Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, Vol. 18

By Fujino Omori and Suzuhito Yasuda. Released in Japan as “Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darou ka?” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Dale DeLucia.

There’s no getting around it, this book is punishingly long. Not just because it’s 500 pages, though that is absolutely the case. It’s because it operates on the usual way that Omori writes giant action set pieces, which is to say “always darkest just before the dawn”, where the first part is the darkness, and the second part is the dawn. And because this is about 500 pages, it means we get about 175 pages of “darkest” in this book, which is a whole lot of time spent watching every likable character in the entire series getting the shit beaten out of them by Freya Familia. After a while I was tempted to do a search of the digital text I was reading for “Lyu”, because, not to spoil too much, but she is noticeably absent from the first half of this book. Which… is for the best, as apparently there was a whole Lyu side-story in this book originally, but it would have made it 650 pages, so the publisher said no.

It’s a battle royale between Freya Familiar and Hestia Familia. Unfortunately, Loki’s team has been forbidden from participating, and Ais has been forbidden from even SEEING Bell till this is over. As a result, once again, no one wants to team up with Hestia except her immediate friends and allies, even though the entire city is furious at Freya Familia for the events of the previous book but none of them are furious enough to be part of what is obviously a losing battle. The guild has basically said “this will end with Freya taking Bell, deal with it”. The battle itself is “hide and seek”, where all the involved Gods are wearing flowers and hiding, and the opposing team has to find them and remove the flowers. Of course, Freya Familia being who they are, they figure out a way to turn it into “beat the shit out of everyone” anyway.

Of course, the payoff is worth it. There are so many “punch the air triumphantly” moments in the back half of the book it’s impossible to list them all, with my favorite probably being the complete participation of the waitress staff at Fertility. We’ve been slowly getting everyone’s backstory over the last few books, so it’s wonderful to see it pay off, but the main reason that it works is because of Freya. Or rather, Syr. The issue here is not so much dissociative identity disorder but rather a milder version of what Sayo did in Umineko, and the resolution is that Freya has to accept that she and Syr are in fact both part of the same individual. No one wants to save Freya, frankly, except the misguided ones in her family. But there’s a TON of people who want to save Syr. The best moment in the book is the last scene, featuring a callback I had honestly forgotten about (I mean, it’s been 17 months since the last book) and a giant ball of heartwarming.

The idea that this is going to have a school arc fills me with dread, but at least it should be shorter. Till then, we’re done with this epic arc, and Freya is gone. Sort of. In a good way.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, Vol. 17

By Fujino Omori and Suzuhito Yasuda. Released in Japan as “Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darou ka?” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Dale DeLucia.

The term ‘gaslighting’ has gotten so overused lately that I hesitate these days to mention it in a review. But, I mean, the definition of gaslighting is ‘manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity’, and that’s exactly what’s happening for most of this 17th volume of DanMachi, so… there we are. I expected this volume to be really dark, and indeed it was, with the first half of the book in particular being nothing but punches to the gut over and over again. But that’s something this author specializes in, and for once we don’t have to worry about the turnaround and hope spots coming in the next volume. No, this is not the end of the arc, but at least this book is allowed to come to a definite emotional conclusion, as Freya plays her last desperate card and ends up losing. Now it’s just a question of what’s going to happen to her… assuming that her Familia don’t just murder everyone.

After Syr is rejected by Bell at the end of the last book, Freya finally snaps. Hestia’s family is taken out in approximately two seconds, and Freya basically tells Hestia “give me Bell”. Hestia refuses, and Hermes reminds Freya of a rule that shows off to the reader the ludicrous timescale of this entire series. As a result, Freya decides to go all out and brainwash ALL OF ORARIO, including the Gods, into thinking Bell has always been with Freya Familia. The exceptions to this are a) Freya herself, b) Bell, who rapidly loses his mind when everyone seems to recognize him as someone else, c) Hestia, who fired off all her divine power at once to avoid this, and d) Asfi and Lyu, who were able to escape the city in time. Now Hestia has to figure out a way to stop this before bell finally breaks and accepts that he’s under a memory “curse”.

