Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? On The Side: Sword Oratoria, Vol. 4

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 Liv Sommerlot.

I’d mentioned in my last review that the battles are what Omori writes best, and it’s still true. I’ll go even further: if you aren’t enjoying the battle sequences, there’s no real reason for you to read Sword Oratoria. That’s not to say the entire book is wall-to-wall fights – in fact, we don’t start the descent to the 59th floor till the 2nd half of the book. But I have to admit, the plot is being dripped to us in tiny amounts as the author struggles to fit this into the continuity of the main series. And, much as I like Lefiya a lot more than most DanMachi fans, it has to be said: as a jealous pseudo-lesbian, she’s rather irritating. As a female expy of Bell, she works far better, and her triumph in the dungeons towards the end is one of those “pump your fist” moments.

Yes, that’s Bell on the cover, and while he’s not in the book as much as I expected (the scene with the minotaur is kept to the bare minimum), we get a lot more context here for how Aiz feels about him. Whether those feelings are love or no, it’s pretty clear that Lefiya is not being paranoid in her jealousy – Aiz is becoming obsessed with Bell and how fast he’s growing as an adventurer. And he’s not the only one – the minotaur scene may be downplayed in the spinoff, but the impact is shown on all of Loki Familia as they descend to the 59th floor, each one using Bell as inspiration for their own growth. As I said above, when Lefiya is not chewing walls while staring at Aiz and Bell, she’s also excellent – Aiz’s hardcore “I don’t actually know how to teach” training may not help her much, but her friendship with Filvis (the Dionysus adventurer from the previous volume) proves to be far more impactful.

And then there are those fight scenes. This is Aiz’s spinoff, but in reality it’s proven to be more about Loki Familia in general, and the leaders of the family all get a chance to show off their amazing stuff here, with Gareth literally flinging a dragon like you would an Olympic hammer, Riveria’s magic providing seemingly over an hour of support allowing the rest of the family to rescue Lefiya (who has plummeted down six levels – don’t worry, it leads to better things), and Finn being the competent, sensible leader this team of hotheads needs – until the situations grows dire, when he takes off his limiters and proves to be more hotheaded than all the rest.

DanMachi is never going to be the sort of series that rewards deep analysis, and that goes doubly for its spinoff. This is fast food. But it’s very tasty fast food which leaves you satisfied and wanting to go back, which is all a franchise can really ask of its ongoing volumes. Highly recommended to DanMachi fans who can get over Lefiya’s behavior around Aiz.

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon?, Vol. 9

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.

DanMachi is not a game world per se, but it runs on game mechanics. Adventurer’s levels are literally written on them, and most of the plot involves killing monsters, drinking healing potions, etc. And this means that the villains tend to be mindless, unthinking monsters. Which makes for good fight scenes – in fact, it has to. If you hesitate or lose it for a moment, you’re dead. We’ve seen Bell Cranel and his group come perilously close to this several times. Be swift, be strong, and kill the monsters. That’s how you survive. So when Bell comes across a newborn monster that not only is not trying to kill him, but is crying – and can talk! – his world is upended a bit. And so is the reader’s, as it’s made clear that this is a game-changer.

The girl on the cover is the monster in question, a vouivre, which may require a little googling – it seems to be related to wyverns. In any case, she shows consciousness, awareness, and intelligence, something previously unknown in the dungeons. Bell being Bell, he decides to take her back to the mansion with him, much to the chagrin of everyone else, who would probably protest more if it weren’t for the fact that they’ve all been rescued from bad situations by him in the exact same manner. Naming her Wiene (not sure how this is pronounced – I went with “vine-uh” while reading), she learns incredibly rapidly, and also bonds with most of the family (sorry, Lilly, you’re destined forever to be the grumpy suspicious one) very quickly. The difficulty is with what she is. If monsters have intelligence now and can be nice, will that make adventurers think twice before killing them? That will lead to a lot of dead adventurers. How do you tell a populace born and raised on ‘monsters are evil’ that some aren’t? And if you spend your life devoted to killing monsters, and now some are folks like Wiene, are you a murderer?

DanMachi 9 doesn’t focus on these questions quite as much as I’d like, but it’s also not finished – the author apologizes for this being a two-parter, and says that the next volume will resolve the subplot. It becomes clear that this is an ongoing thing, and that some of the gods are trying to advance it – using Bell’s ever-loving kindness as a catalyst – so that monsters and humans can live together. Easier said than done, though. Speaking of catalysts, Hestia serves once more as an exposition catalyst, though honestly that’s preferable to some of her former jealous antics. She learns what’s going on, and what price her family could now pay… a price that I think the next volume may deal with.

As always, DanMachi is well-written, with excellent fights, nice characterization (less fanservice than usual this time), and smooth prose, so that you don’t tend to notice how much larger these books are compared to some other light novels. Is this new development going to change the course of the series? Or will everything turn tragic in Book 10? Luckily, as Vol. 9 was pushed back a month, we only have a 3-month wait to find out. Ignore the gimmickey title – this is one of Yen On’s best series.

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.