Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
by Rebecca Silverman,
I'll admit it – when last week the title of this episode was revealed, I was kind of nervous. “Under Resort” and “Labyrinth Utopia” both sound more like the name of a hot springs resort and a bathing suit/boobs episode than anything Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? has done so far. While I don't dislike that kind of episode out of hand, it really would have been a come-down for this particular show. Fortunately the title proves as misleading as the series title is, and both terms simply refer to the safe zone that is the 18th floor of the dungeon, a beautiful pastureland complete with sun-like crystal ceiling and a majestic old tree. (And a town, apparently – but that's next week.)
When we last saw Bell, Lili, and Welf, they were on their last legs, making a final attempt to reach the eighteenth floor and safety rather than returning to the surface. Hestia and Hermes broke the rule about gods entering the dungeon to join a party to save the group, and the first ten minutes are just as tense as last week's episode. With both Lili and Welf victims of Mind Down (the unconscious state that comes from using too much magic), Bell is forced to abandon most of their supplies and drag the other two along as he attempts to find a way down to safety. Lili had reasoned that the floor boss, Goliath, would not yet have respawned after Aiz's party killed it on their way down deeper, but that would be far too easy. When Bell hauls his friends through as the titanic (as in Attack on Titan) humanoid tries to kill them, it's hard to remember to breathe. Similarly nerve-wracking is when the rescue party comes to a cave in and Ryu (the elf woman from Mamma Mia's) scales the rubble to find disturbing evidence of Bell's passage...and no party members in sight.
For better or for worse, the episode drops that tension at the halfway mark, changing tones fairly abruptly for a much lighter one that feels much more in line with the series' title than anything else has been. Bell and Co. fall in with the Loki Familia party, and the girls who watched him fight the minotaur in that epic sequence a few weeks back are all over him, and of course Aiz is there, guaranteeing that Bell spends most of the episode roughly the hue of a cooked lobster. When Hestia's gang shows up, she throws herself at him like a smaller version of my dog when I come home, and rather than their reunion being given emotional heft it is used to continue with the “everybody wants Bell” theme that was established when Bell arrived in the camp. The shift to this lighter feel doesn't quite work, and while I don't necessarily think it would have been better to maintain the fear for the entire episode, a little more attention to the transition would have helped.
Luckily there are other things going on in the background that keep the story moving. Hermes comments that he's come along to “check up on Bell for someone,” finally semi-dropping the pretense that he's Hestia's buddy, and Hestia hands Welf a mysterious parcel from Hephaestus, his Familia head. The gift clearly unsettles Welf (upset is too strong a word here), and we know Hestia is suspicious of Hermes' presence, though I'm not sure she knows who it is he's working for. Ryu, who turns out to be a much more awesome character than you might initially have thought, doesn't want her presence revealed, shushing Bell when he calls her by name, which is also suspect. Equally strange is that for all of the talk about gods not being permitted in the dungeon no one seems at all shocked or upset that two have just waltzed into the Loki Familia's camp. Wouldn't you think there'd be some sort of comment or gasp? The dropping of the issue is definitely a problem, and I hope it isn't simply left alone for the remaining episodes.
Once again Yoshitsugu Matsuoka does an excellent job voicing Bell, with some more fantastic screaming and an even better strangled gasp in Aiz's presence, and Inori Minase also turns in some very good lines and sounds as Hestia this time. There isn't nearly as much call for amazing animation this week, but the Goliath scene is still plenty impressive. This isn't quite up to the level of other recent episodes, but it's still a good ride as Dungeon continues being much better than it ever seemed it could be.
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rebecca Silverman is ANN's senior manga critic.
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