The Spring 2017 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Sword Oratoria: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? On the Side ?
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How was the first episode?
Sword Oratoria is a direct spin-off from the main DanMachi storyline, one which provides an alternate view on the city of Orario and the Dungeon beneath it. Its relationship to the main series is very much akin to that between A Certain Scientific Railgun and A Certain Magical Index: being familiar with the original series will help catch cameos (Hestia and Liliruca appear briefly) and cross-overs (the episode ends with a cross-over to the first scene of DanMachi), but it's not actually strictly necessary for following and understanding this story. If you've at least seen the first episode of the main DanMachi series then you'll be fully up to speed here.
Though the series as a whole is supposed to feature Aiz, all of the major Loki Familia members get distinct screen time, with timid Aiz fan Lefiya – who was a mere background character in the main series – actually getting the most. She's an easy character to sympathize with compared to the mostly stoic Aiz (although Aiz's expression in the episode's final scene is great!), and she provides a better perspective on the stark difference between the younger and wilder Level 5 members of Loki Familia's upper echelon (Aiz, Bete, the Amazon twins) and the much more mature and parental Level 6 leadership (Finn, Riveria, Gareth). This also provides for a fun and lively character dynamic, which is one of the keys to making this story angle an excellent option for a spin-off story. Frankly, it doesn't really matter much what the series does story-wise as long as these characters can bounce off of each other the way they do in this episode.
There is a story here, however, and this episode explains the circumstances leading to Bell being beset by a minotaur at the beginning of the main series. It is a greatly condensed version of the first 96 pages of the source novel, one which combines a few scenes and leaves out quite a bit. I'm guessing that this shortening is a case of both time and animation economy, as the clear goal was to end the episode with Aiz's first encounter with Bell – which, given that this is a spin-off series, is an entirely reasonable and appropriate decision. If all of the fight scenes in that part of the book had been animated in detail, they would have needed at least two full episodes to get to that point, and frankly, some of those fights are a bit redundant (even if they do allow us to finally see what Finn can do in a fight). Hence, as someone actually familiar with the novels, I support the adaptation choices made here, as the result is an exciting and smooth-flowing episode which gets its characterization and storytelling points across clearly enough and has suitable drama. Introducing the god Uranus earlier than in the source material is also a welcome touch, as is revealing up front that the Loki Familia leadership is all Level 6; this is something never revealed in the animated part of the main series and not revealed until the second novel in the spin-off.
Although this series has a different director than the main one, it's mostly the same production team otherwise, which means a fairly strong artistic effort all-around featuring distinct character designs, good background art, and sharp battle animation. This episode does skew more heavily in a fan service direction, and at time the coloring seems a little too bright, but overall it makes a pretty strong visual impression too. In a season which seems like it's going to be loaded with quality fantasy series, this is another strong addition.
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