Reviewby Theron Martin,
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? On the Side: Sword Oratoria
In the days leading up to Loki Familia's planned joint mission to the 59th floor with Hephaistos Familia, Aiz finds herself busy training two youths: Bell Cranel in secret in the early mornings on the city wall and Lefiya in the Dungeon later in the day with Filvis's help. On the actual expedition, the team led by Finn, Riveria, Aiz, Bete, and the Amazon twins come across Ottar and later Bell while investigating reports of a Minotaur in the upper levels. Bell's desperate battle against the Minotaur inspires the rest in differing ways, which is sorely needed when even the elite of Orario's most powerful Familia find themselves facing dire challenges on the 58th and 59th floors.
Despite leaving out a few details here and there, the DanMachi anime series was largely a faithful and excellent adaptation of the source novels. The anime version of Sword Oratoria was a far less impressive adaptation. Key fights were truncated enough to sap out much of their drama and vitality, some important details were skipped over, and the storytelling emphasis skewed more toward Lefiya, a character who hasn't resonated as well with fans. Episodes 9-12 of the anime were a mixed bag in adapting this fourth novel of the spin-off series. While they gloriously succeeded in rendering some key scenes, they exhibited the same problems as usual in other places, making this a worthwhile read for those who have already seen the anime version.
Lefiya has had significant focus in previous novels, but the attention she gets here is substantially reduced after the first third, where she competes with Bell for Aiz's attention and training time. Her interactions with Dionysius's Filvis as they further cement their relationship from the last volume are welcome character development; even though they are from different Familias, they form a far more comfortable and compatible duo than Lefiya does with Aiz. Once the training is over and Loki Familia heads out on its expedition, Lefiya's focus decreases dramatically. She is almost entirely absent for the part where the Sword Oratoria story intersects with the main series concerning Bell and the Minotaur, and she's purely a background player in later stages.
This allows Aiz considerably more focus, giving us more detailed insight into her than in any of the previous novels. While her history is hardly detailed, at least some particulars are now finally coming out, such as some circumstances behind how she lost her parents and how she's mellowed over the years that she's been with Loki Familia. This volume further supports earlier impressions that she became an adventurer at a credibility-straining young age of only 7 or 8. This novel implies more strongly than the anime that the loss of her father in particular has had a long-standing impact on Aiz and that she may be trying to reach his level. It also makes clearer that Aiz sees something of her father in Bell, which is as much a point of interest for her as his astonishing growth rate. Overall, she comes out of this novel more fleshed out than before, though she still pales in comparison to Bell in terms of development. Still, seeing the scenes that they have in common from her perspective makes for an intriguing alternate take on certain events.
Of the key battle sequences in this volume, the finale on the 59th floor and Loki Familia's angle on Bell's battle with the Minotaur were the most faithfully animated, while Aiz's confrontation with Ottar was cut down dramatically in the anime version; it still gave a sufficient impression of Ottar's strength though, so that truncation isn't a problem. Finn and Aiz's endeavors to get down to the 59th floor were entirely skipped in the anime, which gave the impression that things happened in a much briefer time frame. Snipping the tunnel battle for those who fell with Aiz is much less of a problem, since fully detailing that wouldn't have worked out well for the anime's pacing. The scuffle with Aiz and Freya Familia also gets more detail in the novel.
The anime version definitely augmented its fanservice by changing one conversation to take place in a bath and the end of the anime is significantly different than the end of this novel, including a missing conversation between Loki, Hermes, and Dionysius. The size of the party that makes a run for the 59th floor is also significantly reduced, similar to the size of the group on the 24th floor mission last volume. For the most part though, there are no big changes. The novel also offers significantly more detail about Tsubaki (Hephaistos Familia's head), the levels of certain characters, and a brief scene connecting this volume more firmly to a certain event in volume 8 of the main series.
Overall, the storytelling is a slight upgrade from previous novels of the series, though Omori's writing quirks remain, and there is one glaring inconsistency with previous content. (This novel indicates that knowledge of Aiz leveling up wasn't widespread, which is contrary to what has previously been established.) The novel's 299-page length makes it beefier than previous installments, and there's no shortage of classic fantasy RPG elements from the extensive battle sequences, the planning for the major expedition, or the sense of bigger plots being afoot as heroes travel into the unknown. I have to question the less-than-appealing cover art choice, but the glossy art pages at the beginning and the black-and-white art scattered throughout are par for the series' course. This volume's character profile features Tione and an unremarkable two-page Afterword is also included.
This novel concludes the first story arc of the Sword Oratoria spinoff. What comes next has yet to be hinted at, extending beyond the anime adaptation as well. With volumes published in Japan up through 9 so far, there's definitely more still to come, and enough long-term plot threads have been established to assure that this spinoff can sustain itself apart from the main series.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : C+
+ Dramatic final battle, significantly expands Aiz's characterization, payoffs for long-term plot threads
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