Finishing this really shouldn’t have taken as long as it did, but here we are and what’s done is done. Let’s get this over with.
Whatever you, dear reader, assume of me or my taste in anime, even those who only read my blog occasionally would be taken slightly aback at my choosing of a series such as DanMachi. It’s ripe with things that I’ve hammered other series for, evidenced just with its title—Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?. Self-indulgent writing into oblivion, formulaic Shounen plot points and endeavors, and loads of sexual fan service. All of these things are more than enough to have me rolling my eyes into the back of my skull, effectively blinding me for the rest of my days. So why do it? Well, peers have given the series some credit and I became just interested enough to give it a shot. Plus, I’m not one who wants something different all the time. If something different became the norm, it wouldn’t be different anymore… well, technically, it still would, but that’s a topic for another day.
To my extreme disappointment and everyone else’s utter shock, I’m sure, I didn’t care for this. I at least wanted to indulge in some dumb fun, something with flair and personality that would make up for just how stupid everything is. What it does instead is do everything by the book. Look, give Sword Art Online some credit, because it really influenced the course that fantasy/adventure anime would take following it. This isn’t to say that DanMachi is exactly like Sword Art Online, but holy shit did it make me think it was trying to be Sword Art Online, especially near the end. Combined with the characters all being influenced by the self-indulgent writing (Everyone bows down to/is in awe of/wants in the pants of Bell), there was very little about this anime I was really high on, or tolerant of.
So because I can’t seem to get enough of talking about self-indulgent writing, I’ll dissect what I mean by it in this specific case. Bell is our main character, and his goal is to become as strong as a female player who everyone adores because he wants to feel worthy enough for her. Cool. This is actually a nice thing to go off of and gives him a little more potential for growth.
Oh, and a quick aside: I didn’t grow disdainful of this anime until after its halfway point. I was actually more immersed in the earlier episodes because they felt like they were more keen on making a name of itself through its own merits, rather than copying other titles.
Anyway, from this point of establishing his goal, the writing ends up employing the most boring and predictable fashion of building upon it as possible. Bell is a pure, untainted child who respects everyone and everything to the point where he may as well be Jesus Christ. Because of this, all the women want him; not always at first, but eventually. Because as we all know, nice guys finish first. His personal Goddess in Hestia wants him, some random bartender is implied to want him, his love interest also shows signs of being interested in him, and a support character who is introduced about halfway through the series goes through a long arc of development just to become a puppet for his affection. It’s not even entirely about romantic interest, either—Bell is just on the minds of everyone in this anime. Gods, girls, boys, assholes, minotaur; Bell is always, always the center of attention. Because he’s special.
And what’s the common perception of blanket characters in fantasy anime who don’t have much of a personality? Link characters. They are characters people can easily replace with themselves. So it’s no longer Bell that’s got the attention of all the ladies, who’s growing stronger through THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!, who’s on the radar of all the most powerful Gods in the universe. It’s you. You’re the special one. You’re the strongest. You’re the good little boy who all the girls want. Everything in this world revolves around you and your glory. You move the plot and the plot does everything to ensure that all other characters will give you your due attention—negative or positive.
Recently I’ve become more lax on the “issue” of this, accepting that it’s just a quirk that people enjoy and its potential as harmful material is debatable. What I don’t care for is that it becomes so popular that more and more fiction begin to focus on more of that and less on individual characters growing into their own people and not enslaved to the “charm” of a link character. DanMachi is no different, and in some ways is worse than other series that employ it. By the last four or so episodes of this anime, I was genuinely bored of watching it. I stopped caring because I knew how it would end: Bell would save everyone because he’s special and everyone would fondle him for being so special. No one dies, no one grows, everyone’s happy. The lack of effort in trying to spin the finale into anything that hasn’t been done in three-hundred other anime is frankly despicable.
And more than the self-indulgent writing, the writing in general is incredibly lazy and non-endearing… well, usually non-endearing. Characters love Bell. The support character was actually a slightly interesting character despite having a predictable character growth chart, but her character also faces problems with some thought. Let me say this right now with no hyperbole: DanMachi has the shittiest people I have ever seen in an anime. By that, I mean these people are genuinely nasty, disgusting, greedy, immoral sociopaths who would jump at the chance to kill puppies, shit on Mr. Rogers, and torture every sweet old lady within their surrounding towns. It’s absolutely hilarious how unabashedly sinister and evil characters outside the “special ones” in this anime are, which makes the writing all the more stupid, predictable, and childish.
In regards to this support character, all her life she was abused by people within a greedy “familia” (code word for guilds) for not paying her debts. Everywhere she’s being chased and beaten and stolen from by these horrible people who laugh at her pain and misery. This isn’t interesting, it’s stupid and hard to take seriously. People can be completely evil, but not a majority of people. Even less will outright take pleasure in instilling pain unto others. Having a whole universe of people who are vapidly self-indulgent as well as a main character who’s under effect of self-indulgent writing becomes to self-indulgent that it becomes a self-indulgent parade of “How am I supposed to take any of this seriously within the context of immersion?” I can’t imagine myself there because it’s so obviously fake that it hurts my brain.
I’ve spent a little too much time shitting on the writing. Let’s talk about things I liked about this series, which include its overall design and animation… kind of. Animation’s a little hit and miss, but was generally up to par. The fight sequences were really nice and had a lot of fantasy bravado to them, even if I cared so little about the people involved in them. Even the comedy scenes (which weren’t funny) had a nice variety to the expressions and reactions characters had. Gave the earlier episodes a little more flavor to them. And aside from all the women being dressed scantily-clad for incredibly obvious reasons, the designs definitely screamed “JRPG,” which triggered some fond memories of the video gaming days of my youth.
So for sound, I wasn’t as much a fan of the series as someone else may be. Hestia’s actress is really, really expressive, which is nice, but it becomes ear-grating when her character is so unlikable. It’d be different if she was flirty and fun with it, but she’s just a jealous whiner, which isn’t
sexy likable. Ignoring everyone else’s standard performance (though props to Bell’s actor for giving it his fuckin’ all with screaming), there was also a high ratio of a certain sound during fight scenes that I’m not entirely sure was intentional. It’s like the sound of a mic being crushed and losing signal at the same time, giving a really bad-sounding explosion-like noise that really hurt fight sequences. Not to mention, it was one of the only sound effects they used for a lot of the more magical fight sequences. Granted, I wear headphones while watching anime, so it may just be those picking it up more than it should, but nevertheless, it made for a not so nice experience.
I’ve said what I had to say. No reason to extend this longer than it already is. I had some glimmer of hope for this series and it didn’t deliver, because it delivered exactly what the majority wanted(?). God, I’m such a hipster.
Final Score: 3/10
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.
To see the ratings for all entries in this Summer and all others, check out the Summer of Anime Archive!