Reviewby Theron Martin,
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
Even though it was an unsuccessful effort, Bell's battle against Asteiros during the Xenos affair has both recovered his reputation and pushed him to Level 4. That earns him both a new title and a new responsibility expected of all high-level adventurers: to complete an expedition, which means that his familia has to expand its range and complete certain objectives in the process. Bell gathers assistance from established allies in the Takemikazuchi, Miach, and Hermes Familias and sets off for floor 25, a water-dominated level, and its Great Falls. What they discover there, however, is anything but a typical Dungeon adventure: something well beyond a normal monster is specifically targeting and terrorizing even second-tier adventurers with an abnormal degree of cunning, and by rescuing one of its prey Bell and his party have just descended into its notice.
With the three-volume arc involving the Xenos now complete, writer Fujino Ōmori returns both to carrying out a pure dungeon crawl and to telling an entirely self-contained story. That's not to say at all that this is an isolated story; some elements and consequences of this volume will definitely carry over into future ones, including the introduction of a new Xenos. However, the volume also ends with a sense of finality to this particular episode.
Even though the foundation for Bell leveling up so quickly has been established since the beginning, I still have some concerns that it may be happening too fast. Still, at least Omori is accounting for the reality that when someone gets a significant boost in capability, it can take a while to get used to fully using it. That's been used before in both the main and spin-off series and it is still present here, albeit not obviously for most of the novel. While no one can match Bell's speed for progression due to his special experience-pumping ability, seeing that the rest of the adventuring community isn't remaining static is also gratifying. Chigusa having leveled up is a mild surprise, and Haruhime gaining a dramatic new expansion of her abilities is also a nice touch. (The revelation of what it is and its first use is also executed in a suitably dramatic fashion.) Lily doesn't get a level-up yet, even though she's been through enough crap and creative uses of her abilities to deserve it, but at least her role in the party – that of tactical commander – is expanded and formalized, and seeing Aisha not only recognize this but also even promote it is a further nice touch. That allows for some interesting comparisons to Finn, and while Lily doesn't entirely accept those comparisons, it does suggest that Finn proposing to her a few volumes back might have been an even more appropriate choice than he realized at the time.
Not all of the character developments are necessarily positive; one other character finally confronts and admits to herself that she might be romantically interested in Bell. Signs and hints about this have been building all series, so this definitely does not come as a surprise or from nowhere. The franchise has also always had the trappings of a harem series, so it isn't like this is a stylistic break, either. Still, was another romantic connection really needed here? The series has worked well with a balance of women in Bell's life that love him vs. merely respect him, and there are plenty enough other potential romantic entanglements to keep things interesting.
Back to the positive side, a couple of characters who appeared in one of the short stories in volume 8 pop up again, hence affirming that the story in question wasn't a totally isolated side story. The nature of the hunter who serves as the volume's antagonist is also interesting. The Sword Oratoria novels in particular have toyed with the notion of Enhanced Species before, so that creates another cross-franchise link, and that one would figure out that targeting adventurers as a food source, rather than because of simple rage or malice, is a logical extension. The way it fully uses its intelligence and abilities makes it into a credible threat, one that can be of concern even beyond the immediate threat to Bell's party and those they have rescued. The novel also scores points for recognizing that waterborne Xenos might also exist, for its elaborate description of the water levels of the dungeon, and for its handling of various action scenes. Omori has had an occasional tendency in the past to drag fights out, but the ones in this volume feel more balanced and dynamic.
There are some other neat touches, too. Gods have generally been portrayed as noncombatants to this point, so seeing one prove to be puissant enough to even school his leveled-up adventurers is a pleasing change of pace. The whole business about periodic expeditions being a Guild requirement, rather than just something that higher-level adventurers do, also expands on the setting a little more, and the logic behind why that's the case makes perfect sense. The novel also ends with one heck of a hook for its next novel. Omori clarifies in the Afterword that the storyline beginning with this novel is, indeed, going to feature the involved character prominently.
I am still not a fan of the cover art or trifold glossy art page in the front, but other standard novel features are present: brief character summaries up front, an updated character profile for Bell in the back, and the expected collection of black-and-white illustrations strewn throughout. At 249 pages this isn't the meatiest of the DanMachi novels to date, and Aiz fans will be disappointed (she is referred to at a couple of points but doesn't appear at all), but it is a solid story which provides a good transition to the next story arc.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : C+
+ Well-handled setting, antagonist, and action scenes make for a fitting dungeon crawl
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