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Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon (Vol. 14)
C. C.
Author: C. C. Cooper

A connoisseur of the finer stories life has to bring, little more engrosses the individual known as C3 than a work of art which knocks their socks off.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon (Vol. 14)

Distributor
Yen Press
Author/Artist
Fujino Omori/Suzuhito Yasuda
Price
£11.99

 Things pick up right where volume 13 left off, and by things I mean tension, stakes, and trouble. The whole shebang. Bell and Lyu got swallowed up by a giant snake who was then kind enough to ferry them down to the most dangerous territory in the Dungeon, the Deep Levels, and the remainder of his party has to wage battle against a two-headed dragon. I believe it was for situations exactly like this why an esteemed philosopher long ago coined the term “when shit hits the fan.”

The first thing which struck me about this particular volume is that it's thick. It doesn't have the heft of the Walking Dead Compendium, which you could bludgeon your worst enemies with, but for a light novel, it's a fairly substantial length. The more than 400< page length gave me reason for concern after I did my naughty habit of peaking ahead in a book to see what goodies I'll be treated to, because the first hundred pages is dedicated entirely to Bell's party's fight against the two-headed dragon. I had traumatic flashbacks to the Rising of the Shield Hero vol. 6, which is nothing but 400 pages of one fight against a giant turtle. It's long, exhausting, and not to mention dull. I was petrified this volume would be a grinding repetition of battle after battle after battle after battle after battle after battle after WHEN DOES IT END????!!!?!?!?!

Thankfully, this isn't the case, mostly. It's still a bit too enthused to throw Bell into a streak of battles, but unlike Shield Hero vol. 6, it knows how to take a few seconds to catch its breath.

Actually, I wish this volume held its breath, because it'd be bad news if a baddie detected you while you were trying to slink by in a cardboard box. Because Bell and Lyu are a couple of pooches primed for a screwing by the Deep Level monsters, the smart choice would be that they diverged from combat and started tiptoeing about like thieves in a museum. After all, as a famous biologist once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that doesn't fight a platoon of bloodthirsty skeletons when you're already half-dead.”

But Danmachi is an extraordinarily picky eater, because it refuses to try out anything other than its bread-and-butter combat. A disclaimer I should put out there is that I generally enjoy Danmachi's combat sequences. It hasn't put out anything as impressive as vol. 5's fight against Black Goliath, but it genuinely puts out some damn good climaxes. The problem which arises is that it's gotten so used to Bell solving his problems through swordplay that when there's the different, smarter option of stealth available and just about required of him, all he can say is, “How does this help me stick my knife in a lizardman's ribs?” It's that “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” dilemma, except this time, instead of applying to a video game, it's being applied to a book.

A second disclaimer I should throw out there is that this book does feature a stealth segment, and rather than dedicate the next one or two sentences of this paragraph toward explaining the stealth, I'm just going to type out one screenplay for how the scene goes and one screenplay for how it should've gone.

 

How it goes:

Lyu: There are too many monsters in that room we need to pass through. We will conceal ourselves using this black cloth I nicked from a monster a while back.

Bell: Great idea, Lyu!

How it should've gone:

Lyu: There are too many monsters in that room we need to pass through. We will conceal ourselves using this black cloth I nicked from a monster a while back.

Bell: Wait, wait, wait a minute. You've been holding on to that cloth for how long now?? And you didn't think earlier to disguise ourselves with it so that we didn't have to do all those battles to the death in the first place?!?

 

An area this series has been lacking in since its inception is its monster design creativity. They're novels, so visuals aren't as imperative, but the books hardly even try to be creative, just ripping a monster from mythology or giving a common animal steroids and calling it a new enemy. It was spoilers to bring up for the vol. 13 review, but the Juggernaut was a legitimately creative monster design that impressed me, at least from a visual standpoint. The frequent description of it being a “dinosaur fossil wearing armor” makes it sound like the doodle of a nine-year-old.

Some of that creativity flows into vol. 14, giving us monsters like the Skull Sheep and Obsidian Soldier, the latter of which I imagine being like Metroid Prime's Thardus. Neither would have the silhouette of Ludwig the Accursed from Bloodborne, but they're both a step above recoloring the lizardman and calling it a newer, stronger enemy.

Actually, let me stop there a sec. Danmachi belongs to that cluster of light novels that draws heavy inspiration from MMOs and RPGs, but why in the world is it sticking faithfully to the practice of recoloring old enemies for later levels? Does it not realize the only reason developers do that is to save on time and money? A book can create a universe-consuming dragon in the length of a single paragraph. So when it pits Bell against the blue version of a monster he's fought, it's just being exceptionally lazy.

Like I said a minute back, this series puts out great climaxes, and this volume isn't an exception. It wraps up Lyu's character arc rather nicely, but with the entire setup of this volume, the third act could've gone in a number of directions and been as equally satisfying. My hope was that since the ceilings of the 37th floor are so high and because Bell defeated the Juggernaut in the previous volume, some indescribably tall monster would stomp on it, barely aware of the bug it just stomped on. Another alternate universe possibility is that the rescue party, which is made up of side characters who all turn out to be BAMFs, show up at the eleventh hour to slice and dice the big baddie with barely a sweat broken.

Curiously, this volume has the opposite problem of the previous volume. Where 13 wanted to have this great, huge murder mystery but couldn't be bothered to put in the page space for it, 14 has numerous opportunities to trend different routes but opts to stick to its guns while plunging headfirst into the Forest of Infinitely Spawning Monsters. Its guns are still firing a-okay, but some spots on the handle and barrel are looking a bit rusty. If my occasional reference to game design throughout this review are any indication, the main problem with this particular volume is that it forgets it's not a video game. It's a book, so it has easy liberty to expand beyond the mechanics advertised on the back, which it has realized in the past, such as with vol. 8, when it took a weekend off from the Dungeon to tell the stories of lonely hearts looking to get laid. Speaking of getting laid, wasn't that Bell's motivation for becoming an Adventurer? Whatever happened to that? To getting strong, getting famous, and getting a bevy of beautiful ladies lining up to ring his dinner bell?

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Click here to learn the worldbuilding trick that brings Orario to life.

6
Is it wrong this volume has too much fighting in a series about fighting?
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