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.
Well, I suppose I asked for it. In the last few reviews of this series I kept mentioning how the mechanics of the series meant that Hestia, the supposed female lead, kept getting less screen time than everyone else. Now we have a book where she actually comes along on a dungeon crawl in order to rescue Bell, and it’s sadly fairly cliched. She can’t use godly powers in there, so she’s useless in the fighting. She spends much of the time post-rescue jealous of the fact that every girl in the entire series has fallen in love with Bell (though honestly, I think what Aiz is feeling is deep jealousy of Bell’s progress, but that doesn’t matter to Hestia), *and* she gets kidnapped and has to be rescued.
The others fare better. Bell too needs to be rescued, but that’s not really his fault, and he, Welf and Lilly show off their excellent teamwork here. (Lilly also shows a lot of jealousy, but she’s more cynical and sarcastic about it, and thus appeals more to Western readers.) Bell’s reputation is starting to precede him, and much of this volume is devoted to the fact that if you are an overpowered character in what is for all intents and purposes an RPG, you’re going to have players assuming you’re cheating, or getting help, or just plain old “who does he think he is?”. And so we see the return of some old bullies from Book 2, who decide to teach Bell a lesson – and by that I mean beat the crap out of him. The trouble is, Bell is just too good for that to work.
The big debut this volume is Hermes, who’s the standard trickster god type, also out to teach Bell a lesson: stop being so naive and realize that some humans are bad people. This lesson does not work, because Bell is Bell, and this isn’t Black Bullet. Hermes is amusing, and I love the fact that everyone just accepts that he’s something of an asshole – indeed, when we get the standard “whoops, Bell is peeking on the girls at the hot spring, lol” scene, literally everyone there knows this isn’t something Bell would do, and blame Hermes instead. I was ecstatic to see that. He also lets the cat out of the bag about Bell’s ancestry, but honestly I think everyone had guessed that by now anyway.
For those who enjoy battles, the one in the last third of the book is very epic, with a huge cast of characters all teaming up to take out a nightmarish monster. Lyu, one of the waitresses from our favorite pub, gets a tragic backstory and a serious chance to show off. In fact, I’d argue the series has more women kicking ass than men by a large margin – which is partly for the service, but it’s also simply nice to see. In the ‘odd’ department, we meet one of the Japanese gods and his all-Japanese human team, who do well but feel out of place in this land of Greek fantasy archetypes. On the whole, though, it’s another strong volume, though I hope Hestia can get over her jealousy soon. (Yes, I know.) Also, we’ve now caught up with the anime, so the next book should be new to viewers.