Short answer: Yes. Long Answer: A book exists to be read.
Instilled with some incredibly false notions by his now deceased grandfather, Bell Cranell has come to The Labyrinth City of Orario not to become one of the great adventurers of legend, but for the purpose of one day having his very own harem. As naive and reckless as any 14-year-old boy is expected to be, Bell dives too far into the dungeon too soon and finds himself face-to-face with a Minotaur, a monster that he is unable to even harm. Trapped and alone, Bell is saved from death by the beautiful and strong Aiz Wallenstein, a hero that even the newest of adventurers would recognize on sight. Maybe a dungeon is not the worst place to find love.
For those that want some quality action and adventure to go with their harem. Include some decent comedy and a likable protagonist and fans of fantasy world-building should be satisfied with this one.
Fujino Omori makes a number of correct choices in world-building, a process fraught with numerous difficulties. A nice balance is struck between establishing the world’s mechanics, leaving the nuance you don’t need to know yet for later, and the amount of time given to the exposition dumps during the introductory chapters, which are explained simply and woven into Bell’s first three interaction with reasonable skill. Anyone with a passing knowledge of modern takes on fantasy will immediately recognize Gekai, Dungeon’s world, and those that have played RPGs should get a kick out of Fujino’s near seamless integration of numerical stats and levels into a world that is not some virtual construct, but the very world our characters live in. Take a look at Bell’s stat sheet, which are called Falna, from near the beginning of the book, empty skill and spell slots included.
Yes, this is how it is printed in the book and, yes, Bell’s goddess Hestia provides him with an actual piece of paper with this information written on it.
The gods, whose reason for coming to Gekai is to alleviate boredom, and their relationship with adventurers give Dungeon considerable potential. Each god is the head of their respective Familia, the adventurers that they have blessed with a Falna, and these so called families share all the flaws and idiosyncrasies of their god. This dynamic is only explored on a surface level in this volume, but I still count it as a positive, because it successfully lays down a foundation for future conflict and intrigue, encouraging me to continue reading and increases my anticipation of further entries in this series. As for the gods actually in Dungeon, the five that we are introduced to are appropriately varied and in the case of all but one, which I will get to later, enjoyable.
Not to be out done by what I have already mentioned, Bell shines as the protagonist and functions near perfectly as a proxy for the reader. He is just the right combination of naive, good-natured, hard-working, reckless and pubescent to make himself endearing. Most of the book is luckily spent from his perspective and the best of the comedy on offer comes from his running inner monologue about the situation he finds himself in. Bell’s inner voice feels pretty accurate for what can be expected of a 14-year-old boy, and except for a couple of instances early on, it does not cause a distraction from the story telling by focusing too much on titillation.
Fantasy protagonists need to be special, it’s a given, and Bell is no exception. After being saved by Aiz, Bell becomes so completely smitten by her that he is granted a skill because of it, sounds weird, but it works. While upgrading Bell’s Falna Hestia uses his experience with Aiz to grant him the skill Realis Phrase, something she does not tell him about for reasons both good and bad. It is described thusly:
Rapid Growth - continued desire results in continued growth - stronger desire results in stronger growth.
This is basically a superpower, one that is both unique and predicated on his infatuation with Aiz. But it acts as a double edged sword for Bell, who is often more vulnerable than he would otherwise be, because it places him in situations that he is not yet prepared for.
My biggest issue with Dungeon is the harem itself, though I do like four of its five members as characters, more on the odd one out in the next paragraph. Rarely do harems seem particularly realistic to me, but that is something I can usually overlook, at least enough that it does not hinder my enjoyment of a story that is otherwise good. The problem with Dungeon’s harem is that we have a 14-year-old protagonist and at least three members of said harem are adults, namely Eina, Hestia and Fraya, no bueno. I will conceed that Eina’s is more of a familial love, but Hestia’s is most definitely not and Fraya is just straight up crazy.
Now to talk about Hestia, my least favorite character in the book. I am not saying that she never does anything right, there are a few things, but she is just so damn annoying. The only positive thing that I can take from this, for the series going forward, is that she can’t get worse, probably.
They also need to work on that title, Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?, just doesn’t work. Seriously, no title should ever be that long, unless we are talking about the Ani-TAY chatroom, in which case it’s not nearly long enough. This didn’t factor in to the final score, but please feel free to leave suggestions for better titles in the comments....Dungeon Harem Quest?...Dungeons and Dating?...Would You Like a Ribbon With That?....
Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon Vol. 1 is a fun light read and manages to keep a good pace even with the large amount of exposition that needs to go into the world building. The action scenes are entertaining and the protagonist is someone that you want to succeed. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys fantasy, especially anyone that grew up on JRPGs. No matter your choice, I plan to keep reading.
Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon? Vol. 1 was published by Yen Press on December 16th, 2014. Authored by Fujino Omori and illustrated by Suzuhito Yasuda the series is currently ongoing and published by SB Creative Corp. The series is currently airing a one-cour anime adaptation for Spring 2015; volume one corresponds to episodes one through three. Volume two was published in English on April 21st, 2015 and volume three will be available August 18th, 2015.
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