“Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?”, hereafter referred to as ‘Dungeon’ because the title is ridiculous, is not what you might expect from the title. Dungeon takes place in a city that seems to surround a massive tower known as ‘Dungeon’. For some reason not yet explained, the Gods and Goddesses have descended from the heavens, giving up their powers in exchange for the opportunity to assist humanity in their exploration of this strange and mysterious tower.
Each of these deities forms a Family out of adventurers they’ve chosen to bestow power upon. These adventurers then get a tattoo in their back that indicates their skill and strength, basically a D&D character sheet, that gets updated by their respective God or Goddess when they return from the dungeon. They gain levels, acquire skills, and learn magic as they adventure… with profit and strength as the only stated goals.
The Goddess Hestia, a relative unknown in the world, seeks to make a name for herself and form a Family of her own. But, without a name, who would possibly be willing to take a risk on her? The answer is simple, our somewhat dim-witted and overly kind protagonist Bell Cranel. And thus we have the core of the show’s cast.
Bell quickly becomes overpowered. I’m just going to get that out-of-the-way early. The skills and magic he gets are simply broken, if we’re looking at this from a ‘balance’ perspective. And if this is the sort of thing that gets on your nerves, then you might want to avert your eyes now. But, quite frankly, I don’t care. The show creates good tension, despite his strength, and has some absolutely fantastic action sequences. Some of the best I’ve ever seen, rivaling Sword Art Online’s best. Which is fitting, since Bell is also voiced by the Harem Master himself: Yoshitsugu Matsuoka. He does a great job voicing the character, although there are scenes where you’ll begin to wonder if you’re not watching a new spinoff of SAO because Bell sounds a little too much like Kirito – in voice, sentiment, and inflection – at times.
Over time additional characters will be added in, and you gradually see signs of a harem forming here. It’s not a huge plot point, except when Hestia herself makes a big deal of it, but it is definitely there. Bell gradually accumulates admirers, ranging from fellow adventurers to support personnel in town. But some of the best characters in the show prove to be the ones you might not expect… like Ryu, the random Elf waitress who seems like she might have seen a little too much. She’s very interesting, and she doesn’t seem romantically interested in Bell – in fact she seems eager to throw her friend at Bell – which makes her a nice change of pace for a harem anime like this.
This show is very clearly an attempt to make an anime that draws from gaming tropes. At times it feels like an MMO, at times it feels like a classic JRPG, and it is entertaining to watch because of it. Some of you may remember an obscure PS1 game called Azure Dreams. Well, to put it bluntly, this anime is basically Azure Dreams. You’ve got a protagonist with a harem who is going into a dangerous place full of monsters, treasure, and danger to collect something found only in the tower with which to make his fortune. This isn’t a bad thing though, because I have so many fond memories of that game.
And Dungeon, as I mentioned above, is no slouch in the action department. Watching Bell gradually overcome his fears and become a skilled fighter instead of a timid adventurer is extremely rewarding, and the show features a great, if a bit accelerated due to Bell’s abilities, progression of sequences. It feels like I’m watching an MMO, really. The party grows, the enemies grow in number, ferocity, and size over time, and his powers continue to grow. It really strikes close to home for a long time gamer like me. I wouldn’t be surprised if, subconsciously at least, watching this show was part of what drew me back to MMOs and made me want to give Final Fantasy XIV a second try. Which is kind of ironic, since the manga for this is produced by SquareEnix… damn you and your clever conspiracies!
Back on topic though, the show does a great job of pacing matters. The only part that feels a bit awkward is Bell’s growth, but that is explained – in a way – and can generally be ignored. The story progression, the character development, even the relationships all seem to grow in a logical way. And, when things feel like they’re being pushed forward too quickly…. well the show provides reasons rather than just letting it be plot convenience. It’s very well structured, which is all too rare.
But… Why a Dungeon?
And this is where my beef with the shows lies. They mention a lot of things but don’t explain any of what is happening. Why is there a giant dungeon here? Why does the entire kingdom revolve around it? Why did the gods descend – surely entertainment can’t be their only reason? Why are gods not allowed to enter the dungeon? The show poses so many questions, some of which are really integral to the story.
I get mystery, but when you don’t understand the basic premise of the show, it can make certain things feel a bit odd. That being said, this season felt pretty packed as it was, so perhaps their plan is to extrapolate more on the history in a second season now that they’ve established the characters. We’ll have to wait and see, but for now certain things just felt a bit awkward. The rest of the show was good enough that I’m willing to forgive it this, provided it does eventually explain all the oddities.
You can probably tell this is a show I liked a great deal. Definitely worth your time, even if a few of the main characters are far outshone by the supporting cast. The action is good, the story is good, and – even though certain aspects are a bit underdeveloped – the world is fantastic. Given more time this show could prove to stand among the best anime has to offer. Oh, and the opening and closing themes are adorable.