Reviewby Theron Martin,
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? On the Side: Sword Oratoria
With the events of floor 59 now behind them, Loki Familia's strike party returns to rejoin the others. Things don't go smoothly, however, as several supporting members getting poisoned by a nasty swarm of monsters necessitates a prolonged stop at Under Resort (floor 18), while Bete hurries to the surface for more antidotes. The camp-out proves far from uneventful when a certain young white-haired adventurer and his badly-injured party tumbles out of the passage from floor 17 to Aiz's feet, and later his goddess and Hermes arrive with a party in search of that adventurer. On the surface prior to Hermes' arrival, Loki combines effort with Dionysius and Hermes to ferret out those who might be connected to the Evils during a gathering of the gods, while Uranos and Fels later become alarmed about a sudden problem that has arisen.
With volume 5, the Sword Oratoria novel series mostly passes beyond the end of its anime adaptation, picking up as Loki Familia is returning to the surface from the climactic events of the anime's final episode; only the novel's final scene, of Loki's welcome when her familia returns from the expedition, made it into the anime version. Much of this particular volume isn't new territory, as many of the events and circumstances of this episode were covered from different angles in volumes 4 and 5 of the main series. However, this volume reveals that there was a lot more going on during Bell and company's visit to the Loki/Hephaistos camp in the Under Resort scenes, and those tidbits fill out the bigger picture tremendously. As a result, this is a highly recommended read even for any who have, to this point, followed the anime version of Sword Oratoria but not the novels.
Of course, if Lefiya has always been a negative for you in this side of the franchise then you may find much to dislike here, as she gets lead time in line with what she was getting in the anime series – in other words, more than anyone else. She spends the bulk of that time expressing jealousy and/or anger at Bell for one reason or another, something which was only very peripherally hinted at in the main series' anime version of these scenes. That should come as no surprise, given earlier events of this series and what we know from the first series happened while Bell was with Loki Familia, but that doesn't make it less annoying or childish. They key event composing much of the last third of the novel involves the two being forced into a situation where they have to work together against a common deadly threat, where she finally gets to appreciate Bell's ability, so that takes the edge off of her vitriol by the end. That event also allows her to take the lead in a fight for the first time rather than just be the support person.
That sequence of events provides a significant chunk of the totally new content covered in this volume. Most satisfyingly, it's not a throwaway event at all. Instead it's a critical set-up for things which happen in volume 10 of the main series (which was released in Japan simultaneously with this one); in particular, it explains how one character happened to come into possession of an item which plays a crucial role in that volume. Other new content explains that Bell's party was helped by Loki Familia not just because Bell was friends with Aiz; that Welf was a member of Hephaistos Familia, whom Loki Familia was allied with for the mission, also played into matters, thus allowing for some elaboration on Welf's testy relationship with Tsubaki. Hermes' interactions with the Loki Familia leadership is also new, as are scenes where both Welf and Bell were practically interrogated by Tsubaki and female members of Loki Familia.
The volume fills in some gaps from the original series too, primarily by providing a different perspective. How members of Loki and Hephaistos Familia ended up poisoned badly enough that the expedition had to camp for days in Under Resort is finally explained, as is Hermes' cryptic comment about Uranos's prayers in volume 5/episode 13 of the main series; more accurately, the writing gives a better sense of why that's such a big deal and what triggered the problem from Uranos's view. Why the second group of the expedition wasn't around to help against the Irregular boss in the aforementioned scenario is also explained, though less satisfyingly so. We also get a bit of further insight into Ryu and the extent of her abilities. On the surface front, the Denatus scene from volume 4 of the original series plays out again but this time from Loki's perspective and with the revelation that some things she said in that scene had ulterior motives; Loki's simple-minded speech patterns and behaviors make it easy to underestimate just how cunning she can be when she sets her mind to it, although that is in line with her established mythological persona.
Author Fujino Ōmori's fondness for describing fanservice scenes also comes through clearly. One such scene was to be expected, as we get an alternate point of view on the scene from volume 5 of the first series where Bell accidentally crashes the group bath scene at Hermes' urging. However, that apparently wasn't the only bath that Loki Familia's female members took while in Under Resort, as this volume opens with a second scene. This isn't necessarily a problem, but that novel-opening scene is the one part of this volume that seems completely superfluous. Also superfluous but on a lighter note is Aiz's interestingly misguided belief about Bell's opinion of Bete.
Production aspects of the book are the same as always for the franchise: one single and one trifold glossy color art pages at the beginning which preview scenes from the volume, a handful of black-and-white illustrations throughout, and a two-page Afterword. This volume's character profile is of Bete.
Beyond this volume the story will go into mostly new territory for a while, as Loki Familia was only peripherally involved in the events of volumes 6 and 7 of the main series. I don't foresee that as a problem though, because this series has established enough of its own plot threads for an independent story. This volume at least does its job providing connecting tissue for the overall story, even if it mostly consists of downtime.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : C+
+ Interesting alternate takes on some scenes from the main story, fills in many details
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