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?