Review

by Theron Martin,

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

Novel 9

Synopsis:
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Novel 9
While helping the town of Rivira on a mission to clear out Irregulars on floor 19, Bell encounters the most Irregular creature of all: a humanoid dragon girl who can actually talk! When he sees that she's not hostile and that other monsters are actually attacking her, Bell opts to sneak her back to the surface, much to the dismay of his fellow Familia members. The mystery deepens as the girl who comes to be called Wiene displays startlingly human behavior, something which even Hestia and allied gods can't explain, and a further encounter indicates that Wiene isn't the only such talking monster out there. Adventurer races and monsters have been mortal enemies for centuries, but as Wiene threatens an unprecedented shake-up of the status quo, other groups in and below Orario are on the move with motives both helpful and harmful towards Wiene and her kind.
Review:

Up to this point in the franchise, the full name for DanMachi has been more comedic than literal, with only Bell's rescue of Lilly back in volume 2 even coming close to fitting the description of Bell “picking up” a girl by rescuing her in the Dungeon. For volume 9 though, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? fits precisely what is going on in the story on multiple levels. Not only does Bell rescue another female character, but the question of whether or not he was right do so also has to be asked given that she's a monster.

Of course, the story makes it clear that Bell does have the moral high ground here, as Wiene is definitely not a wild animal or rage-driven monster – or at least she isn't in this incarnation, anyway. In fact, if taken out of context, the story here is a pretty typical one for anime: an unusual girl with a childlike innocence and understanding is rescued by the male protagonist, to whom she becomes attached. Meanwhile others seek to exploit her to dastardly ends. This kind of scenario has been used in stories as diverse as 3x3 Eyes, Elfen Lied, and Scrapped Princess (among others) in one variation or another. However, what sets this situation apart from most other past uses of the concept is that the girl in question has the potential to upend the very foundational beliefs of the established world-building – in this case, that monsters kill humanoids and humanoids kill monsters, with survival dictating that there's no room for compromise or even hesitation between the two. That marks the potential for a radical change within the established world structure, which makes this by far the most ambitious of Fujino Omori's writing efforts to date. I have to wonder just how far he's prepared to take this concept.

At the very least it's not going to be a simple task. Omori makes painstaking effort to portray how (justifiably) deep and firm the fear and hatred of monsters runs in surface society, while showing that not necessarily everyone is averse to the idea of monsters and humanoids getting along in certain situations. This bring Ouranos and his black-robed underling Fels more firmly into the picture than any previous volume of the main series, as well as finally revealing exactly who and what Fels actually is. To say that Hestia Familia is getting involved in some of the deepest secrets of the Guild by staying involved with Wiene might be an understatement.

They aren't alone in this mess, either. Miach and Takemigazuchi Familias get directly involved again (though the children of each are left in the dark), as does Hephaistos. Hermes and his Familia are also involved, though from a different angle, while the Familia of a heretofore-unrevealed god serve as the villains. Freya and Loki Familias and patron goddesses make brief cameos but are not involved yet. A couple of prominent adventurers from previous novels also make significant appearances, although they aren't brought into the loop on what's really going on, either.

The whole scenario allows for further development of the setting, which is the part of the writing that Omori has always most excelled at. Included in this case are the introduction of hidden areas in the dungeon and, most interestingly, suggestions about the process behind how monsters like Wiene came to be. We also get much more detailed descriptions of levels 19 and 20, with their plant-themed natures, than we have had before. Omori's penchant for fan service-primed bath scenes also continues, with the one in this novel naturally serving as the fodder for the opening two-page glossy spread. Unfortunately so do his well-established, annoying stylistic quirks, such as providing numerous lines of unlabeled quotes and then spending a paragraph explaining what was going on, even if it is mostly or totally obvious from context. Don't expect any development of established characters, either, as this story is mostly focused on Wiene.

At 263 pages this volume comes in distinctly shorter than the previous two but about in line with volumes 5 and 6 and still longer than the average light novel. Its ending features an updated profile for Bell and one for the dual potions which appear in the story and a two-page Afterword, where Omori, among other things, drops tantalizing hints about the continuation of the story in the next volume. The identity of “a certain heroine who barely appears in this volume” is plainly obvious, but who might he mean by “a certain other heroine, who has gone ‘dark’ if you believe the rumors”? Comments about how they'll bring about unprecedented devastation are also intriguing.

And that brings up the other big difference between this and previous volumes. While they have all contributed to an overall storyline, they have also all been self-contained in the story that they tell. This one, however, is merely the first of a two-part story. While it doesn't end on a cliffhanger, the sense of being in the middle of a story and the interesting comments that Omori has made about what to expect in the next volume certainly jack up anticipation for the next volume. That's not at all a bad thing.

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

+ Introduction of new and potentially world-shaking concepts
Annoyances of Omori's writing style are still evident

Story: Fujino Ōmori

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