Since the premiere of one of my most anticipated shows for the summer 2019 season is imminent, I figured now would be a good time to post a review of the first season for Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon (ダンジョンに出会いを求めるのは間違っているだろうか) (wow, that’s a mouthful in any language). I’m not ashamed to say I started this one because of the ridiculous title and absolutely ate it up (I’m pretty sure I watched the entire thing in a day the first time I watched it). There’s a lot of reasons to like an anime, but for me it’s rare to love it just because it’s a really fun ride. And that’s exactly what season 1 of Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon is: a really, really fun ride. Spoilers ahead.
The idea for this show is simple enough. Gods now dwell among humans, giving up their divine power and choosing instead to intermingle with the lesser beings. They choose humans to join with them in what is known as a Familia and empower the members of their Familia with the ability to level up their body stats through raiding a dungeon in the middle of town. Being part of a prestigious Familia is highly sought after and the most powerful members are famous for their feats of bravery and special skills. Many Familias also employ a family trade such as smithing, entertainment or brewing.
Our protagonist is the lone member of the Familia of the goddess Hestia. He’s weak and untested, and early on in the show his motivation is solidified when he is rescued by a beautiful (and much more powerful) woman named Aiz Wallenstein. In that moment he vows to become strong so that he can stand next to her as an equal and confess his love for her. And thus begins the journey of Bell Cranel, the adventurer who would be a hero.
This anime combines an almost perfect mixture of ingredients between the story, animation, characters (and just a touch of fan-service). I can really only think of one moment in the show where I screamed out in frustration at what I was watching (and that isn’t a wholly bad thing since it shows how invested I was in what was happening). It does it all without taking itself seriously, creating the perfect storm of entertainment.
As I’m sure you surmised from the brief summary at the beginning, this isn’t a super complex story. An anime where the characters are able to level up their abilities through battling and skill training like a video game isn’t even an original idea. But it is executed really well.
There’s a really good mix of medieval atmosphere between the architecture, character design, music and town activity. This complex set piece does a really good job of pulling you into the story and selling you on the illusion that is is a real place (and a really cool one at that). It doesn’t hurt that the attention to detail in the animation feels almost KyoAni inspired with it’s beauty. There’s a logic to the world and there weren’t any obvious flaws that jumped out and made it anything less than believable.
Heroes striving to better themselves and become worthy of the girl they love is a classic story, especially for settings like this (for more on Meta-Plot, check out this great write-up by Dave D’Alessio over at Confessions of an Overage Otaku; for the record, I’d assign this one as The Quest). The monsters they have to overcome are whimsical without being weird and the lore behind the dungeon is a fun mystery to watch unfold. There is also another dynamic introduced in the form of gods and goddesses living among the humans. With their different personalities, each god/goddess approaches their Familia differently; the mixture includes guardians, friends, leaders, would-be lovers, authorities and even what could be best described as chess players, using their Familia members as simple pawns for their entertainment.
I have to give it to the voice cast on this anime; they have some of the best comedic timing I have ever seen in an anime. With the help of solid writing, they deliver some of the greatest moments in the show with their incredible range (especially Matsuoka Yoshitsugu as Bell Cranel) and high energy. It’s kind of wondrous to behold.
It helps that they are voicing really likeable characters. Bell Cranel is almost the ideal hero (in a good way, not an annoying way). He strives to keep his word, always tries to help the weak and works tirelessly to achieve his goals. It’s not that he’s flawless (it would be really boring if he was), but when he does make mistakes, you can see genuine effort from him to improve himself and keep moving forward, even if he is a giant coward.
His love interest, Aiz Wallenstein, is an enigmatic rival. She’s beautiful, powerful, and extremely quiet. But underneath all of that is a very kind individual who seemingly wants to walk the same path of the hero as Bell. In the same way that she inspires Bell to improve himself, Aiz is motivated when she sees how hard Bell works and what kind of results he achieves through his struggle.
Hestia is the goddess of Bell’s Familia, though it isn’t clearly communicated what she is the goddess of. She’s a bit of an airhead and is head-over-heels in love with the boy who accepted her. She’s jealous and a tad shameless when it comes to flaunting her body (she earned herself the nickname “loli big-boobs” among the other gods and goddesses). She’s also incredibly loving and protective of Bell, wanting nothing but the best for her only family member. She demonstrates this through both overt encouragement and behind the scenes dealings to help Bell along his chosen path.
Maybe I’m just a sucker for the ingredients that they used to create this particular anime, but this was almost perfect entertainment for me. Even when I was watching it a second time in anticipation for season 2, it was hard not to ignore all of my other responsibilities and binge it. It has humor, adventure, action, romance and unique characters that do an amazing job at driving the plot without feeling the need to spell everything out for the audience. If you don’t hate fun and you like lighthearted tales of fantasy, this one should be right up your alley.