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The Summer 2024 Anime Preview Guide
Dungeon People

How would you rate episode 1 of
Dungeon People ?
Community score: 3.6



What is this?

dungeon-2.png

Clay was trained by her father to be an expert member of the thieves' guild. Since her father disappeared three years ago, she's been using her skills to search for him in a dungeon filled with goblins, a Minotaur, and all manner of other dangerous creatures. When Clay reaches deeper than anyone ever has before, she meets the caretaker of the dungeon. To her surprise, Clay is invited to join the staff. And thus begins Clay's new job--to learn the inner workings and behind-the-scenes secrets of the dungeon from the inside.

Dungeon People is based on the manga series by Sui Futami. The anime series is streaming on HIDIVE on Fridays.


How was the first episode?

dungeon-5.png
Richard Eisenbeis
Rating:

I'm not going to lie. I just spent a good five minutes staring into space trying to figure out what to write about this show. This is prone to happen when trying to write about an anime that is just so middle-of-the-road that it doesn't have much of an impact, positive or negative. It's competent in all areas. On the visual side, the art is consistent, the animation is smooth, and the shots are varied. The detail may seem a bit lacking but I'm confident that's just the art style at work. And as for the story, well, it's a lot of clichés that we've seen before—though in a slightly new shape. This is far from the first anime with a daughter trained by her father to be overpowered. Nor is it the first to be centered around the logistics of dungeons—how they are created and how they work. Still, we've not seen quite this combination before—especially with its two “cute girl” protagonists.

That said, nothing here pulled me in. The story didn't excite me. The humor didn't make me laugh. The animation didn't set off any “eye candy” alarms. I didn't empathize with the main character or her quest. It also likely doesn't help that anime centered around bureaucracy—be that fantasy world or real-world bureaucracy—isn't my thing. Heck, workplace drama and comedy in general don't excite me either.

If I were to make myself say what I found memorable about this first episode, I would say that its willingness to show blood and dismemberment—especially in a show with such a cutesy art style—stood out. I also enjoyed how fighting was shown to be a cerebral thing with Clay focusing on strategy rather than simply going for the kill. Still, in the end, it's safe to say that this one isn't for me. It's not bad. It just doesn't catch my interest.


dungeon-3.png
Rebecca Silverman
Rating:

Is there no fantasy area safe from Japanese bureaucracy? It's not just guilds that are run like offices in Dungeon People, it's the dungeons themselves, as adventurer Clay discovers when her attempt to find her missing father in the Antomurg Dungeon goes awry. Not, mind you, because she dies or because he's nowhere to be found; no, things go weird for her when her fight against a minotaur results in a wall breaking to reveal…a very normal bedroom. The next thing Clay knows, the minotaur is talking and a girl with blue hair shows up calling herself the “administrator” of the dungeon – and does she have a job for Clay.

All sarcasm about office politics being injected into virtually any setting you can think of, this is a fun premise. Plenty of series have tried to explain the strange mechanics of their dungeons, from VR to magic to the dungeon almost being a living organism, but Dungeon People's approach is that anything as large and complex as an underground fortress being challenged by numerous people every day must have someone making sure that the traps are functioning and the proper monsters are in place. That person is Beilleheila, and she'd very much like Clay to help her out. It looks like in return she'll get room and board, along with monetary compensation, so it's not a bad deal.

Or at least it isn't if Clay can bring herself to accept everything Beilleheila is telling her. It's a lot to swallow for someone whose entire life has gone into training to explore and defeat dungeons, and learning that running one is basically a business has to be the equivalent of seeing Mickey Mouse take his head off and start smoking. It also raises the question of what, exactly, happened to Clay's dad, who vanished in Beilleheila's dungeon. Does working for her mean working for his murderer? Or is it a free pass to actually figuring out where he's gone?

