Sword Oratoria: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? On the Side
Episode 1

by Rebecca Silverman,

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Sword Oratoria: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? On the Side ?

Welcome back to Orario, the labyrinth city that sits above the Dungeon. You may remember it as the setting for Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, which starred would-be adventurer Bell Cranel and his goddess Hestia. This time, the focus shifts to the Loki Familia and its top adventurers, most specifically Aiz Wallenstein, the object of Bell's worshipful affections in the main story—or at least, it's supposed to. Instead, this first episode presents new familia member Lefiya as the point-of-view character, and while that's a good way to enter into the story if you're not familiar with the main series, it's also a slight letdown to franchise fans, because at least part of the appeal of Sword Oratoria is the chance to get into Aiz's head.

We open on floor fifty of the Dungeon, where Loki Familia is resting partway through an exploratory expedition. Lefiya, an elf mage, is having some trouble getting over her nerves when it comes to casting in the face of aggressive monsters, which earns her gentle reprimands from Riveria, a fellow elf mage, and scorn from resident jerk wolf-guy Bete. All she really wants is approval from Aiz, who she worships much like Bell does in the main series. A large part of this episode is focused on establishing how Lefiya doesn't quite fit with the rest of Loki Familia's adventurers, although it's clear that Riveria is doing her best to get her up to snuff.

What's more interesting is that leader Finn is willing to step aside and trust Riveria's judgement, even when it could potentially endanger everyone – this suggests more than anything that Lefiya has much more power than she realizes. As we can see during the episode's major battle and its aftermath, Finn is not a fan of rash decisions or putting his team in major danger. Thankfully, Loki Familia's reputation for strength and prowess is clearly deserved. In the main story, we mostly see Aiz fighting (because that's where Bell's focus is), so it makes sense that these action scenes pay more attention to the characters we haven't seen as much of, namely Amazon twins Tiona (short hair) and Tione (long hair) and Bete.

Tiona really steals the show in terms of fighting skills. Although her weapon Urga, a double-bladed sword, is dissolved by the acidic blood/spit of the caterpillar monsters that attack, that doesn't mean that she's out of the fight – her acrobatics are both graceful and deadly. One of the best scenes comes toward the end of the episode, when she just saunters up to a giant minotaur before springing up to kill him with her bare hands and feet. Likewise, Tione punches her way out of a tentacle situation, scoring one for all the victims of tentacle aggression in anime. She doesn't care that it results in horrific acid burns all over her body; that monster was going down no matter what. Bete also gets an awesome moment when Aiz infuses his magic boots and greaves with her wind power; like the twins, his weaponless acrobatics are impressive in both deed and animation.

It's Aiz herself who gets the short end of the stick. This could be because the story is interested in making sure we have a grasp on the other characters; we already know how impressive Aiz is. When we do finally get an Aiz-centric scene toward the end – the moment when she initially saves Bell from the minotaur – the animation does a good job of showing us her shock when he runs away from her. Since this is the exact minute when their mutual fascination with each other occurs, it does feel a little underdone (although it sets the stage for Bete's adversarial relationship with Bell), but the slight blush and stunned look on her face speaks volumes.

For a first episode, this does a good job of getting us into the story's world, though not its ostensible protagonist. (I'm basing this assessment on the novels, which may not turn out to be fair going forward.) Amazon's subtitles change Aiz's name to Ais, which is odd to see since all other franchise materials spell it with a “z,” and only the dialogue is subtitled, which becomes annoying when there's so much on-screen text this week. (It's all character names and dungeon levels, so those are relatively important.) But the subtitle timing is better than it ever was with Onihei, so I guess they're taking baby steps. All in all, this is a good start to a story that gives us the background of what's going on in Orario (do note the god who shows up at the end), and I'm looking forward to seeing how it progresses.

On a random note, I just realized that Bete and Bell's sort-of rivalry has an interesting linguistic component – “bete” means “beast” in French while “belle” means beauty; could they be “Belle et la bete” in Aiz's life?

Rating: B+

Sword Oratoria: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? On the Side is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.

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