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Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? On the Side: Sword Oratoria Vol. #21 Manga Review

6 min read

Who is right and who is wrong … and which side will Bell join?

Creative Staff:
Illustrations By: Takashi Yagi
Original Story: Fujino Omori
Character Design: Haimura Kiyotaka & Yasuda Suzuhito
Translation: Andrew Gaippe
Lettering: Barri Sheager

What They Say:

Hestia Familia and Loki Familia. One endeavors to save the Xenos – intelligent monsters whose origins are yet unknown. The other sees them as nothing more than simple beasts – enemies to be exterminated.

In this ideological clash, Bell and his idol, Aiz, stand on opposing sides – but Bell wants to believe he can change her mind. Aiz is not easily swayed, and as she grips her sword, she knows the strength of her resolve will be tested …

Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):

As the battle of Daedalus Street grows more fierce, the Xenos find themselves caught in the middle of it, being the source of the skirmish as Hestia Familia valiantly attempt to protect their friends, even as the strongest family in Orario are determined to bring the chaos under control, Tiona and Tione at the forefront of the conflict charging forward, as Welf and Mikoto struggle to find a way to stop these relentless Amazons. Seeing no other option, the blacksmith calls to his companion to pull out their last option, a magical blade called Fubu which easily blows away the Hyrute twins, and while the younger is enthusiastic by this new means of travel, it is the elder who is annoyed by an attack which is stronger than Aiz’s Airiel, fully knowing only be a Crozzo blade could have such strength, both adamant to have revenge once they return. However, before they can head back, a looming cloud of black smoke emerges from one of the residential blocks which distracts Tiona, but Tione recalls the strategy meeting they had before deployment of how monsters might use such a tactic as cover, her annoying sister has dashed off in the opposite direction toward the smothering confusion, forcing the dutiful sibling little choice than to go after, her anger now diverted at an idiot who would fall for such an obvious distraction.

In the middle of the billowing obfuscation, the mighty dwarven warrior Gareth finds himself the prominent vanguard against the same group of Xenos, but as Mikoto laments the ineffectiveness of their remaining magic blade against such an indomitable force, Welf finds himself with few choices as he curses their bad luck, only for a familiar laugh to echo from above and its owner dramatically landing upon the battlefield, it is the captain of Hephaistos Familia and the source of his bane while he was with that family, Tsubaki. As Cyclops mockingly scolds her former junior and states a certain goddess asked for her help, she boldly presents a bundle of magical weapons and states they are welcome to use any, and yet Crozzo knows his senior all too well in that she only brought this package so she could test them in combat, no matter how well-meaning her intentions might be on the surface, wasting no time in swinging one of these precious items to create an overwhelming wall of ice to separate the warring sides. As members of Loki Familia stand in awe as to what happened, Landrock ponders the power of the magic just used against them, perhaps being on par with Riveria’s, but before any further action can be taken, the skittering of numerous legs signals a new foe has entered the fray, his subordinates shaking in fear as they spot the water spiders they faced in Knossos now advancing, and not far behind the fanatical followers of the Evils shouting that they must find the monsters and recover their Key.

In Summary:

While it is exciting for the audience to be thrown within the midst of the Xenos conflict, one cannot but be momentarily confused by the number of contrasting fronts, particularly if the reader is not familiar with the source material from Omori-sensei’s light novel, to consider that all of these confrontations are occurring almost simultaneously is overwhelming, but then to remember field general Finn must attempt to decipher these events is mind-boggling, making us look onto him with growing awe as this situation comes to light. And yet, it is from this perspective by which some of the moments are a bit confusing, allowing the audience to become enthralled by the dynamic monotone presentation from mangaka Yagi-sensei, the constrained map upon the opening page clearing up some of the disorder as we try to understand what is happening, chibi representations making our understanding a bit more appealing, with the same amount of chaos as on a true battlefield. We cannot but grin as the reputation of Loki Familia precedes them, Welf or Mikoto screaming out their names in horror as to having to face these nightmares, making impossible situations more daunting as they must attempt to delay these behemoths of the Dungeon before they harm the Xenos, much-needed injections of humor defusing the tension, causing us to laugh when Tiona appreciates their impromptu flight as Tione berates her sister, or Gareth asking all to stop beating up on an old man, as everyone responds in unison in a mocking manner. It is this lighthearted construction for the volume which makes it so enjoyable, even as the ominous nature of war belies what happens behind the scenes, from smiling Tiona sparing Wiene as she sees the truth of her actions, the boldness of Haruhime shielding Bell and the dragon girl from a caustic Bete, or the cold animosity of the normally aloof Anakity showing her hidden side, scaring Lilly so much she is perhaps traumatized to never go against Loki Familia ever again.

However, it is the visual representation of the Fairy Force which makes the second half of the volume so exhilarating for fans of this series, for while we have watched Lefiya grow from a tentative mage who was always afraid of being shielded from danger or failing to protect her friends, we cannot but cheer as we see this young elf surrounded by her kin now become the heart of this mobile magical array, the normally calm Riveria now forcefully commanding those who respect their queen, as they serge forward through Knossos to obliterate anything that stands in their way. Captivating moments are amplified by the same monotone images that one would normally think of as lackluster, but now it is this simplicity which makes the presentation so ambitious to the viewer, we cannot tear away from the unfolding of their accomplishments, each victory adding to the surging rage they feel against Thanatos and his followers, for while comical musings may be a subtle way to hide his panic, it also disguises the horrors a certain red-headed enforcer is too unmotivated unleash, her boiling temper something both sides of the conflict should be hesitant to face. But as victory seems close at hand, it is the regretful confrontation between the Little Rookie and his idol which all want to see, but at the same time we know this might signal the end to their friendly relationship, as two determined adventurers defend their ideals for better or worse, all as a frightened dragon girl watches helplessly as her hero is pushed back and she knows there is nothing she can do to save him.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? On the Side: Sword Oratoria continues to fascinate with a captivating story, enthralling imagery yet confusing cover with a green-haired Aiz, and yet we cannot but delve deeper into the battle over Knossos and valiant attempts to stop the mysterious Xenos, one cannot but wonder if there is a deeper meaning to the conflict between opposing sides, if their problems can be resolved by mutual agreement instead of the current stalemate of not wanting to harm these intelligent monsters. While readers of the light novels know what will happen, it is the vibrant visual unfolding before us which make the anticipation so agonizing, with exciting illustrations and moving depictions making the portrayal of what we understand into something much more fascinating, particularly the painful moments which decide the fate of Bell and Aiz’s relationship, the fate of two champions to become the deciding factor if one small familia will be destroyed by the most powerful, all to protect a foreign idea or a respectful friendship.

Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A-

Age Rating: Older Teen
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: November 21, 2023
MSRP: $13.00