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 in IS IT WRONG TO TRY TO PICK UP GIRLS IN A DUNGEON?
The audio presentation for this release is absolutely delightful and available in both English or Japanese subtitled Dolby Stereo 2.0 encoded at 224 kbps. There is a delicate balance between seiyus’ performances to carry the weight of the show and a majestic full orchestral accompaniment which brings forth primal or heartfelt emotional vigor which cannot be communicated by those talented voices. Of course those familiar with this role playing game anime genre will recognize this type of soundtrack, one in itself seems to be an overly enthusiastic and dominating actor, at times ferociously competing with sound effects of monsters roaring, weapons clashing or panicked screams of Bell running away; while it does seem to swallow up anyone who dares compete with it, at the same time without this powerful presenter most of the scenes would become barren, with voice actors needing to bring forth feelings their characters are trying to empathize to the audience. Although I would have liked to hear more dungeon scrapping noises bringing nuances to the background, this combination of music, speakers and minimal acoustics still arouses an environment reminiscent of RPGs which viewers will adore and become enrapture within this city of Orario.
However it is through the defining themes of this show by which the mood and general attitude are principally established and projected to an expectant audience. The upbeat opening song called Hey World is a charming proclamation by Bell via Chigusa’s seiyu, Yuka Iguchi and it generates the optimistic attitude which pervades this series; she proudly states that even if Bell is beaten down by the Dungeon, he will not give up since he believes tomorrow will be different, therefore allowing him to a chance to fulfill his dreams. But of course, we cannot forget the closing song which is the obsession of Hestia, winning over Bell’s love and it is comically presented in the chibi animated end credits with the declarative theme opened by a trumpet call – Right Light Rise, sung by Kanon Wakeshima. It is a warming announcement of her comparing herself to her follower, how they both feel that they are unreliable but in a good way, and that is what draws them together. You cannot but help smiling when you hear these songs after watching a few episodes, now knowing how these two are so close, even those the goddess still considers Bell her Child. These two melodies help to flesh out the true premise of the series: Bell will not quit even when he feels defeated and Hestia will keep supporting him, no matter how worthless they may feel about themselves. It is this sincerity between the main characters which makes this show so heartwarming and in turn, a joy to watch unfold.
This wonderful series is broken down into three disks spanning the breadth of thirteen episodes, encoded in standard MPEG-1/2 DVD media format and 720×480 anamorphic resolution. The 16×9 aspect ratio playback helps to expand the panoramic views of this series, both in the amazing underground Dungeon environment and stunning above ground city of Orario. It is this contrast between the barbaric, monster invested world below and the civilized expanse above which allows the audience to enjoy opposing viewpoints within one show. We know adventurers must go below to gain experience and treasure to finance further exploration, but at the same time, they must leave the safety and comfort within the Guild, Hostess of Fertility pub and the rundown church which Bell and Hestia call home. It is this thin dividing line between the two areas which reflects the development of our hero as both an explorer and a human, by which he tries to balance what may be separate worlds, only to find out that they interact more than Bell may wish. Only by combining what he learns in both can he truly become a real hero and as such, a respectable man.
While I do love the magnificent details which are put into even the most mundane aspects of everyday life within this story, you cannot overlook the disparate elements they place within each scene. The opening scene of an aerial view swooping down onto an overlook of Orario, the entirety encompasses a brilliantly impressive landscape. All of the greenery surrounding the inhabited areas is in stark contrast as to the cold stonework which the humans and demi-humans have crafted in order to maintain Babel Tower – the portal containing the Dungeon below. You have to stare in awe as we are introduced to the marketplace, sunlight streaming down illuminating the cobblestone streets as a whole, a confluence of merchants who cater to the adventurers, supplying all they need to survive within the depths below. The shading alone makes every component within the view look phenomenal, almost as if you could dive into the animation itself and feel welcomed by the realism of the depictions. And while the colors are digitally generated, the mixture of textures and tones are comparable to a well crafted painting, allowing you to feel the warmth of the people, even within the cold wooden and stone facades of the imposing buildings.
