Spring Anime 2015 Review: Should You Watch 'Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon?'

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon
Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? Don't we all ask ourselves that every once in a while? (c) JC Staff/GENCO/Danmachi Production Committee

Of the new spring 2015 anime, Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon was one I was ready to hate on sight. But Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon, with its overblown mega-long title and its boob ribbons and all, has shown itself to be surprisingly charming in its four episodes so far. I was resistant, but grudgingly, I have to admit the show’s not as bad as I thought it would be from the title. Here’s why:

The fanservice is not as egregious as I had anticipated.

Some fanservice borders on pornographic. It’s uncomfortable to watch, especially because the stars of such fanservice are often so childlike, with squeaky infantilized voices and huge, innocent doe-eyes. And then they’ve got the massive chests with impossible physics, and it’s weird and gross, and I’m not really interested in the bizarre mental gymnastics people go through to defend it. I don’t think Japan’s nuclear trauma from World War II has anything to do with the preponderance of moë fanbait. Sorry.

So with a title like Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon, I was braced and ready for a barrage of fanservice crammed into each scene with the efficiency of a panty shot machine gun. But it… wasn’t that bad. Hestia has by far the most fanservice poses and there’s some really stupid banter about boobs, but here I was thinking it’d be a non-stop, 25-minute montage of unnecessary panty shots, and it’s not. Is It Wrong To Feel Intense Relief At Not Being Subjected To Literally Non-Stop Objectification of Childlike Women?  

Of course, every time I get lulled into thinking this anime will just stay charming and light and kind of interesting, a female character will inexplicably blush with dewy-eyed arousal as they breathily whisper their attraction to non-entity protagonist Bell Cranel or shove his face into their boobs or something, so it’s not exactly an escape. But still.

The character design is super cute and appealing, and the animation is really good.

I really didn’t expect such high production quality on this anime. How does its production quality outshine in four episodes what it has taken Sailor Moon Crystal a complete season to fail at? Every face is different (Disney, take note). Aiz, Bell’s obsession, looks very different from petite Hestia, who looks very different from lanky Loki, who looks different from Guild representative Eina.

You can check out the different character designs here to confirm for yourself. This is, of course, part of the charm of a harem anime -- there’s no fun in picking a favorite waifu when they’re all identical. But I appreciate that every design is appealing in different ways. And the animation is smooth and fluid, with no jarring dips in quality.

The production team tried to add a modicum of depth to a very shallow premise, and while they didn’t 100% succeed, the effort is noted and appreciated.

Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon is about a weak adventurer dweeb who gets rescued by a beautiful bad-ass female adventurer. Aiz Wallenstein is so beautiful and so bad-ass, our stammering and unremarkable dweeb protagonist Bell immediately conceives an overwhelming devotion to the idea of becoming worthy of dating her. That’s it;  that’s the plot.

But then in episode 3, we hear about Bell’s start as an adventurer and his tragic dead gramps. Sure, it’s cliche, but it works. We see him risk his life to save Hestia, his goddess who gave him a chance when everyone else rejected him for his weakness. In episode 4, he is nothing but kind to Liliruca, whom we’ve seen cuffed and abused by adventurers she’s traveled with before. His generosity obviously touches her thieving little heart. Bell wants to be strong, not just to get laid by the best-looking, baddest-ass woman adventurer in town, but for Hestia and for his dead gramps, too.

As for Hestia and Bell, she obviously loves him and wants to be with him, not simply as patron goddess but as a lover. Bell’s ignorance to her every overture is a grating genre standard, but his trademark obliviousness lessens Hestia’s love for Bell not a whit. She prostrates herself for hours to the goddess Hephaestus, begging her for the opportunity to enter into extreme debt to procure Bell a one-of-a-kind, handmade, custom weapon just for him. In episode 4 we see her working at the Hephaeustus shop to pay off her debt. That level of devotion to her one humble little nobody adventurer is really touching.

So is Is It Wrong To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon worth a watch?

Yes, I think so. But here are my caveats:

  1. You have to be willing to overlook fanservice. It is stupid and it is there. So it goes.
  2. You can’t go in expecting this show to even try to tackle some of the subject matter Sword Art Online attempted to handle. The show strives for a light and humorous tone with flashes of depth, not the other way around.
  3. The worldbuilding is super predictable, so if you were interested in that, don’t bother. Bell’s video game style stats are literally written on his back along with his Special Ability. Almost zero time is spent on unpacking what could be a real point of interest.
  4. Bell is dumb as hell. It is literally impossible for someone to so consistently misunderstand Hestia's repeated advances without being smacked one too many times in the head by a giant spider. His stammering obliviousness constantly verges on annoying.

If you just want to check out the source of the boob ribbon hype, though, then give the show a watch. You can watch Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon streaming on Crunchyroll. The simulcast is updated every Friday at 1:30 PM.

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