Beneath the Labyrinth City of Orario lies the titular Dungeon, not just a maze, but a living thing that produces monsters from its very walls and actively seeks to kill all that enter. Added by the Gods that have descended from heaven, mostly out of boredom and curiosity, adventurers of all stripes plumb its depths for riches, fame and glory. What lies in store for the fledgling Hestia Familia and its lone adventurer?
Bell Cranell now has a supporter that he trusts and his progress within the Dungeon is even quicker than before, but now he faces a new challenge, how does he reach level 2? The goddess Freya is watching his every move and sets a plan in motion that will see either Bell overcome and be the fastest adventurer ever to reach level 2 or have his journey end in failure and death. Will the words of a friend and the grueling training regime of Aiz Wallenstein be enough?
More focused on action than either of the previous volumes Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Vol. 3 will be a fun read for any that enjoy the action-adventure genre, while still keeping most of its comedy and fun-loving nature intact.
Fujino Omori makes an interesting choice with this the third volume in the series, unlike the first two volumes that gave a lot of time to exposition and world-building, there is very little of that to be found here. Instead he choose to use everything that has occurred up to this point in the narrative to focus on a much more action-oriented story and Bell’s progression to the next level as an adventurer. It is a risk, but one that pays off for both the story and the reader.
Throughout the first two volumes Bell’s progress as an adventurer has often felt a little too easy. In spite of the many close calls, there were few times where I felt Bell was truly in danger. This all comes due in this volume, not only do we get to see Bell in an excellently detailed battle, but the hell he goes through to complete this stage in his journey feels earned and is all the more rewarding to experience as a reader. It is surprisingly how fun it can be to see a honest and hardworking protagonist get beaten up this much and this often but see him be able to overcome the obstacles in front of him in the end.
But to reach that end he needs more than just hard work and gumshen, this is where Aiz Wallenstein steps into the spotlight. Kept at a distance from Bell up till now, Aiz finally chooses to take the initiative and seeks out Eina, Bell’s guild mentor, so that she can finally have an actual conversation with Bell, something impossible for her as he has always ran away up till now. Unlike Bell’s fascination with Aiz, that comes from a mixture of idol worship and love, Aiz’s fascination with Bell has nothing to do with love, but with curiosity. Much like others she wants to know just how it is that Bell has become so strong so quickly and she can think of no other way to do this than get close to him. To stay there she agrees to help him train in secret. What was once a vague acquaintance now becomes an actual relationship between two people, a welcome and necessary step if this story is going to keep up its steady progression.
The training sessions between Aiz and Bell are brutal; Aiz is level six, Bell one, the difference is so stark that even holding back Aiz dominates the sparing so thoroughly that Bell can never land a single blow. Acting as Bell’s personal training montage, these sequences serve to increase Bell’s determination to do better even as he struggles to face the gap between himself and Aiz. Through it all, the comedy of Bell’s inner voice, as he is beaten again and again, keeps everything balanced and enjoyable, with the pace never dragging as the events set in motion by the Goddess Freya come to fruition.
Freya is crazy in the best kind of way, almost completely detached from everyone else’s reality, she is a viable threat to the characters of the world while staying entertaining to the reader. Obsessed beyond reason with Bell, she is able to discern a flaw in his otherwise colorless aura, a cloud that sits at his core and prevents him from progressing to level two, that being his encounter with the minotaur where he first met Aiz and the overwhelming fear it brings to mind. Using one of her Familia’s strongest warriors, Ottar, to prepare a minotaur just for Bell, we get our first opportunity to see into the mind of one of her adventurers and the result is sickening. Ottar, and through inference the rest of the Fraya Familia, are so enraptured by their goddess’s overwhelm presence and beauty that their devotion makes the Soma Familia pale in comparison. This story’s antagonist has become much more interesting and I look forward to what she has in store for our heroes.
Bell’s climatic battle with the minotaur is the highlight of not just this volume but the entire series so far. All of Fujino Omori’s storytelling strengths make an appearance during one of the better narrated one-on-one battles I have read; it was thrilling and in spite of already knowing the conclusion, I was still engaged the entire time. Impressive when you realize that this one fight covers more than a quarter of the entire volumes length. This is how you end an arc.
Because of such a heavy focus on Bell, Aiz, Freya and Ottar, there is less time for most of the remaining cast. While Hestia, Lilly, Syr, Eina and Lyu are not absent from this volume, very little time is spent with any of them, so their characters are left with little to do other than be spectators this time around.
Though volume three sees a marked improvement in a number of areas I have brought up in my first two reviews, including both narrative structure and character conversations, there is a particular moment during Bell’s training with Aiz that feels wildly out of place and downright creepy. While Bell has always been foolhardy and naive, he has a strongly set code of conduct in how he acts and treats others. During this particular scene he has none of these qualities and seems to act in a way that is completely out of character. The narrative tries to imply that this is all beyond his control, but that is neither earned nor explained and is a jarring misstep in an otherwise tightly bond story.
Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Vol. 3 feels like it is trying to be the last volume in a trilogy meant to set the foundation for better things to come and it succeeds. Taking all of the world-building elements and character progression from the first two volumes we are left with a focused, direct and dynamic story.
Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Vol. 3 was published by Yen Press on August 18th, 2015. Authored by Fujino Omori and illustrated by Suzuhito Yasuda the series is currently ongoing and published by SB Creative Corp. The book series received a one-cour anime adaptation in Spring 2015; volume three corresponds to episodes seven and eight. Volume four will be available in English starting December 15th, 2015.
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