Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru no Darou ka? Anime Review
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the entirety of Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru no Darou ka.
DISCLAIMER TO AVOID POTENTIAL CONFUSION: I do not condone feminism or inequality towards either sex in any way. I long for a world in which people are viewed primarily for their individual personality, not their race or sex.
As its name suggests, Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru no Darou ka? is an anime series based on a light novel series that’s made specifically for people who are too lazy to read a synopsis to decide whether or not they want to read a book. If that doesn’t describe it well enough, perhaps the English title: “Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?” will suffice for accurately informing the layman of what the selling point of this title is. Of course there’s many other complications that compose this work, but I thought it would be best to inform you of what it’s trying to sell itself as first, since this is what drew the fans in and probably what it is going to be basing itself under for the most part. Anyways, there’s lot of ways that this show can be compared to other titles, so it’s probably a good idea to start with those.
Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru no Darou ka, better known as “DanMachi,” is one of the more recent installments in the trend of MMO-world based light novel anime adaptations. In other words, it takes after that horrendous monstrosity known as Sword Art Online in its setting, and DanMachi is much more similar to that title than Overlord or Log Horizon, two other MMO-based titles. The generalities of the premise itself and how it is presented already make it better than Sword Art Online in terms of conciseness and other basic categories. For one, there are no random time skips in DanMachi, meaning that the originating idea of the series is explored in a reasonable fashion and it doesn’t skip around and do random crap that has absolutely nothing to do with the overarching story. Second, The protagonist of DanMachi is not obtusely overpowered for no reason. Although his aptitude does take leaps in progress, he still has to work from the bottom up and we get to see basically every rung of the ladder of that. Third, it doesn’t feel like everyone but the protagonist is immensely stupid and the world actually feels like a functioning world. This is a big deal, because in Sword Art Online I got the idea that Reki Kawahara actually had no idea how a real MMO worked nor how a real world worked. Of course since the flaws Sword Art Online has are so glaring, it makes it quite easy to not be as awful as it, so it isn’t all that amazing that DanMachi managed to succeed where Sword Art Online failed (at least in the mentioned fields).
The show starts out with an appeal towards the idea that its title depicts: by focusing on the pursuit of females. I’d have to say. there’s few things that annoy me more than types of stories that promote women as being some kind of “cherished resource” and/or promote becoming involved with members of the opposite sex just because they exist or because they’re physically attractive, not because of any sort of bond or mental interest. Since this is exactly what this show does from the beginning, I was expecting it to go towards the whole “it’s what’s on the inside that matters” sort of approach. Though the series is certainly not over as of this writing, the anime only sort of went in that direction, staying with its whole slightly sexist behavior for most of the show. Also, it barely seems to follow the idea of its title at all. Throughout the show, Bell does virtually nothing in the actual pursuit of women, rather it’s that most of the major female characters of the show are already infatuated with him without him even doing anything. Yeah… I think this show fits into the “dumb wish fulfillment” category pretty well, as it also has quite a few scenes that showcase the fact that practically every female in the land is infatuated with Bell. This is perplexing considering that the title implies that things wouldn’t just be handed to the protagonist from the start.
The first episode is largely a bunch of subtle exposition but with one particular scene that really irked me. This scene is the one where the wolf dude is poking fun at our hero, all the while explaining the situation of why a minotaur attacked Bell (which makes no sense because everyone he’s speaking to should already know that) in quite specific detail. He makes fun of Bell so much while he doesn’t know that he’s there to the point at which it feels like cheap victimization and not like something a real person would say. I mean, if you’re going to talk bad about someone, it’s most likely that you’re not going to go on about it for that long, and that you’re not going to specifically draw attention to the very doubt that the person you’re making fun of (the fact that Bell likes Aiz) is experiencing at that moment.
