Is It Wrong to Try To Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon?, Vol 1

They say pride cometh before the fall, and clearly high expectations cometh before great disappointment. I’d heard great things about this series, but after the first volume, I’m left feeling short-changed like an adventurer after a bad day of monster-hunting.

In Summary

Is It Wrong to Try To Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon? (Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darou ka in Japanese) is a cultural force, with light novels, manga, anime, and video games. From the outset, I was excited for this catchy-titled dungeon-crawling story. Set in a world of many different fantasy races, saturated with adventurers diving deep into a labyrinthine dungeon, the background and setting for the city of Orario is intriguing and well designed. With various gods from different religions making appearances, there’s a cultural flavour that feels like a huge mixing pot of fantasy, myth, religion, and adventure… yet sadly, for me at least, that was where my enjoyment ended.

In Discussion

The biggest problem I have with Is It Wrong to Try To Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon? rests with the characters themselves. The main star, fourteen-year-old Bell, opens the novel by talking about assembling a harem of adventuring girls, before promptly getting his ass kicked by a monster and getting saved by a beautiful lady.

His affection then leads him to pursue this unknown woman, even while ignoring Hestia, the beautiful goddess who acts as his roommate and patron — an arrangement whereby she grants him power and blessings. This situation acts as a sort of parallel setup to ordinary isekai stories, but grounded within the world’s own rules and restrictions — which, I admit, was a setup I quite enjoyed.

My issue with Bell is that he’s so damn whiny — and yet, within that, the story contradicts itself repeatedly. Bell complains that he’s weak and good for nothing but running away, but he grows in power significantly throughout the first volume, fulfilling all the requirements of every bland fantasy-harem-lead by getting stronger every other page. But again, despite the light novel’s title, there’s no group or party to be found aside from a few one-sided crushes from various characters.

Even more frustrating is Hestia herself. Her character is presented quite literally as “big boobed loli,” and although I would have loved for her to play up the ecchi fan service role, instead she has an obsessive crush on her fourteen-year-old adventurer, acting smitten and jealous in turns. Hestia is endearing nonetheless, but she feels vastly under utilised.

And here we come to my main issue with Is It Wrong to Try To Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon? — after an entire volume, I have absolutely no idea what the hell this story is even about. There are no goals or motivations. Bell isn’t even serious about forming a harem, so the click-bait-style title is meaningless; and there are no immediate stakes or goals for either of our main characters.

I might be kinder if the story positioned itself as an interesting slice-of-life take on dungeon adventuring — like many other slice-of-life isekai and fantasy manga or novels — but this very clearly is meant to be a story about growth and conquering your own weaknesses and flaws. Yet any supposed character growth feels shallow, like a good cup of tea watered down until there’s barely any flavour left.

In Conclusion

I considered DNF’ing this novel multiple times, but I continued, hoping it would get better eventually. Sadly I was wrong, and I felt relieved when I finished it, if only because it freed up a spot on my bedside table for a different book.

Is It Wrong to Try To Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon? definitely has its fans, and I genuinely wanted to be one of them… but sadly, I’ll have to sit this dungeon raid out.

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