A.K.A: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
Director: Yoshiki Yamakawa
Writer of Original Light Novel: Fujino Omori
Animation Studios: J.C. Staff
Version Watched: Subbed
You know, of all the possible analysable aspects of an anime, there’s one that I’ve never complained about before and that’s the title. The translation of DanMachi’s title makes it seem like one of the borderline-trashy romcom adaptations that seem to be a dime a dozen these days and the very first thing I have to make clear in this review is that it is most definitely not. While it also doesn’t quite achieve greatness, DanMachi explores a unique and interesting setting with some likeable characters and a smattering of emotion. For me, it also very tidily answers the question of “Which fictional world would you most like to live in?”
Bell Cranel is an Adventurer. In a world where the various Gods and Goddesses have descended from the heavens to live among mortals he belongs to the Hestia Familia, which acts as his patron and facilitates his expeditions. The Goddess Hestia provides her Blessing, allowing him to develop his combat statistics with practice and venture into the dark depths of the Dungeon. She’s also incredibly protective of her only Familia member. Bell desires nothing more than to become a Hero from the tales his grandfather told him, and by traveling deeper and deeper below the surface he might just accomplish that with the help of his friends.
I often disagree with the reviews posted by users on MAL; people have different opinions and that’s okay. When it comes to DanMachi, however, I’m forced to wonder whether their writers even watched the same series given how abjectly false their claims are. To begin with, for a gamer like myself, the show’s setting is almost absurdly intriguing, taking features like player stats, roguelike dungeon crawling and levelling up and placing them into a world where they form a normal part of everyday life. It’s all fascinating and expertly weaved into the main narrative. Besides that, though, because that’s also a very subjective point, the moment-to-moment writing of the series is actually really very good. On multiple occasions I found myself predicting certain mundane outcomes to situations and DanMachi actively took advantage of the expectations I had to show me that it could surpass them repeatedly. For the entire first six episodes I was utterly entranced.
After that? Well, disappointing isn’t quite the word I’d use but things do start to feel a little more generic. Early character relationships make for some entertaining viewing with a significant amount of depth behind them while later interactions tend to be more superficial and discovering the mechanics of the world is a lot more entertaining when Bell is starting out than after he’s had a few successes. Don’t get me wrong, though, the show never once becomes boring and I’m very much hoping for a second season. One other complaint I have relates to my earlier comments on the title because occasionally DanMachi does return to its “roots” as you might think of them. Events are always interesting when they’re showing their serious face and most of the jokes are appropriate and worth a good laugh but whenever the harem/jealousy aspect shows up (mostly in the form of Hestia) it’s simply jarring because DanMachi really doesn’t feel like that kind of anime most of the time.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen such entertaining combat in a series. DanMachi’s visuals are a real asset, with action that flows well and choreography that makes sense; scenes with Bell fighting various dungeon monsters are some of the best on offer. There’s an unfortunate level of fan service (mostly to do with outfits rather than the usual bouncing bits) but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was far less than the title might have you expect. This is also one of the few times I’ve been able to comment that sound effects really stand out in a good way. Otherwise, the music and voice acting are as good as usual without deserving special praise.
Summary – DanMachi is a whole lot of fun to watch and if you’re into gaming it’ll be that much better. The setting alone makes for superb entertainment while likeable personalities and surprisingly good writing do a great job of backing it up. Things fizzle a little bit after the first half as the magic of discovery dissipates but boredom is not in this show’s vocabulary and there’s definitely room for a second season in there. The usual romcom tomfoolery implied by the title is mostly absent, replaced by fantastic animation and some of the best action I’ve seen for a while. The Geek Clinic happily recommends DanMachi.
Score: 8/10 – Good