The first episode of DanMachi
Episode three rolls around and then another weird thing happens. We get some insight into Bell’s past and how he “doesn’t want to lose another person” in his life suddenly, right at the moment that that flashback was relevant to him wanting to protect Hestia. First of all, this flashback is never relevant for the rest of the show. Second of all, there was no allusion to this flashback at all prior to this moment, so we have every reason to believe it was something the author thought up specifically for this moment and then never cared about afterwards. It’s awfully puzzling and annoying that they couldn’t have had this detail of Bell’s past said before, perhaps at the beginning of the show, so as to make it feel less suddenly implemented. The action scene in this episode is outstanding, as it not only feels like it is very difficult for Bell to fight the enemy he faces, but the animation and overall movement of the scene makes it feel very tense and weighty. This contrasts scenes such as the Obi-Wan versus Anakin fight in Star Wars episode III or most of the action in Sword Art Online in that it gives off the feeling that every movement of both Bell and his enemy is important, and not just a bunch of inane swinging that ultimately amounts to nothing. Once Bell finally defeats his enemy, it feels like he deserved it, and it’s thanks to the directing that it was able to present the impact that it does.
In episode four, we get introduced to Liliruka, a small supporter type adventurer, who just happens to be getting bullied at the moment she meets Bell. It seems to be a reoccuring thing in this show for people to be victimized or bullied by random people we know nothing about, and all of the people doing the bullying happen to be male of course, because we all know that women are incapable of being mean, right? (Well it’s true that Liliruka acts like a jerk, but that’s in response to other people acting like a jerk to her.) Something I gathered from the interactions between Bell and Liliruka is that Bell is extremely dense. This is because he has absolutely zero suspicion towards her despite the fact that she said nothing about her previously being bullied even when Bell brings it up in conversation. His lack of suspicion remains even when he learns of Liliruka’s supposedly mischievous heritage, so either Bell is an idiot or just completely oblivious. Furthermore, after he loses his knife, his first response is to conclude that he dropped it, and not at any moment does he even begin to consider the possibility that Liliruka, the only person that was around him in the past while, could have taken it. I know that suddenly concluding that she did it would’ve been silly, but the fact that he didn’t even consider her guilt puts Bell’s intelligence largely into question. Thankfully after she steals his knife, Bell just happens to run into the waitresses at that bar as they’re chasing after Liliruka because she had his knife. This is another recurring thing in the show, as characters just happen to run into each other at the right time despite the fact that the area is rather populous and large. This makes positioning and movement feel completely irrelevant in the world when the characters are just going to magically run into each other whenever the plot demands it, regardless of the logic behind it.
Liliruka once again attempts to steal Bell’s knife. There’s quite a few puzzling things I noticed in this scene and the ones after. First, if Liliruka was already told before that Bell’s knife had a negligible value, then why would she attempt to steal it again? Of course she doesn’t know that the knife only works for Bell, but she should have been at least able to infer that there was some prerequisite that had to be met in order for the knife to work. So given those details, she should have concluded that stealing his knife again was not worth it. Next, Liliruka sets some things around Bell that cause nearby monsters to swarm in. This is the first example of the show’s rather bad exposition. In this scene, as well as many other scenes, we know nothing about a certain mechanic or item before it is already being utilized. This is really odd because it feels like they placed no importance on explaining things in the world, and their explanations are left to be done very quickly as things are already happening. In this very scene, we had no prior knowledge of these things that attract monsters, and the fact that they’re just suddenly thrown in there feels very lazy and unnatural. A better way they could have done this would have been to have it be explained just before or during its use during the earlier episodes or when Liliruka and Bell first met. This would preferably be done during a much more calm moment. This way things would have felt more natural, and as if the audience isn’t being excluded from an explanation of some kind. Next, Liliruka steals Bell’s stuff using some kind of fishing pole. Once again, what the hell is the thing she used to do this? Second of all, it would be extremely difficult to land that precisely where she wanted to unless it uses some kind of magic. Basically this means that Liliruka is pulling off this extremely ridiculous plan using two things we’ve never heard of before, all the while using a tremendous amount of dexterity that we also never knew she had.
After this, Liliruka runs into those jerks again who were apparently tracking Bell and Liliruka this entire time. Then this thing occurs where she gets her stuff taken by another dude and then some other dudes take the stuff from that dude. Then the dudes who stole the stuff from the dude bait the killer ants in the area to come via a dying killer ant. Once again, they explain this stuff as it is happening and like the people involved are just realizing the fact that dying ants attract other ants for the first time. Realistically, both parties should already know this and would have no reason to explain this detail at this moment.
