The Summer 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? II
How would you rate episode 1 of
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (TV 2) ?
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How was the first episode?
It's been a while since this show's last proper TV season, so I'm glad this premiere does such a smooth job of getting the audience back into the swing of things. The early scenes offer enough reminders, usually through characters referencing past events or ongoing situations, that viewers who haven't kept up with the novels or spinoffs can get back up to speed easily. At the same time, the script stops short of belaboring the point, so folks who have all the relevant plot arcs fresh in their minds won't be driven insane with boredom. It's a solid balancing act, and by this episode's midpoint it feels like it's only been a few months instead of four years since the first season aired.
The biggest strong point in this series has always been the chemistry between the main characters, and that chemistry appears to be alive and well. Bell remains both charmingly earnest and reckless enough to get himself into trouble, while Hestia is still a lovable firecracker of a low-ranked goddess. Put the two of them together and you've got a strong lead duo, with Ais returning to play the not-so-distant object of Bell's admiration. Apollo's big party in the episode's second half offers a convenient opportunity for the supporting cast to come out in full force, and the situation also sets up a nicely-presented dance between Bell and Ais. In terms of offering a memorable cast of characters, this series hasn't lost a step.
At the moment, it's the new content that lets the wind out of this premiere's sails just a bit. As the presumptive villains of the latest story arc, Apollo and his Familia just aren't doing much for me. They're so openly and uncompromisingly scummy that they rob the conflict of any nuance, leaving us with a black-and-white case of Bell and friends taking on a group of one-note baddies. I'm of the opinion that the best antagonists are the ones who make a compelling case for their side of the story, but unless Apollo has some major surprise hidden up his sleeve, I don't see him hitting that mark. It's a slightly subjective complaint, to be sure, but it kept me from getting completely fired up for the new season.
Apart from that concern, though, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon is looking as good as ever. This series surprised me with the quality of its first season, and it'll take more than one mediocre villain to kill that momentum. Even if the franchise fell off your radar in the gap between seasons, it should be worth jumping back on the bandwagon if you're looking for a blend of character humor and fantasy action.
For as much as I have griped in the past about fantasy worlds that are designed to operate like literal video-games, I've enjoyed the DanMachi franchise a whole lot more than I expected to. Much of that has to do with how well-constructed the series' universe is – a lot of thought has been put into how the Gods' blessings for their Children work, the relationships between the different Gods' Familias, the culture surrounding heroes and their missions in the Dungeon, etc. My biggest complaint about MMO-esque anime is that all too often the game mechanics in the world act as narrative shortcuts and gimmicks meant to bolster lackluster writing – as if turning a story into a Let's Play is the solution to bad characters and a bad script. Thankfully, DanMachi has always had very likeable characters and an intuitive grasp on basic storytelling fundamentals, and DanMachi II looks as if it hasn't lost a step.
It helps that this first episode is a good primer for folks who've never seen the show, or those who are like me and had forgotten much of what happened in season 1. There's a helpful Episode 0 Recap that does a good job of bringing folks up to speed, and Episode 1 itself reintroduces everyone we need to know, as well as new players. Bell and Hestia are invited to Apollo's highly anticipated banquet for the Gods, but Bell and his friends have recently gotten on the bad side of some of Apollo's wards, so tensions are running high. Before the conflict comes to a head, though, we run into Hermes (he's got a lot of swagger), Freya (she makes all the other Goddesses jealous), Ais (Loki's Child, and Hestia's main romantic rival for Bell's affections), and Loki (The Best One). There's plenty of comedy and awkwardly cute romantic interactions, which will doubtless please fans and newcomers alike who like their anime fantasy to have plenty of fluff to go along with the inevitable actions.
I've always loved anime that play with different pantheons and mythological figures, and though a lot of DanMachi's interpretations of various gods can certainly feel very liberal at times, the overall vibe of the show if very consistent, and consistently entertaining at that. With Apollo's wrath already stirring up trouble for Bell, there's bound to be some good spectacle on the way in the God's War Game, and the show isn't wasting any time igniting the fires of the shipping war between fans that want Bell to end up with Ais over Hestia, and vice-versa. If you loved the other seasons of DanMachi and its spinoffs, this is likely a done deal for you already, but this new fans should feel encouraged to jump aboard the hype train and see what all of the fuss is about.
It only took four years, but it's finally arrived: the much-anticipated sequel to one of the surprise successes of 2015. And despite the time gap, the characters and voice actors are so quickly and smoothly back into their roles that it's almost like no time has passed.
One of the things that made the first season's run so engaging was the well-defined and likable cast, and that shows no sign of changing here. Most of the familiar faces – whether gods or Children – make at least cameos here, and the real treat of this episode is that the party hosted by Apollo Familia gives the production team an excuse to show all of those familiar faces dressed up in their finest clothes. That means plenty of eye candy do go around no matter your gender preference. Miach looks just as impressive in a suit as Ais or Mikoto do in their dresses, but the real surprise is how lovely the little-used Nazha (Miach's one Child) looks; for those who haven't read the side story in the novels focusing on her, that curious sleeve design is meaningful. Hermes looking somewhere between a pimp and a '70s porn producer also seems fitting.
Rather than get deep into the action, this episode is just the establishment episode for the season's first major arc, which will adapt the sixth novel. It's not hard to see where the story is going: Apollo has taken a shine to Bell (next episode should explain why), and unlike Freya, he's not about to just sit back and watch from a distance. It's so obvious that the bar fight was a set-up to give him reason to make his wholly-unreasonable challenge that some of the other characters even comment on it, and that will be the driving force for the next 3-4 episodes. That declaration distracts from the neat dance between Ais and Bell, which should have been the episode's feature scene, but the anime is being very faithful to the novel here on both timing and content. Among other little treats is the interesting cameo by Bete, the werewolf from Loki Familia. Though he was openly disdainful of Bell initially, that he bothered to intervene at all suggests that his attitude may have changed just a little.
If I have one concern with this episode, it's that the artistry seems a little off. The new opener (used here as a closer) also gives away more than I'd like. Still, this is a solid start to what should be a fun new season of one of the better non-isekai fantasy titles of recent years.
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