Reviewby Theron Martin,
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? On the Side: Sword Oratoria
With the expedition to Floor 59 now wrapped up and some of her key children having leveled up, Loki and her allies now turns their sights to a new objective: finding the alternate entrance to the Dungeon that they believe has to exist. On Loki Familia's part, that means a trip to the nearby port city of Meren for the familia's female members. The trip evokes memories for many, memories which become all too unpleasantly physical for Tione and Tiona when a boat of Amazons escorting their goddess Kali and some all-too-familiar faces shows up. While attempting to get to the bottom of some monster sightings that may be violas, the twins find themselves unwillingly drawn back into a world that they had hoped that they had left behind for good.
For all of the great work that writer Fujino Ōmori has done with the setting of DanMachi, details on any locations beyond Orario and its immediate environs have been woefully limited. Although a couple of short stories in the main series have transpired outside of the city walls, this is the first full volume franchise installment whose events mostly take place elsewhere - in this case, a port city which serves as a transportation and trade hub for Orario. It's also one of the few places in the franchise where other locations farther away are explained in much detail. That alone makes this a worthwhile read.
That the story focuses on two major supporting characters who play big roles in the earlier volumes but have yet to have any hints given about their backgrounds also justifies this as a worthwhile read. All we've really previously known about the Amazon twins is that they are Amazons, became involved with Loki Familia not long after Aiz did, and that Tione has a long-standing infatuation with Finn. What, exactly, it means to be an Amazon had never been delved into, either; we only knew that Amazons have a distinctive skin tone, are always female and aggressive, and have vastly racier standards for acceptable dress than females of other races. That they come from a warrior culture has been strongly implied but not, to my recollection, ever explicitly stated. This volume fills in most of the gaps by detailing what, exactly, it means to be an Amazon, including the brutal, bloodthirsty ways to promote the development of warriors that would make any real-world historical warrior-culture pale by comparison. Why both Tione and Tiona vehemently reject the Amazon homeland and its rulers is abundantly clear by the end of the volume.
Perhaps more importantly, the novel also details how Tione and Tiona came to be the way they are now. That they wound up with such divergent personalities given the virtually identical way they were raised entirely comes down to one factor that is surprising and yet also totally in line with Tiona's personality, interests, and attitude. Why Tione is so hung up on Finn is also explained in a simple way: Amazons tend to be attracted to men who can beat them in combat, and guess who soundly schooled her as part of convincing the twins to join Loki Familia? The relationship between the twins is also explored in far greater detail, including reveals that they both dislike aspects of the the other and yet also feel incomplete without the other around.
The story also offers other snippets of the setting's recent history. It drops some additional details about how Riveria came to Orario and came to join Loki Familia, enough to suggest that a much more detailed story is waiting to be told there, and a bit about Lefiya's past. Frustratingly, no further details are provided about Aiz's past, but we do learn more about some of the great feats that Zeus and Hera Familia performed before being decimated by the Black Dragon affair. More details also come out about the self-imposed limitations on the gods, such as how they're not allowed to radically change existing cultures. The timing of the story is also significant; it takes place during the early stages of volume 6 of the main series, before the whole affair with Apollo starts. That's important because it introduces characters who will become prominent in volume 7 and what they're doing before the events with Ishtar Familia take place. It also expand more on the shady business that Ishtar was up to beyond what directly involved Bell. However, the reasoning for some of her actions is hit-or-miss; why she would team up with Kali to try to mess with Freya Familia is obvious based on what happens in volume 7 of the main series, but why she would work with the remnants of the Evils is never clarified.
Like all other volumes Omori has written to date, this one also has ample battle scenes. The battles do a good job of putting key characters - the twins and Aiz - up against foes who can match them convincingly but aren't unrealistically more powerful, though some conflicts also show Omori's increasing tendency to draw battles out longer than needed. The main game mechanics aspect examined comes up early on when Loki counsels Lefiya on the leveling process and lays out a point that was probably already evident to any veteran gamer: two adventurers of the same level can be decidedly unequal if one has always leveled up as quick as possible while the other buffs up her stats first. (In other words, someone who gets all their stats to S first - like Bell did before going to level 2 - is going to be stronger at their new level then someone who didn't.) That does bring up the more interesting point that different Familias are going to have different tactics for advancement based on what they can afford to do.
Otherwise the caliber of writing, with all of Omori's typical stylistic quirks and flaws, remains consistent with previous volumes. Cover art offers a sharp picture of Tione and Tiona swimming in fetching swimsuits, while the trifold glossy interior art features the Loki Familia women on one side and their chief foes for the novel on the other. The 294 pages sport the standard array of black-and-white art, though the quality seems to be improving over time. Surprisingly, this volume's profile features Riveria, while the Afterword which follows contains little fresh insight.
More so than in any previous volumes, this one relegates Aiz to only an occasional bit player, with the only real new tidbit about her being that she can't swim at all. However, the story of the twins is solid enough to carry the volume.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Lots of insight into character backgrounds, expanded setting details
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