Monday, February 29, 2016

:anime: Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month:: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

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

Official Site: Japanese
Additional Links: ANN Entry, MAL Entry
Video [Free {Streaming}]: Crunchyroll, Hulu, ViewsterThe Anime Network

For the much of its history, a sizable portion of anime made has consisted of manga adaptations. However, the last decade has seen the strong emergence of "light novel" adaptations (stories typically too short to be considered a "novel", but too long to be considered a "novella"). While popular works such as Full Metal Panic!, Slayers, The Twelve Kingdoms, and Boogiepop Phantom preceded it, the trend was truly born in the afterglow of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya's mega-success, followed by a more rapid ascension within the last couple of years. With any such flood (or oversaturation) of works, unsurprisingly, there is a collection of well-received titles (Spice & Wolf, Durarara!!, Toradora!) and a greater glut of titles that range from hidden gems (Kyouran Kazoku Nikki, Brave Story) and divisive entries (Sword Art Online, The irregular at magic high school) to pretenders, dullards, and lazy cash grabs (Rail Wars!, Akikan! Aesthetica of a Rouge Hero).

Even with good shows to partake, there exists a certain undercurrent of familiarity among many LN-based works, given that they often target teens and young adults, cater more towards the otaku crowd, and fall prey to the "Me, Too!" mentality that is so prevalent in this current age of entertainment across the board. It is certainly refreshing, then, to see a light novel adaptation that gets it done right, in spite of its content. Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru no Darou ka?DanMachi) follows love-lorn Bell, a novice adventurer and the sole member of impoverished goddess Hestia's "familia"—a group that serves under a god, who in turn aids them as they traverse through the imposing, tower-like "Dungeon". One day, he finds himself in a tight bind against a monster, when he is suddenly saved by a beautiful swordmaster. In turn, both his newfound crush over her and his embarrassment over having to be saved help propel Bell to become as strong as her.

The 2015 anime may not do anything terribly innovative with its quasi-fantasy-with-gaming-sensibilities setting (perhaps the most common in the LN adaptation field), it employs a few tried-and-true otaku baits in the form of a harem-like following around the lead male and fanservice involving big boobs, and yes, it even dons the kind of superfluously-long title that LNs are (in)famous for. However, many of those typical detractions become moot with its high-level of execution across the board—the greatest key to making a story with familiar elements and cliches work and feel fresh. The MMO-inspired world setting, for example, feels a little artificial (akin to its ilk), but the series still provides an interesting twist in the way it portrays and fleshes out usual, but little-expounded, aspects such as power-ups and social/fighter classes. It also does similar work and tinkering with how gods of various myths play a role in the world—another tired story staple with new life breathed into it.

Main character Bell, in a similar vein, is as innocuous as they come. However, he is also the rare type that just comes across as a very likable guy with a good heart, which makes it easy to buy that a few girls would find themselves attracted to him. The trials he goes through from being a ne'er-do-well to a formidable fighter and the forging of friendships with Hestia, his fellow adventurers, others around him makes his development feel not like an "eventuality" of the story, but something that was "earned" and natural, which makes him even easier to root for. The action sequences are surprisingly well-choreographed and hard-hitting, and the dramatic element of the show can be much more effectual than one might expect, with the acting and score to back both up. Even the fanservice-y elements of the show can impress, as the superb attention to anatomy lent itself attractive and well-proportioned bodies for both females and males. While jigging and other breast and skin-centric antics do exist, its more restrained and fewer in count than other titles.

In all respect, Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? should have fallen flat on its face, featuring some of the most tired base components in one of—if not the—most tired of genres in a super-soaked sub-section of anime. However, when it comes to cliches and oft-used material, it is what you do with and how well you can execute them that will determine a show's success. Though it was my original intention to choose something lesser-known, seeing the recent highs (KONOSUBA) and lows (Myriad Colors Phantom World) in the LN adaptation world had me appreciating just what a good one—with the proper care and effort—can actually look like. The show struck a chord with fans and critics beyond Hestia and "that little string": it was a very well-made anime, period. Regardless, it may not be up everyone's alley (namely for its commonplace story elements and some of its fanservice), but if you were one of the few who had not taken the plunge or might be a little jilted at the current state of light novel adaptations, you can give Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? a try at Crunchyroll, Hulu, Viewster, or The Anime Network for free, in Japanese with English subtitles (with multilanguage sub options at Crunchyroll).

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