What They Say:
Some adventurers delve into the sprawling labyrinths beneath the city of Orario to find fame and fortune. Others come to test their skills against the legions of monsters lurking in the darkness below. However, Bell Cranel’s grandfather told him a different reason: it’s a great place to rescue (and subsequently meet) girls! Now that Bell’s a dungeon delver himself, the ladies he’s encountering aren’t the helpless damsels in distress he’d imagined, and one of them, the beautiful swordswoman Ais Wallenstein, keeps rescuing Bell instead.
As embarrassing as that is, it’s nothing compared to what happens when goddesses get involved. Freya, Hephaistos, and Loki, with their powerful Familias, are intimidating enough, but there’s one goddess whose relationship with Bell is certain to spark trouble. After all, Bell is the ONLY member of the goddess Hestia’s Familia, and she’s not sure if she wants to share him with anyone!
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the newly created English language dub done up the same, both of which are encoded with the lossless DTS-HD MA codec. The series is one that works a good balance with its action and dialogue as we get some fun and creative things with monsters and the dungeons as well as a few bits and bobs here and there outside of the dungeon. These action pieces aren’t big and exciting for the most part but they get better as it progresses and they work the forward soundstage well to make for some solid pieces that keep you engaged. The show works its dialogue side in a similar manner where there’s some good placement as needed and overall it moves across the forward soundstage without problem. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by JC Staff, the show has a really nice look and feeling about it with some very fluid action sequences to be had. The color tone in particular works well throughout as there are some very vibrant pieces but also a good sense of earthiness attached to the detailed backgrounds that make this feel like a lived in world. The character animation is solid throughout with no problems and the high motio pieces are free of breakup or other noise related issues. The series in general is one that definitely looks a few steps above average and it pays off with a clean and pristine kind of encoding here that brings it to life wonderfully.
The packaging design for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case with the two discs inside against the interior walls. The front cover has a nice old school kind of feel about it with the blue done against the white with the grid paper underneath, reminding me of my old gaming days, while inside of that we get a very fun image of Bell and Hestia together that was used as a primary key visual for the show. It’s bright and colorful without being overdone to the point of distraction, especially as it has to handle a length and complicated title along the bottom as well. The back cover works the same white background with good framing to break out the extensive premise, some decent if small shots from the show, and the extras available that also lists out the episode and disc count. The production credits are easy to read and the technical grid covers the design of the release in a clean and easy to read form. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release stick to the kind of simple but appealing approach from the cover with the white background dominating the static pieces. The left side features the navigation that uses the same framing as the cover artwork in a good way that makes it easy to read but also with a bit of creativity about it. The rest is given over to character artwork where the first disc has a fun image of Hestia that’s really full of white material while the second disc lets Aiz have her time in the spotlight, which naturally is a bit brighter thanks to her hair design. Menu navigation is a breeze and it looks great both as a top level menu and as a pop-up menu.
The extras for this release are kept simple as we get just the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series of the same name, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is a thirteen episode series that aired in the spring 2015 season. The original novels are still ongoing with eleven of them out plus some spinoff material and manga adaptations along the way as well, making this a hit to be sure. The original work from Fujino Omori certainly made a splash in its original form but it was when it shifted to the anime side that it really took off, especially thanks to Suzuhito Yasuda’s illustrations that had a lot of people dressing up as Hestia and being playful and mocking with it, which is understandable. What I like, however, is that the show really doesn’t feel like it plays up the fanservice side of things all that much and is in a lot of ways fairly restrained compared to a lot of other shows. Hell, we don’t even get a hot spring episode until near the end of the season!
The series takes place in the land of Orario, a fairly standard fantasy style setting of a small city who has the dominating trait of a massive dungeon tower in the middle of it. This draws in plenty of adventurers to go in there and work their skills to advance in level and gain new glory and wealth. This does, unfortunately, have characters acknowledging their Level and that really feels out of place in things since it’s not trying to be people playing in a game world but rather a proper fantasy series. Those references continually took me out of the show even though they try and play it as an in-world thing as best as they can. The dungeon is fairly standard in that the higher the level the bigger the threat and we get parties that form based on skills and friendships as you’d expect.
The world also has another element to it in that the gods have come down from above to play and have fun with humanity, taking on the form and involving themselves to a good deal as sort of patrons. There are plenty of people that form up around various gods and you have them as “Familia” that work together to advance the group’s goals, so you have gods like Loki and others playing about with their personalities from time to time and you see shades of that within their followers as well, though they’re more varied than all being in lockstep similar. Our focus is on the goddess known as Hestia, a bright and outgoing young woman who is totally devoted to her single family member with Bell Cranel, a young man who really wants to be an adventurer and live a great life.
With Bell, there is no grand reason for his being an adventurer when you get down to it other than he’s just drawn to it and that makes him a little bland in a way. He’s eager and definitely someone who knows what he wants to do but he has to suffer by the fact that he’s essentially by himself and he struggles in dealing with other people. He’s got the hots for another adventurer named Aiz that he comes across, and understandably so as she’s an attractive young woman that’s powerful and skilled while belonging to the Loki family. Bell doesn’t get far with her at all in this season and that’s a big plus because she is unattainable to him at this point, though she’s becoming aware of him because of his earnest and honest approach to being an adventurer and doing the right thing in general. While we don’t get to know a lot about Aiz overall, she’s definitely likable and you can see why he’s into her and how with some time and effort they’d likely be well paired. Aiz, for what it’s worth, has her own TV series coming up with the Sword Oratoria project that comes from the light novel spinoff series.
What this series focuses on is Bell’s journey with Hestia guiding him as there’s certainly something rare about Bell. That comes in the form of a rare skill that allows him to work an accelerated growth when it comes to his level. He ends up moving up fairly fast by most standards in this opening season with what he’s capable of, fighting a minotaur solo later in the run, and that’s something that catches a lot of attention as time goes on. While he’s a goofy and just not that great at the start, it’s through the acquisition of certain weapons along the way and a supporter with Lili that helps out and provides inspiration that he’s able to start ramping up more. Combined with some increased confidence he’s able to really dig into what he can become and his skill starts to show more. When you’re able to do in one month what takes other adventurers three months or longer to do, well, you start to realize there’s something different about you.
What’s fun about this show and this particular season of it is that yes, there is a larger story going on with the minotaur and the events of the dungeon itself, but that’s not the real focus of it. What it wants to tell the tale of here is that of the hero himself. The seeds are planted for something bigger to be sure with some background elements but there’s no real payoff of note to it here, instead something that’s just set up for later. Watching Bell on his journey here is solid with what it does in giving us someone who is earnest and upbeat, trying his best, and not really coming across as magically gifted even though he is. He’s not skating through this but is facing the challenges and working hard at it with the support of Hestia. And Hestia herself worked a lot better for me than I imagined based on all the cosplay and oversexed fan art of her out there. The show really left me liking the characters that are the primary drivers here and that made the season a lot of fun to watch.
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is the kind of series where ahead of its debut you can see why it gets the flack it does from the designs and the viewers perception of it. Once you get into the show and see how it actually executes it you end up with something different. While there are places I’d quibble a bit on the execution, by and large it does a whole lot right and does it well. The show looks great, it doesn’t overplay the fanservice hand like it could, and it delivers a solid character growth piece while introducing us slowly but surely to this world and its characters. Sentai’s got a solid standard release here for fans to check out with a wonderfully encoded piece and a very fun dub that delivers for English language fans. Those that love the show will be pleased and it’ll likely draw in some new converts as well.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 28th, 2017
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.