The labyrinth city of Orario is still abuzz with rumors of the Little Rookie, all while Bell is doing his best to keep his focus on making progress within the dungeon. With the addition of Welf, Bell’s party is finally ready to enter the middle levels, but as prepared as they may be, the dungeon is a dangerous place and a single mistake can lead to ruin.
Bell, Lilly and Welf are entering the middle levels of the dungeon for the very first time and though things go well initially, they soon find themselves the victims of another party’s monster train. Forced to flee deeper into the labyrinth, the three soon find themselves lost, low on supplies and dealing with numerous injuries. With no good options available, Bell’s party decides to forgo an attempt at returning to the surface and instead dives further into the dungeon, hoping against hope that they can make it to the safety of the eighteenth floor. In Orario, the tardiness of Bell’s party does not go unnoticed.
Starting up immediately after volume four’s abrupt and unceremonious end, volume five is blessed with a strong and well-paced opening. Using just a few pages to set the stage for our adventurer’s plight, the volume starts not from the perspective of Bell or one of his party members, but from the perspective of the the very party whose monster train forces Bell and his friends into their desperate struggle. This is a great choice, as it not only allows us to get to know yet another group of adventurers in the vast city of Orario, and an interesting one at that, but it also lets us witness the awful decisions party leaders make in order to see their own survive, even if it means the death of others.
The following trial, a mad dash for the supposed safety of the eighteenth level is one of the best sequences so far in the series. As the perspective moves back and forth from Bell and Welf, the sense of dread and desperation slowly, but surely builds. It is here that we get to experience the truly unforgiving nature of the labyrinth for the first time, as it unceasingly sends threat after threat at our protagonists. When Welf, then Lilly succumb to their exhaustion, Bell is left to literally carry them to the end, all while standing at the edge of consciousness himself. It is these parts of the series that really make it worth reading, as Fujino Omori just has a way with action and suspense that is both easy to follow, yet at the same time contains enough depth in its scenarios to keep the reader fully engaged to what is going on in the story around said action. Too bad the same can not be said of the low key moments of the story.
Using some of the most base trappings available to storytelling in the action genre of light novels, the middle section of the volume is a bit of a let down compared to the rest. As Bell and company are struggling to survive, Hestia, to her partial redemption, is quick to gather a search party when he does not return as expected. Due to these actions Bell wakes on the eighteenth floor to met not only with Aiz and the returning Loki Familia, but also with Hestia and her escorts. What was meant to be a time of personal character growth for Bell and his fellows, I suppose, instead devolves into entertainment that would be best described by the phrase, lowest common denominator. Which is kind of sad, as there are some genuinely smart and well thought out narratives going on during this time, but any nuance and subtlety is quickly undermined by the situational choices being made. It may sound harsh, but when sandwiched between two excellent action sequences, one flight and the other fight, this part of the novel sticks out in the wrong way.
While in the depths of the dungeon we do learn a bit more about the functions of the guild and its relation with the curious subterranean adventure-run town of Rivira, but the greatest portion of world building comes from the inclusion of the god Hermes and his familia member Asfi, who finds herself in the unenviable position of being her god’s personal assistant. To this point in the series we have met a number of gods, but Hermes represents something a bit new, that of an active observer. Different from Freya’s antagonist obsession, Hermes simply wants to witness a great moment in history, and is willing to be a bit cruel to the participates to see progress to that end. Privy to Bell’s past and knowing just who Bell’s grandfathers was, Hermes gives us the first tangible clue to why Bell is a special existence.
Though the series still suffers from some of the same flaws that I have enumerated from beginning, this volume also includes some of the best the author has to offer in terms of action and world-building. Be it the rousing flight through the dungeon or the immense and consequential concluding battle, this volume is very entertaining. It helps that no matter how naive and good-natured Bell remains, even in the face of jealousy and deception, he is still a very charming protagonist. With what feels like the first arc of the story coming to an end, as Bell is now seen by many of his peers as deserving, just enough is set in motion at the end to have me looking forward to volume six.
Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Vol. 5 was published by Yen Press on April 19th, 2016. 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 five corresponds to episode 10 through 12. Volume 6 will be available in English starting August 23rd, 2016.
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