None of these are things the episode gets into, and honestly, I'd be pretty surprised if the rest of the series bothered much with weighty questions, either. The humor seems set to come from having a standard fantasy deathtrap be run like a theme park where people die, and Clay's attempt to acclimate herself to that. She's so gung-ho about the way her dad taught her to navigate dungeons that she turns down a room to sit in the hall for better visibility, so she's clearly not going to have the world's easiest time learning her new post, and her deadpan voice and expression stand to help enhance that aspect of the story. The art and animation aren't great (though I am a sucker for limited use of color, like we see in the beginning), but the delivery seems like it may be more important to the humor for this one. I'm willing to give it a second episode to see how it plays out.


dungeon-1.png
Nicholas Dupree
Rating:

“Wait, that was it?” was my main thought coming out of this episode. It's become a trend for stories these days to spend a whole episode faffing about before actually introducing their real premise, to mostly their detriment. While everyone likes a good hook to bring us into the next episode, it's far more important – especially for comedies like this one – to establish their cast and comedic repartee and demonstrate what kind of humor the audience can expect. Yet despite this being an obviously low-stakes comedy, it tries to play Clay's story straight for nearly half the episode, and waits until the closing minutes to reveal what her “working for the dungeon” actually means.

What we get instead is an episode trying to take Clay's search for her missing father seriously and deliver multiple high-stakes battles, neither of which is a task this production is built for. The action scenes try, but they don't really work on spectacle. The relatively bloody violence also feels out of place when the whole aesthetic of the show is soft and cuddly. The drama with Clay doesn't really work because she's clearly meant to be a comedic straight man, coldly analyzing the weirdness around her and reacting to the absurd mundanity of it all. She just doesn't have much energy, so the framing device of her trying to catch up to the man who trained her in battle feels distant and hollow. It also means there's not really a joke to speak of until halfway through the episode.

Maybe that setup could have worked if it took less time, and we could start to get an idea of what Clay's new job entails. Let us meet some of the other characters she'll be working with, or provide an interesting first example of what managing the logistics of the dungeon entails. Crack some jokes about how it's weird to be working for the monsters she was killing just hours ago. Hell, why not delve into the Hows and Whys of dungeons operating the way they do? Just give us something that actually gives us a sense of what this show is going to be about! Perhaps episode two will do some of that, but I doubt I'll stick around to find out. First impressions are important, and nothing in this premiere impressed me enough to want to continue.


dungeon-4.png
James Beckett
Rating:

Dungeon People has a whole mood that makes it generally quite easy to watch. Clay, our headstrong heroine, is quick-witted but not so powerful as to make the few action scenes we get in this premiere boring. Her counterpart, Beilleheila (aka Belle), is the easygoing but still competent Boss of the dungeon that Clay has been fighting her way through. The animation is lively and consistent, so the show never feels sluggish whether we're focusing on fights or the more talky scenes. The worst thing a first episode can do is leave you feeling bored, and I was never bored with Dungeon People, which is more than I can say for a lot of shows that I cover for the Preview Guide.

All that said, there's a certain je ne sais quoi that is lacking with this show, and I am finding it difficult to pin down exactly what it is. Maybe it's the fact that the fantasy setting that Belle's dungeon exists in feels so abstract; there's no sense to what this world is like for non-demigods like Clay, who have even lost parents to the deadly allure of dungeon delving, and it becomes difficult to grasp what Clay's career shift into Dungeon Boss' Assistant is going to mean for her. Even the premise of Clay seeing behind the scenes of the workaday life that makes the dungeon tick isn't explored that much. I liked how the Minotaur revealed himself to be just a regular joe, but that joke has been done before, and I don't know how far Dungeon People will be able to go on such basic gags alone.

Or, maybe it's the show's generally unambitious presentation. While the animation is nice, like I said, the character designs are incredibly simplistic, and the color palette of each scene verges on being monochromatic (so much beige and brown, everywhere you look). It gives the impression that the show is merely meant to be a silly slice-of-life comedy, even though it is rarely all that funny. Then again, there are a couple of beats that show how dangerous Belle truly is, which makes sense given that she probably murdered Clay's dad and all, but I also don't know if Dungeon People has the right aesthetic for one of those “Cute and Cuddly Until It's Surprisingly Dark!” types of anime.

Basically, Dungeon People left me with a lot of unanswered questions about where it's going and what it's trying to do. If it really is just your average cutesy comedy, then I guess it is serviceable enough. If there's more to these characters and this world, though, it is difficult to see how much that will add to the series in the long run. It's a perfectly okay first episode, but I'm not convinced that Dungeon People is one of the anime you absolutely have to keep up with this summer.


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