But of course, the Dungeon confined below the structure of Babel Tower is another matter altogether, and yet handled with the same skill of manipulating an audience. It is a very impressive technique whereby the studio switches seemlessly between these opposing environments, the subjectively bright civilized land above and the sinister depths of the world below. What makes it more engrossing are the characters’ mood shifts, especially Bell, when he is exposed to the reality of what awaits him. It was his decision, motivated by this grandfather’s influence of being able to find an appreciative girl, which drove the novice to seek his fortune and please his goddess Hestia. That determination is quickly drained once he is forced to face one of his defining moments: being chased and cornered by a minotaur; this scene also makes an undeniable impression on the viewer: roughly hewn granite caverns, dimly lit by magic stone lanterns with shadows flickering in the haunting glow, and then the shuddering form of a young boy makes the scene. The darkness is almost alive, shadows hide creatures which only the brave will conquer, with glowing red eyes intimidating all who are not confident to venture deeper. I admire how the animators were able to show such iconic monsters, but at the same time, they are able to illuminate them in a darker light, with heroes being the center of attention; you can almost feel their breath as they stare Bell down, the bull headed creature being his true nemesis – and his single path to bravery and redemption. It is here where Bell quickly discovers that only with a stout heart, clear purpose and determination can he forge ahead for what he truly desires: to become stronger in order to catch up to the one who truly saved him.
All of these separate elements bring the plot together, allowing the audience to enjoy an anime with stunning visuals that serve to enhance the themes of the show and at the same time, enveloping us within the lives of characters which we later come to care for and cheer once they take that first step toward success.
Sentai Filmworks immediately shows off the enthusiasm for this property as they display a joyous image of Bell and Hestia on the front cover. This amusing couple draws us in with big smiles as we literally fall into the atmosphere of the anime: an aerial view of a sky laced with clouds and the moon over Orario plus the impressive Tower of Babel within its center shows off the immensity of the city, as the redesigned English show logo focuses the eye to the bottom of the disk container. While the selection of bright white as the primary color for the case may seem strange, the buyer still is enticed by this plain background due to the use of Prussian blue to frame the overall illustration; but then you realize that this color choice is based on Hestia’s costume – her bright white dress emphasizes her curves and the deep blue ribbon around her neck and under her chest help to give notice to her amazing eyes. This marketing design ploy may seem simple, but at the same time, it brings everything together as one cohesive piece of artwork, making the viewer want to see what is inside of this alluring box.
This same design motif is elegantly carried over to the interior, allowing for this wondrous display of simplicity to carry on within the packaging. But the effectiveness is concentrated by using only one character per silk screened disk, with the white background emphasizing the uniqueness of each actor, as they stare at the buyer, eyes skyward, gazing into the distance. While this carry over from the front cover would have been appropriate with a Prussian blue zigzag border locking off the artwork, for some reason the completeness of the package was disturbed with the last disk’s deviation. Instead of using the established color setup, Sentai decided to change it by using a muted forest green for Lili’s appearance. This shift does nothing for this disk aside from making it stand out against the black plastic case, which in itself is an odd choice since this shade is barely used within the stoney dungeon scenery. Perhaps the company didn’t like how our favorite follower would have stood out against an ivory background, but for whatever reasoning, it diminishes the integrity of the entire collection.
It is genuinely appropriate that same pure white background and Prussian blue border design from the collection cover is also used in the menus, as it adds a innocence to these screens. Then to give it even more eye appeal, the strategic addition of a penciled scene layout of the animation makes you wonder at the amazing nuance from this complementary detail. And finally to complete this wonderful image, Sentai adds one of the characters in the forefront, almost as if they are welcoming the viewer to the show. The unique decorating scheme is carried on as the chapter/submenu selection are displayed on the right, with that comical monster skull from the title logo used as the cursor. All of these components combine into an enthralling way of tying everything together into one unique method of advertising the anime, as all of the elements are gleaned from the show itself. The simplicity of this exposition is a great way to allow the audience full immersion within the animation, without having to even start the first episode.
However, as with many other collections from Sentai Filmworks, they continue to repeat the same flaw on these screens by repeating the first minute of opening theme Hey World in the background for the primary menu and closing theme Right Light Rise for the submenus; though this may have been done to get the viewer ready for the show with their charming rhythms, it quickly gets tiresome once it restarts at the end of the cycle. Sentai should have given us an option to turn off the music, but they might not anticipated the viewer to spend much time in these areas since they are driving us away with the endless, if however apropos cacophony.
The extras for this collection are supremely disappointing considering the remarkable popularity for this fantastic title. While we still have the general trailers for Sentai Filmworks’ other properties, the only other supplements which they deemed necessary are the clean opening and closing animations, which is the norm for this licensing company. However with all of the effort put into promoting this series, you would think it would not take much effort in creating something in house like a glossary of terms used within the anime or some biographies of the main characters. But of course, we are not given that viable option.
However, as in previous menus, the one thing we do get is the first minute of closing theme Right Light Rise, echoing in the background. Although I can fathom the appropriateness for the music in the main, why put it in a side section when all other shows have silence? While the melody is pleasing enough, I still don’t understand why put it in a place where most will only spend a few seconds before making a choice – seems like a waste of a wonderfully optimistic tune.
