Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? On The Side: Sword Oratoria, Vol. 3

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.

The anime adaptation of this series has just ended as I type this, and from what I’ve gathered from various forums and Twitter feeds, was not a success among fans. In fact, that’s putting it mildly. Hate may not be too strong a word. This is a shame as I’m really enjoying the light novel, which continues to show off what Omori does best – writing combat scenes – while also giving development to Aiz and the rest of Loki’s crew. Yes, it also has Lefiya fretting about being useless, but that’s the sort of character she is. You knew she was going to end up doing something awesome by the end, which she did. There’s also a much stronger ongoing plot to this than to the main series, with the main antagonist of the previous book finally getting a name – Levis – and the creepy foetus thing they retrieved in the last book possibly setting itself up as the Big Bad.

The main DanMachi books have tended to show Aiz as an emotionally repressed, hard to read young woman. As such, it’s both a relief and a surprise to see how much of a complete loose cannon she is in these side stories. I feel that my old reviews where I noted Bell loved her but she didn’t quite feel the same are coming back to haunt me. She may not love Bell, but she’s clearly obsessed with him, falling into a purple funk when he keeps running away from her (even achieving Level 6 doesn’t snap her out of it all the way), and going off to the dungeon on her own because, well, that’s how she clears her head. Sadly, she meets up with Hermes Familia, who got hired/bribed/blackmailed into going to the 24th Floor to see what’s wrong with the dungeon there. The answer is that an evil conspiracy has taken it over, and they’ve got lots more of the giant plant monstrosities from last time, along with a group of religious terrorists to help out/be cannon fodder.

As I indicated above, the main reason to read these books is for the author’s fight scenes, which are a treat – and brutal. No named characters die in this one, but it’s a close thing, and there’s an awful lot of horrible wounds taken and crushing despair. (Actually, I’d have liked to see the deaths that do get mentioned – at the end, we’re told some of Hermes Familia were killed, but it’s not the ones we know, and it seems to be there as the author realizes that there needed to be SOME casualties.) Aiz is actually kept out of the main fight till the very end, which works well, and shows off Bete (still an asshole most of the time, honestly) and Lefiya (the Shinji Ikari of DanMachi) to great effect. There’s also a nice subplot of an elf in Dionysus’ Familia, Filvis, and her (undeserved) reputation as a jinx.

So I’m not quite sure what the anime got wrong, but the novel itself is a strong addition to the DanMachi series, and recommended for all fans of same.

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon?, Vol. 8

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.

I knew going in that this was going to be a short-story collection, but it turns out that’s not quite true. What it is is more “A day in the life” – there’s still an overarching plot going on, and stories do affect other stories, but each of the six main stories is also self-contained and stars a specific member of Hestia Familia. Omori said that he wanted to write stories about love in this volume, which may make some readers cringe, and rightly so. DanMachi works best when the harem romance is used as a spice, in my opinion, and this is definitely a heaping helping of main course romance. That said, I have an easy way to tell whether you’ll enjoy a story or not – the longer the story, the better it is.

Unfortunately, that means the book begins with its worst story. I’ve never been a fan of “we’re not blood related so it’s not really incest” stories, and so Mikoto’s crush on her adoptive God father Takemikazuchi merely aggravated me, especially as it’s surrounded by a host of other cliches. I suspect the author meant it to be the funny one of the group. Eina’s story involved Bell protecting her from a stalker, but was probably the most boring of the stories, much like its female lead (sorry, Eina). Syr’s story was all right, but it teased that it was going to finally show off how she was related to Freya – fan rumor suggested she IS Freya, but that seems unlikely – but left things a bit too vague to be satisfying.

The longer stories fare much better. Lilly and Hestia are the only characters who get to definitively talk about their love for Bell openly in the series, and we see that love being put to the test on Lilly’s end, as not only has the rest of the group been told about Bell’s special skills (and thus that his stats are literally driven by his love of Ais), but she’s feeling useless in the dungeon as well, and ends up with a huge case of self-hatred (which honestly is always sort of boiling beneath the surface of Lilly). Help comes in the form of Finn, who is not only the only other hobbit – sorry, prum – in the book, but also far more savvy about romance (well, except for the advances of the amazon with the crush on him). As for Welf, his is the least romantic story in the book, though we see his respect for Hephaistos borders on love, and she also loves seeing his growth. Welf actually drives the main plot, as his magic sword skills are now well known – and people are trying to use them for evil.

The final story stars Hestia, Bell and Ais, and I enjoyed it a great deal as well, though a brief caveat that people who dislike jealous, petty Hestia will probably dislike it a bit more. That said, Bell finally seems to be catching a clue about how Hestia feels about him, though it’s not clear whether he’ll actually do anything about that. (Finn mentions harems to him at one point, but I honestly don’t think this is going to be that kind of series.) As for Ais, she’s showing a lot more emotion in her own stoic way than she ever has before, and we see her as furious as she ever gets when seeing how a reclusive village worships an ancient dragon. I suspect this may be related to backstory we’ll get more of in Sword Oratoria.

So in the end a bit of a mixed bag, but still well worth reading for fans of the series, especially if you like Lilly, Welf, or Hestia. There’s a bit of a tease for the next book at the end, and I sense we’re about to get a more serious arc next. Perhaps with a more normal focus on action rather than romance?

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.