Review

by Richard Eisenbeis,

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Arrow of the Orion

Synopsis:
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Arrow of the Orion
In the city of Orario, beneath an impossibly tall tower, lies the dungeon. Only adventurers who form partnerships with the gods themselves have any hope of defeating the monsters that lie within. But the dungeon is not the only place where monsters exist. Far from Orario, in the ruins of an ancient city, a new threat arises. To counter this threat, the goddess Artemis has come to Orario in search of a champion—but it's not Ais Wallenstein (the legendary Sword Princess) nor Ottar (the strongest warrior to ever enter the dungeon) that she chooses. Rather it is Bell Cranel, a newbie adventurer partnered with a low-tier goddess.
Review:

New anime film Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Arrow of the Orion is the third animated entry in the DanMachi franchise--following the 2015 TV anime Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? and its 2017 sidequel Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Sword Oratoria. Unlike the previous two works which were based on novel series of the same names, Arrow of the Orion is a completely original story. However, despite its lack of source material, it is still penned by Fujino Ōmori, the original author of the novels.

Picking up shortly after the events of both Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? and Sword Oratoria, Arrow of the Orion begins with our heroes relaxing at a town festival. One of the carnival games is your classic “sword in the stone” challenge (though with a giant arrow in lieu of a sword) and the person who succeeds in pulling it out of its rocky base gains an all-expense paid trip to a faraway land. And while Ais gives it her best shot, it is Bell who draws out the arrow.

Of course, it's then that the trick is revealed: by “all-expense paid trip to a faraway land” what they really meant was “a quest to kill monsters in some ruins far from the dungeon.” But what's even more surprising is the quest giver: Artemis, Hestia's best friend from back in the land of the gods. Artemis is a different kind of god from those we have seen in the series so far. While her divine powers are sealed like all the gods in the mortal world, she has chosen to fight alongside the humans that joined her familia. Even now, when she is the quest giver and Bell her chosen champion, she is still compelled to leap into danger beside him--or without him if innocent lives are at stake.

The past TV series have set the standard that gods, while sometimes tagging along on adventures under the radar, do not participate in the nitty gritty of fighting. But by showing an exception to this rule, Artemis' very presence serves to expand the world of DanMachi and redefine what we thought we knew--especially as we learn more about her personally.

The setting of the film itself also expands and redefines Bell's fantastical world. Through Bell's quest, we learn more about the greater world in general: what the surrounding lands are like, how people travel over large distances, and what jobs adventurers do when not grinding levels in the Orario dungeon. Moreover, up until this point in the story, monsters have only appeared in close proximity to the dungeon. However, in Arrow of the Orion, we see that this is far from a hard and fast rule--making the world at large more dangerous than it first appears.

But for all that's new, the real strength of the film is how it ties back in to what has come before. While the film is centered on Bell, Artemis, and Hestia, pretty much every character we've seen so far makes an appearance. Even those far from the action at the ruins like Ais and the rest of the Loki familia get some time in the spotlight. This is especially gratifying in the case of Lefiya, (who isn't even voiced in the original TV anime despite being a main character in Sword Oratoria). She even gets a few digs in at Bell when not looking lovelornly at Ais--making this feel like a sequel to both of the previous anime even though the focus is on Bell.

While the events of the film itself are not present in the source material, the movie does connect quite solidly with major plot points explored in both Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? and Sword Oratoria. It looks at the lore we have seen so far and logically takes it to the next level. It also further explores why most adventurers wouldn't dream of taking their gods with them into the dungeon.

These connections make the movie feel like less of a throwaway film and more of an important part of the overall story--so much so that I find myself hoping that this film will be retconned into the DanMachi novel continuity much like how the original anime film Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale has been retconned into that novel series.

In fact, not integrating this film into at least the anime continuity for the upcoming second season of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? would greatly diminish the film in hindsight. That's because the events in this film should profoundly affect Bell moving forward. This film is, thematically, the story of Bell's heroic ideals crashing against the sad truth of the real world. Up until this point in the story, bad things have happened to Bell, but he has always overcome them thanks to his own power or that of his friends. However, in this film, he is forced to face the idea that sometimes, he can't just magic up the perfect happy ending, no matter how hard he tries. It is a vital lesson and one that makes his character more nuanced as he works towards becoming a true hero and not just another adventurer.

The weakest point of the film, however, is that it falls into the trap that so many films based on TV series do: it dials everything up to eleven for the feature film but still insists on returning to the status quo in the end--at least outwardly anyway. While the film's aforementioned character growth could be woven into the already existing story as it continues on, Bell's power level has to be kept consistent for the story to move on as it has in the novels.

The problem is, coming out of this movie, it's feels impossible that Bell hasn't leveled up. It was already hard to believe after the climax of the first season, but if his accomplishments in Arrow of the Orion haven't gotten the gods' attention I can't imagine what would. All I'm left with is the creeping suspicion that whatever does eventually make him cross the level 3 barrier will be a letdown in comparison.

On the visual side of things, the film looks at home on the big screen. But while there are more than a few lovingly rendered scenes of explosions and magic as our heroes fight the monsters in the ruins, what really stands out is all the costume redesigns. Hestia's in particular makes her look more the part of a goddess than we have seen so far (while still maintaining her infamous blue ribbon, of course).

On the aural side of things, while the music doesn't stand out in any way, the sound design side of things--namely the sounds of skills and spells--is well done. You can truly tell how powerful an attack is from sound alone--which is exactly as it should be.

All in all, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Arrow of the Orion is an above average film of its type--i.e., a film that is not part of the original source material. Instead of feeling like an unimportant side story, it feels like it has actual weight and lasting consequences for our heroes--even if these are internal rather than external. It also fleshes out the world beyond Orario and the dungeon while at the same time connecting back strongly to the events of both previous anime series. So while I wouldn't recommend watching it as your first introduction to DanMachi, this movie is nonetheless a solid addition to the franchise.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B-

+ Completely new story that connects to key plot points of the past DanMachi anime as it develops Bell's character in new ways
Goes too big for things to believably return to the status quo at the end of the film

Director: Katsushi Sakurabi
Script: Fujino Ōmori
Music: Keiji Inai
Original creator: Fujino Ōmori
Original Character Design: Suzuhito Yasuda
Character Design: Shigeki Kimoto
Art Director: Yasuhiro Okumura
Sound Director: Jin Aketagawa
Director of Photography: Shingo Fukuyo

Full encyclopedia details about
Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darō ka: Arrow of the Orion (movie)

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