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Bell Cranel is a boy who grew up listening to fairy tales from his grandfather, and now that he is gone, his truest wish is to fulfill their greatest dream: To save a damsel in distress so he can form a lasting relationship. Therefore, to grant himself such a desire, the young man journeys to the city of Orario, fabled location of Babel Tower, seal for the monster laden Dungeon. It is here were he is determined to become an adventurer, but an unfortunate dilemma is that to become successful, Bell needs the backing of a Familia; each of these groups are composed of fellow explorers who have pledged themselves to a God or Goddess who descended from Heaven, giving up divine powers and immortality so they may live with their Children. While they may have surrendered all their celestial abilities, these beings still retain the gift of granting worshippers a Blessing, the capacity to allow mortals to gain experience so as to raise their base skills and eventually, a chance to unlock rare and wondrous talents and perhaps even magic. All of these godly graces are equal in peer, however to accept one, the Child must be approved by the Familia, and therein lies the problem – no one will acknowledge Bell.
All they see is a misfit human who appears to be unable to even raise a weapon, let alone able to survive in the cruelty of the Dungeon. Too many turn him away, laughing at his vulnerability or shunning the fragile white haired teenager, thinking he is not worth the trouble of allowing into their Familia. Now dejected and ashamed, Bell thinks he will never be able to accomplish his childhood goal, until She steps into his life. The pure white dress barely covers her ample figure, but her radiance is most assuredly divine, despite her own lack of confidence. Hestia is a Goddess who too fell from Heaven, but unlike those other beings who have established their own Familias, she lacks the self-assurance to attain such a menial task. Now the fateful meeting between the two seems destined, each needing the courage to recognize what they themselves cannot see in each other, but now it is clear they are both special. But as time goes by and they try to perservere within an abandoned church, hunger a daily penance for not being able to earn enough for necessities, a month eventually passes. And it is then that Bell chances upon a frightening encounter … one which will forever change his life.
The Dungeon does not relinquish its treasures easily, its protectors are as fierce as any who secure something so precious to others, but lacking in wealth to their own keepers. Bell Cranel is now a Level One adventurer, and with only a month’s experience exploring the depths of this labyrinth, he is still considered a rookie. But of course, his enthusiasm does not warn this newbie that the fifth level is too dangerous for one such as he, and thus the Dungeon will chide him of his audacity; this land beneath the Tower may seem to be only a stoney maze to the uninitiated, but to those who know of its inner most mysteries, they realize that it has cunning beyond any living being. The monsters who spawn from its confines may be visible guardians, but this place also hides its own secrets. It is only now that the poor sacred rabbit called Bell begins to grasp that puzzle, but it may be too late for him to solve it in time. The massive presence of the creature may not have been seen, but the terrifying roar of anger could be heard as it shakes the walls.
Eyes as red as glowing embers, breath smelling of decay and hot as from a forge, its giant feet quake the ground while they pursue a hapless adventurer who ventured too far from established venues – as if there were any within this place called the Dungeon. The bull head towers above its massively muscled chest as it once again bellows in irritation, charging forward and stumbling as it tries to catch the skittish child who dare cross its path; a mammoth fist barely misses the ghostly white head of someone too scared for comprehensive thought and still they run with no destination in mind, a plan for escape not a valid choice. It seems this chase could continue for as long as there is space, but so too will that commodity has begun to vanish once they reach the top floor. Loose rumble skitters across the ground, causing prey to misstep and tumble into a corner, making it now apparent that this hunt will quickly come to an end. Bell remembers his promise to Hestia not to leave her alone, but now it seems that his pledge will soon fall, as he too may be leaving this world. Tears rolling down his pale cheeks, voice too hoarse to make any noise, he huddles into a ball and closes his eyes, waiting for the gigantic maul to hammer its point downward into his unprotected skull. But it does not come … all Cranel hears are shrieks of pain and the warmth of salty liquid running all his body.
Unsure if he should open his eyes, curiosity overcomes fear and is rewarded by the frightening sight he remembered: a minotaur still standing over his crumbled form. But there is something different from the last time he saw it, the vision is dyed crimson as if his eyes were covered in a questionable hue; biting brine stings as his sight adjusts to the abomination frozen above him, mouth agape, stunned beyond belief. The tinge of iron now permeates the air and Bell tries to wipe the contamination which clouded his view … and much to his horror, it is blood. The rookie adventurer is now covered from head to toe in the vile fluid of the man bull, a grisly gash within its forearm still drips from above his head. Hesitant of what to do, his head swivels to survey the event which saved his life, only unable to make sense of anything which now is laid out before his frightened gaze. But there is one thing which stands out within this ghoulish mayhem – the lovely form of a noble swordswoman dressed in white who swiftly sheaths her rapier after a hasty shake to clean the blade. Her wheat colored hair glows within the magic stone lanterns’ faint light, golden eyes stare at the person she just rescued and unsure of what to do next, both gaze into each others faces, tension filling the air.