I joked on Twitter that Books 1-10 supposedly starred Hestia, but really starred Aiz, and that Books 11-20 were the same but with Lyu. Hestia has been Bell’s goddess, but as a character she’s always played a supporting role in the series, and sometimes barely shows up. Thus it’s nice to see her actually managing to save the day, and her entrance at the end is appropriately awesome. That said, once again the thing that saved Bell from cracking and giving in is not Hestia, or any of the other women in love with him, but Aiz. All of the women with strong attachments to Bell are less affected by Freya’s mind control (and bravo to Eina, who gets a great scene of defiance before she’s beaten down by EVEN MORE MIND CONTROL), but it’s seeing that Aiz is able to remember a different past with Bell, one where she trained him, that gives him hope and strength. All the other female leads are still chasing after her.

And so we’re ready for another War Game, with Freya Familiia vs… well, possibly everyone else, though I suspect the rules will winnow down the opposing team a bit. Still it, should be great fun to read whenever it comes out. It’s still not out in Japan. But this was an excellent psychological torture volume with a pump your fist ending.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, Vol. 16

By Fujino Omori and Suzuhito Yasuda. Released in Japan as “Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darou ka?” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Dale DeLucia.

Look, I know the spoiler. You know the spoiler. Most readers following this series have long since figured out the spoiler, if only as they googled the name and were redirected in a spoilery way. But yeah, this review is gonna talk about Syr, so if you say to yourself “oh, the shy but also sly waitress who likes Bell!”, I’d advise not reading this till you’ve read the book. We’ve seen Syr in action in one of the spinoff books, where she and Lyu go to a casino and she absolutely destroys a group of gamblers. But we’ve never quite seen Syr like this. This is Syr’s Last Stand. In the last volume we had a festival of remembrance, and in this one, hot on its heels, we have a festival of harvest. It’s meant to be a happy, joyous occasion, and is very popular with couples. As such, when Syr asks Bell out on a date, all hell breaks loose.

Admittedly it’s hard to pretend you’re avoiding a spoiler when the cover also heavily references the spoiler. So yeah, Syr is Freya. We all had guessed this by now, especially if we knew any mythology, and the derivation of the name Syr. That said, there’s another twist to it (hinted at in the Freya spinoff that came out last year) that makes things more interesting. For a good 3/4 of this book, however, this is really a cute romcom – something the author admits they were going for. Syr is, for obvious reasons, protected by the Freya Familia, and if she’s going to be dating Bell Cranel, then by God, she will be dating the BEST Bell Cranel, leading to a hilarious 5-day training from hell trying to teach Bell how to be a sexy boyfriend. (Poor Cassandra.) At the same time, Hestia is flipping out, and she and Aiz team up to follow Bell… as do Lyu and the rest of Syr’s co-workers. There’s funny moments, there’s sweet moments, there’s touching moments.

…and then it all goes to hell. Another slight spoiler, but the end of this book absolutely sets the table for the next arc, which I suspect is going to be “Freya Familia tries to kill all of Hestia Familia over and over again”. It has nothing to do with Bell figuring out Syr is Freya – he doesn’t. It’s simply that Syr left all her emotions and love on the table, begged Bell to accept her, and he CAN’T. He loves Aiz. (This is not stated explicitly with her name, but, um, see the previous 15 books). And it’s devastating and tragic until the last five pages or so, when you realize that oh shit, no, it’s going to be “fuck it, burn it all down” for Freya as she decides to have Bell Cranel By Any Means Necessary. It’s a stunning ending, and made me appreciate the comedy in this book all the more – I doubt we’ll see it in 17.

As with the wait between 15 and 16, 17 is not yet on Yen On’s schedule. Still, I hear 17 isn’t the end of the story arc either, so if you want to wait to binge, I’d advise against it. This works well as a stand-alone showing us what happens when someone who can get anyone she wants falls hard for the boy who won’t sleep with her because it would be wrong.