Bell Cranel is just trying to find his way in the world. Of course, in his case, the “world” is an enormous dungeon filled with monsters, below a city run by gods and goddesses who have way too much time on their hands. He’s got big dreams but not much more when a roll on the random encounter table brings him face-to-face with the girl of his dreams-but what does a beginning adventurer have to offer a brilliant swordswoman? And what if the lonely goddess who sponsors his solo adventuring gets jealous…?!
I was going to give this series a pass. I thought based on just the title and cover that it would be fan service heavy and those points would outweigh any good it may have had. Instead, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon strikes a good balance between the male gaze and harems aspects and the D&D action and deity drama.
Bell Cranel is a novice adventurer and the lone member to the new familia headed by the young goddess Hestia. Every day Bell ventures into the Dungeon, an endless labyrinth that exists beneath the city of Oratio, and fights the monsters spawned there for magic stones that can then be sold for money. Bell comes off as a likable character. While his motivation to become an adventurer is less than pure, he wants to meet lots of cute girls, he is a responsible and loyal person. He is devoted to Hestia and risks his life to keep her safe. He is also clueless about Hestia’s feelings for him, or that the other girls around him might be developing feelings for him as well. The only girl on his mind is Aiz Wallenstein, a powerful swords-woman who saved his life, and who has inspired him to become stronger.
I don’t usually care for harem stories. The last series I read any amount of volumes of and still liked was Ranma 1/2. But I didn’t mind the growing harem in this title. The harem aspects are subtle. All of the girls that show an interest in Bell are levelheaded. None of them hit the extremes of over-excited or tsunudre-ish. Hestia is the only girl with overt feelings, but she hides them under a veil of wanting to help Bell and her Familia succeed and grow. I liked that about her. She genuinely cares for Bell, so her feelings make sense. The other girls so far, Syr, a waitress at a local inn, and Eina, Bell’s advisor in the Guild, seem to show some interest, but aren’t throwing themselves at him. Their interest in Bell can be seen as either friendship or something more.
The male gaze bent is another element that tends to turn me off, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The most obvious is again, Hestia, but even in-story this is poked at, as she is called “Loli Big-Boobs” by the other gods at a party she attends. Most of the women are well-endowed, but it’s usually not flaunted, so it was easy to take.
The Dungeons and Dragons elements were the parts I enjoyed the most. There is plenty of action as Bell spends a good amount of time in Dungeon in the first volume, while the second is mostly a chase around the city. The different creatures from the Dungeon are diverse and something you would expect to see in a dungeon crawl game. I loved that just like in D&D, Bell gets experience and has stats that are updated. The gaming elements are kept to a minimum and integrated into the story well, but are still enjoyable to readers who get them. I also liked the gods and goddess. Just like the myths they get their names from, there is infighting and intrigue among them, with humans used as their pawns. And several mythologies appear in just these two volumes with Greek, Norse and Hindu all being represented.
The art is well done, but there isn’t anything stand-out about it. The character designs varied, but aren’t highly detailed. The simplistic designs work well though and it isn’t difficult to tell characters apart. The action scenes are easy to follow and create a good amount of tension, especially in the chase battle.
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is a good fantasy that takes the fun elements of D&D and puts them into a visual format. Even with the harem and male gaze elements, it’s a lively and entertaining story that anyone will enjoy.
Review copies provided by publisher.