Then as if to answer that uneasy question, Bell finally finds his voice and a thank you is not the expected response, but instead a confused scream of anxiety. Panic is his answer to the query which is displayed before his novice eyes, as they lack the experience of knowledge and therefore, his response is obvious to his bewildered mind – escape. Legs still stiffened by lack of use, a clumsy stutter step is all he can manage, but the limbs finally loosen allowing for a hasty retreat; the confused girl named Ais was barely able to ask if he was all right before the rabbit fled, and now, the chaotic battlefield leaves her with a befuddled expression upon her haggard visage.
In case I forget to articulate this obvious fact later on before becoming obsessed in my ravings about this series, I will state it now: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Familia Myth is my favorite role playing game anime. This show has everything which you will ever need in an animation from this genre: clueless hero who is more concerned about his friends than himself, infatuated one sided love interest who will lash out at anyone she thinks threatens the relationship, heroine who is an emotional simpleton unsure of how to react to others, companions with own unresolved issues within their lives, complex side characters willing to interfere with the love triangle in order to help, plus a menagerie of monsters, especially minotaurs, out to destroy anyone who enters the Dungeon. What more could you ask for – aside from megalithic boss battles, wait … we have that too! So, I guess that means this series has all of the essential elements needed for the show, including the quintessential component for a male lead, the harem factor.
Even if you cover all of these basic ingredients, Dungeon still manages to surprise you with the complexity of the rapport between core characters, all involving their own hesitancies: Bell, Hestia, Lili, Welf and Ais. From the very beginning Bell is engrossed trying to catch up to the woman who rescued him – Ais, but at the same time, he is swallowed by self doubt thinking he will never amount to unsaid expectations. These same feelings of inadequacies also plague Hestia, thinking she is a useless goddess, unworthy of any followers aside from Bell; this may too be a factor of her intense jealousy and desire not expand the Familia, so as to keep her white haired rabbit to herself.
You have to admire series creator Fujino Omori for being able to create such integral interaction between everyone Bell meets, making him stronger by involvement with their lives. However at the same time, it is amazing how oppressive this series is as it begins, but as our young hero expands his circle of friends, he gains confidence by shouldering the burdens of his companions, in essence he understands their failings; although it may be his naiveté which endears the people he meets, at the same time it is also his lack of mistrust which allows him to understand everyone. And while he may not always charm each person, it is his altruism which eventually wins them over … most of the time. Even within these opposing areas, he still manages to show the audience that strength is not always the true path, but as it should be, it is kindness, confidence and a belief in oneself and others. And in turn, he soon learns that both the world above and below can shine – much to the enjoyment of all.
As you can see, this show is an amazing anime, but if I did have misgivings in Sentai Filmworks’ handling of the license, it would be in conversion. There are times in the wording of subtitles where they are crude, whereby oversimplifying any intrinsic nature in a scene and by doing so, the grammar suffers with clumsy transition which makes the audience pause to reread a sentence; in other words, they overcomplicate or undervalue the original Japanese script. The most jarring would be the simple phrase kami-sama which in its easiest form for the show would mean god/goddess. For some reason instead of using the usual divine title, Sentai decided to introduce the obscure term deusdea – which are the combined Latin words deus (male form for god) and dea (feminine form for goddess). It is certain that I am not the only one who had to stop the disk in order to remember high school Latin to figure out what they were trying to say, even if it was clear in reference to the scene. While these mistakes are rare, they still disturb the viewers’ enjoyment of the series, but it is not enough to completely ruin the overall pleasure of the collection.
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Familia Myth is a phenomenal series which explores the insecurities of youth and the necessity of friends. Bell Cranel in his adventures to the Dungeon shows us that it is fine to doubt oneself, but it is the unlikely Loli Big-Boobs Hestia who reiterates that belief in yourself and others is the key to success in that labyrinth and life. I cannot deny that this anime will make you audibly cheer and cry for the white rabbit during his defining moments, but then within the same episode, laugh until your sides hurt. This show has everything you would want in an RPG animation and also adds elements which you never knew you wanted – like powerful Genki Ais not knowing how to comfort someone. I know I will watch this collection multiple times, and with the sequel light novel Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? On the Side: Sword Oratoria being turned into an anime, it will be something I will rate as one of my all time favorite series.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening & Closing Animations & Sentai Trailers
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray player