Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? On The Side: Sword Oratoria, Vol. 2

By Fujino Omori and Suzuhito Yasuda. Released in Japan as “Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darou ka? Gaiden – Sword Oratoria” by Softbank Creative. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Gaippe.

After a first volume that was good but a bit too much side story by the numbers, the second volume of Aiz’s book series ups the ante, and really shows us how similar and yet totally different Aiz and Bell both are. This is less tied into the main series than the first book was – we can tell it’s at the same time as Book 2 due to Aiz giving Bell a lap pillow (at the suggestion of her companion) when they find him collapsed. And that’s all for the best, as we begin to develop the rest of Loki’s badass crew, including Loki herself, who is allowed to become a bit of a detective as she tries to track down who’s responsible for the plant monsters we saw in the prior book. That said, the core of this book is all Aiz, as she finally finds someone she can’t defeat, and it nearly breaks her.

Frustratingly, at last for the reader, we never get a name for this mystery assailant, who is clearly set up to be an ongoing antagonist. She’s definitely in charge of the plant monsters, though, and is strong enough to take out Aiz, though to be fair she’s already injured when they fight. Their main battle happens barely halfway through the book, though, so it’s not the point. The point is not just that Aiz lost but that Aiz lost to someone who knows the name of her mother, Aria. Aiz’s past is a mystery to the reader, though we know she’s been dungeon crawling since she was seven. Here we see a flashback to happy family times before that, and can sense there’s a tragedy here we haven’t quite heard about. More to the point, that trauma combined with the loss drives Aiz to make a suicidal charge on one of the lower floor bosses, which she insists on taking out all by herself. It’s an absolutely brutal sequence, and it’s also fascinating to see Aiz actually struggle given how perfect she’s seen to be in the main series.

As for the rest of the cast, they all get their cool moments. Lefiya still has a tendency to need rescuing, but is less self-deprecating here, and helps out Aiz more than once. (She’s also still very gay for Aiz, something I doubt will ever go anywhere but I also suspect will continue as the books go on.) They have their own murder mystery to solve, but unlike Loki’s the murder is not that mysterious, just gruesome, and the culprit shows herself almost immediately. There’s also some nice little world building and ties to prior books – Hermes’ follower who pops up here as an incidental part of the murder investigation reveals that Hermes is having her hide her higher status, something that doesn’t surprise me at all knowing him, and we meet Ouranos, the God who rules the city, and he’s one mysterious character.

Honestly, not much else to say beyond this is a really good, enjoyable book from one of my favorite light novel authors. Also, lots and lots of cool fights. Fans of the series have to pick it up. It does have a typo in regards to Lefiya’s level at the very end (she’s a 3, not a 5), but I’m ignoring that because the book was so much fun.

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon?, Vol. 7

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.

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? On The Side: Sword Oratoria, Vol. 1

By Fujino Omori and Suzuhito Yasuda. Released in Japan as “Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darou ka? Gaiden – Sword Oratoria” by Softbank Creative. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Gaippe.

First of all, boy is that title unwieldy. It’s certainly an accurate translation of the Japanese, though ‘Side Story’ might be more accurate. It’s a way to let the reader know this is not part of the main series dealing with adventurer Bell Cranel and his goddess Hestia. Instead, this series will focus on Bell’s idol and inspiration, Aiz Wallenstein, and the adventures of her Familia under Loki. Aiz has been something of a cipher throughout the series, so it’s great to see her get more focus, even if she gets a bit less development than I expected.

danmachiss1

Most of that is simply due to the function of her personality – Aiz is not stoic, as she’s seemed in some of the main series novels, but she is very emotionally repressed. We get a bit of her backstory here, though it’s seen in a dream, so is very vague, and she admits to herself that one reason she takes such an interest in Bell (this novel takes place at the same time as the events in Book 1 of the main series) is that he reminds her of the way she was as a little girl. We also get some good examples of how she fights alongside her team in a much lower level than Bell has ever been to, and to no one’s surprise, she is miles above everyone else – even her own badass partners.

The other girl on the cover is Lefiya, a Level 3 elf who fills the role of the newbie in this book. Admittedly, being Level 3, she’s miles above where Bell and his companions are in the main series. However, when you’re a Level 3 surrounded by Level 5s, you tend to feel useless, especially when you only do magic and are easily distracted. As you’d expect, she gets a few failures at the start of the book, and a big success right at the end – she has a bit of a rulebreaking power, and isn’t afraid to use it to save her friends. She’s also possibly gay, though as ever in Japanese media, the line between lesbian and just akogare is deliberately obfuscated – honestly, I suspect it’s the latter.

As I noted earlier, the book takes place at the same time as the first in the main series, and gives us some extra insights – Bete, the drunken lout who insulted Bell in the first volume, showed that he was VERY drunk when he did this, and feels horrible about it. He is a jerk, but not THAT much of a jerk. And Loki and Freya have some very interesting conversations which read better now that we’ve seen future volumes, and show off just how capricious these gods are. And just as Freya is sort of kind of the main antagonist in the series to date, the side story gets Dionysus, who I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing more machinations from in the future, as he sets a dangerous monster on the Loki team and almost kills everyone there.

This is not quite as good as the main series, as you can sort of hear the author working a bit too hard to connect the dots to fit this book in seamlessly with the main series. But it’s still a lot of fun, and Danmachi fans will absolutely enjoy it. I’m hoping we continue to learn more about Aiz and Loki Familia as we go along.