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.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, Vol. 15

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 Paul Starr.

This volume is similar to Volume 8, in that it is essentially a short story collection with wraparounds. The stories are all (almost) on a basic premise, which is “let’s lay out the backstories of how everyone arrived in Orario and how their lives have improved 8000% now that they have family and friends”. As such, there is an air of melancholy to this book, as while we do admire how far everyone has come, we’re seeing a depressed Bell, a rejected Hestia, an abused Lilly, a disillusioned Eina, a frustrated and angry Welf, a bitter Lyu, and… well, we’ve mostly gone into Mikoto and Haruhime’s stories already, so theirs is the exception to the rule. And then there’s Aiz, who doesn’t show up till the end, but who provides the perfect capper to the book, even if it leaves you with an ominous feeling. After several volumes in a row that are just dungeon fights, this one also seems happy to give everyone a chance to rest.

Bell and Hestia are on the cover, and they get the first flashbacks, as they (independently) recall how they arrived in the city. Their stories are downbeat, but end on a high note as they meet each other. There’s a later mirror of them with Lyu’s story, which features similar beats – she really needs to join a Familia, but her preconceptions and prickly nature are driving everyone away. Lilly’s story was a high point – showing off how wretched her life has been from the moment of her birth (sorry, Soma, giving Lilly potato puffs once does not make me forgive you) while contrasting it with the glee and happiness she feels as Hestia tells her that she’s gone up to Level 2. That said, when it comes to her past, she’d still prefer to deal with it indirectly rather than confront it head on. Which is her own choice, of course.

Welf’s story is fairly predictable, and Haruhime and Mikoto’s suffers from being the ‘light’ story in the book (though it is nice to see Haruhime slowly try to get herself out of “clumsy foxgirl” status – the maid stuff really doesn’t help). The epilogue, though, is the true best part of the book. It features the one day a year when the city mourns all its fallen, something that has to be explained to Bell (who, we are reminded, has not even been there a year yet). Seeing the funeral elegy being sung by everyone – even those such as Freya – was hauntingtly beautiful. That said, Bell and Aiz are not headed down the same path, and this epilogue serves to underscore that. Aiz is not here to be anyone’s hero. And, while Sword Oratoria readers already have a good inkling of her past secrets, here Bell finally connects the dots, and is stunned.

Unfortunately, the 16th volume only came out in Japan two months ago, so we may have another long wait. And, given the cover to 16 has Syr and Freya on it, Aiz may not even be the focus. Still, for a collection that was written as “take the short stories from the anime releases bonus DVDs and create wraparound material”, this is surprisingly solid.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Familia Chronicle: Episode Freya

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

For the most part, along the course of the main DanMachi series, the Freya family has tended to function as Not-Quite-Villains. Particularly Freya, who has her sights set on Bell and making him hers. They’re not out and out evil… trust me, we know who the evil Familias are in this series. Indeed, we get another one in this spinoff. But they’re meant to be aloof and unlikable, the ones at the top looking down on everyone else, and the ones who fight each other constantly just for their goddess’s favor. As such, Episode Freya, which has her leave Orario and go out into the desert looking for her “Odr”, which seems to be used in the same way that we might use “soulmate”, only the implication is that this would not be an equal relationship. While out there, she finds a slave who’s really a royal, and gets inveigled in a massive war. Which, if nothing else, keeps her from being bored.

As promised, we see a better side of Freya here. She’s not exactly a nice person… indeed, the author takes pains to show that she really is exactly who you think she is. But it becomes very apparent in this book why she commands the strongest fighters in Orario, and it’s not that she’s “charmed” them with her goddess powers at all. Indeed, we see her essentially seducing the young prince, Ali (who is really a princess pretending to be a man, because male succession only, etc.) over the course of the book, and at the end Ali is genuinely torn about whether to stay and rule her country or just head off with Freya. Freya, though, makes that decision – Ali was attractive to her precisely because of the liminal space of “I am trying to gain back my kingdom and my people” – an Ali who followed Freya would not be attractive to her. (She does get a night in bed with the goddess, though – though it’s all offscreen, this book has far more sex than the other books.)

The book starts off light – Freya freeing over a hundred slaves because their despair makes the town less sparking is very her, and the scenes with her being the boke to Ali’s tsukkomi were hilarious. Sadly, there’s also a lot of tragedy here as well – the body count is high, both good guys and bad, and the carnage of war is very much on display. There are also two other stories in the book – the first one gives us glimpses of Ottar’s past, and how he got to be the Level 7 powerhouse he is, as well as showing us Mia and Ahnya from the pub back when they were in the Freya familia. There’s also short backstories for the rest of the family, but the biggest one may be the last… and I suspect it spoils Vol. 15, which is out next month in English but came out first in Japan. Let’s just say the fans’ first theories may have been right after all.

Very well done, and you have a much better sense of who Freya is now, though I expect when we’re back in the main series she’ll go back to being an antagonist of sorts. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another two and a half years for the next Episode.