of hope and happiness, and all I could think was “wow, you are going to get horribly murdered”. And, yup, that’s what happens. The back half of this book is an absolute orgy of slaughter. Hell, Ottar – Ottar! – is nearly killed and beaten bloody, because we have two mysterious new bad guys in town, from the now defunct Zeus and Hera Familia. The warrior is the one who takes down Ottar, and he’s a sword guy. The mage takes out both Gareth and Riveria, and she has the mysterious name “Silent Witch”. (She’s not Monica Everett, sorry, crossover fans.) They’re both doing this for mysterious reasons that I think I can guess, but I’ll leave that for next time. At least they seem to be the only two doing this for reasons that aren’t “we love killing people”.

There’s two more books of this, yikes. I will try to read the second one, but if it’s just more “let’s kill anyone likable” for 250 more pages, I may bail. For hardcore Danmachi fans only.

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