In episode seven Bell begins training with Aiz. I thought this was a rather good way to show progress of some kind in the show. The show’s pretty good action takes another shape in this episode as we get to see the actual strategies and mindsets that come into characters minds as they’re fighting, and how they might go about showing their expertise. This adds a layer of depth to what’s going on, as it means that the characters have to assess situations appropriately and think like an actual human being in order to win instead of them winning with no apparent reason as to how they won.
Episode eight is comparable to episode three in that in centers mostly on one engagement. Bell struggles with the minotaur, and this brings up one the show’s few interesting points. Once again, Bell is in trouble and Aiz comes to his aid, (thankfully this time she came because she heard about the incident, not because she just happened to run into him) but Bell refuses to be helped because he’s tired of running away and not finishing things on his own terms. This is where we get to see him actually grow as a character, and this entire development hinges on things we saw earlier in the show, not some internal conflict that was just pulled out of nowhere like in episode three. Bell pours every ounce of his persistence and ability into the next fight, and the way it’s depicted certainly makes it feel that way, just like the fight in episode three. However this time it felt more tense possibly because there was more overall movement. I think I would be much more fond of this show if the entirety of it was like this episode, since a lot of the rest of it focuses on stupid fanservice or extremely trope-like developments that don’t ultimately add anything.
In episode nine we finally meet the first male character, besides Bell, who isn’t a complete asshole. This also means that he’s the first major character other than Bell to not exist largely to create irrelevant sexual or romantic tension of some kind. When Welf is talking to Bell he isn’t there partially to titillate the audience, he’s there to simply be another character who gives us another view of the world of DanMachi. The two also have somewhat interesting chemistry, as Welf seems to contrast Bell’s general demeanor a lot of the time meaning that Welf kind of leads the conversation around a lot. It isn’t as if the chemistry between other characters and Bell is non-existent though, it’s just that Welf does things in a much different manner than most of the other characters and that’s what makes him mildly interesting. Then there’s this entire subplot-type thing centering on Welf’s refusal to make magical weapons. He explains that he does this because magic weapons can’t become “part” of a person because they have a short existence and because they give the user a sort of artificial power. In theory, this theme can have a place in the story but it’s so poorly put across it hardly has any strength to it. This is because we knew next to nothing about magic weapons prior to Welf’s entrance into the show, and nobody was really using one except Liliruka. Also, this extrapolation about magic weapons doesn’t go anywhere significant but I’m guessing that it will go somewhere in the supposed second season. There just isn’t enough prior knowledge about magic weapons given to the audience for them to properly grasp Welf’s thoughts on it, and this is what makes this theme feel totally detached from everything else that’s going on.
The last four episodes of the show are essentially one arc that follows Bell’s party on their first venture into the dungeon’s mid section. By this point it seems like Bell’s power is going out of control and is exponentially rising for no apparent reason. I mean, just a few episodes ago he defeated one minotaur, now he’s basically soloing entire amassments of enemies with just one cast of his firebolt. His progression was fine and felt at least somewhat reasonable until this part where it appears that the show is trying to continually one-up itself with more seemingly difficult engagements and more ridiculous ways that the protagonists handle things. Now the action is starting to lose a lot of its tension because Bell is beginning to become insanely overpowered. I believe it would have been better if it kept the same steady pace as the first eight episodes instead of just going completely out of control for the last four episodes. Of course they can make the engagements more seemingly difficult, but that also means that they should have made it seem more feasible as far as what the characters are actually strategizing in a fight, and not like Bell suddenly got way stronger out of nowhere.
In this arc, more things start to crop up that don’t make sense. The first of these things deals with the fact that there are safe zones in the dungeon. For whatever reason, Bell had no idea that these zones existed prior to us knowing about them, which is weird because you’d think that he would know crucial information such as this beforehand. Furthermore, you’d think that this would be common knowledge which was spread via word of mouth at this point so there’s no reason for him not to know this. Next, they keep the monsters away at one part by using a scent bag to drive them away with the stench. It is first introduced in the middle of its use with no foreshadowing once again. This show proves time and time again that it cannot properly exposit a lot of its world’s major and minor elements.
Later on, the three adventurers escape to the safe zone only to run into Aiz who just happens to be in the right place at the right time for, what is it, the fifth time now? Well, I haven’t keep track but what I do know is that her appearances in this story feel so convenient that I’m beginning to wonder if Aiz is some kind of space-shifting wizard.
Soon we learn that there is a village that exists within the safe zone of the dungeon but our main characters knew nothing of its existence prior to this moment. I’m getting kind of tired of pointing out “repeat offender” incidents in this show, but it still remains that it wouldn’t make any sense for our adventurers to not know this. Even if people tried to keep it a secret, it’s still pretty much inevitable that things such as this will become common knowledge eventually since people are bound to tell other people about these things. The show gives no indication that people are trying to keep secrets anyway so there’s no reason to believe that that’s the case. Another thing about this village is that I can’t understand how it could possibly sustain itself while being quite far away from the main settlement of the area. As far as what we’re told, there’s no food source in the area because the monsters turn to dust when they die, so unless someone is constantly bringing supplies to this village from the main settlement, then their persistent living there is virtually impossible. And we know that bringing supplies there would be very difficult because the people would have to go through extremely dangerous obstacles to bring things to the village, and nobody would choose to risk their life constantly like that if they didn’t have to.
One of the last characters to get introduced in the show is Hermes. He seems to have an interest in Bell because of his achievements, and wants to get involved with him in order to do some task that we are never given knowledge of. You’d think that with how strongly he seeks out Bell he would try to do some serious talk with him as soon as possible. Well the exact opposite of that happens, as the first time that he and Bell are alone, Hermes decides to place Bell into a cliche “peeking on the women while they’re bathing” situation. Seriously, what the hell? Not only does this scene feel completely out of place, but it also stagnates the story progression with some completely irrelevant, seemingly out-of character dilemma. Also, gods such as Hermes and Hestia are not supposed to go into the dungeon, but we are never told why they aren’t supposed to. You’d think that would be important, but I guess someone decided otherwise. Even with this rule, there seems to be absolutely zero consequence or enforcement for the gods going into the dungeon. They can walk in just like anyone else even though you’d think it would be possible for guards or a magic barrier or something to prevent them from going in. If there’s nothing done to enforce a rule other than the rule itself, then how would the governing body expect the rule to be followed in the least bit? This “rule” is not even mentioned ever again by the time Hestia and Hermes make it into the dungeon, as nobody seems to care or even allude to the fact that they’re breaking the rules. So basically this whole “gods can’t go into the dungeon” thing is either a red herring or it actually becomes more important later into the series. These inconsistencies in the world of DanMachi continually add up and make me wonder how the hell the world the characters live in actually functions.
There’s quite a few complications involving major parts of the world that never get any explanation as to why they exist or what their goal is. Why is there a massive tower full of monsters in the middle of the city? Who put it there? How is it regulated? Who made the monsters? Why do they magically respawn? All of these things would be easy to explain if DanMachi were a virtual world setting like Log Horizon or Sword Art Online. The world of DanMachi contains similar elements as those titles, but DanMachi is supposedly set in a “real” world. This means that it has to explain why each of these game-like functions exist because they were supposedly not put there by a game developer. Even if these things were given some brief explanation such as “they have always been there…” then that would suffice because that would mean the characters knew just as much as the viewer does, thus eliminating this whole issue. But then why would so many people risk their lives to be an adventurer when there is no reason to do it rather than to earn money. Since there are much safer jobs in the area you’d think that barely anyone would want to be an adventurer. So unless there’s some kind of overall motive for the dungeon other than money or there was some explanation as far as how many adventurers there are relative to normal workers, (which there isn’t) then this means it’s difficult to see how the world actually functions.
As a whole, Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru exceeded my expectations of it in a few parts, but it’s ultimately no more than an anime involving dumb wish fulfillment and tired cliches otherwise. If it weren’t for its bad exposition, out of place fan service, nonsensical nature, random plot developments, and its general tendency to piss me off with its appeal, then I suppose I would have liked it. But don’t get me wrong, it still does a few things well, such as its action, some of its character interactions, and its progression, but all of those things are too overshadowed by the negatives in order to be anything that special. I still would prefer things like this over anything by Reki Kawahara any day.