Warning: This review contains spoilers for the light novel “Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Vol. 1.” Do not read unless you don’t mind spoilers or you have already read the novel.
I am back with another book review, and this time it’s the light novel “Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Vol. 1.” By Fujino Omori. Here’s a quick summary so you know what it’s about:
“In Orario, fearless adventurers band together in search of fame and fortune within the monstrous underground labyrinth known as Dungeon.
But while riches and renown are incentive enough for most, Bell Cranel, would-be hero extraordinaire, has bigger plans.
He wants to pick up girls.
Is it wrong to face the perils of Dungeon alone, in a single-member guild blessed by a failed goddess? Maybe. Is it wrong to dream of playing hero to hapless maidens in Dungeon? Maybe not. After one misguided adventure, Bell quickly discovers that anything can happen in the labyrinth–even chance encounters with beautiful women. The only problem? He’s the one who winds up the damsel in distress!”
If there was one thing I liked for sure, it was definitely the whole setting. The RPG elements initially made me think of Sword Art Online briefly, but the difference is that the RPG elements in this particular world are more of a norm in this book, because in this book this is the only world that exists, while Sword Art Online was a virtual-reality world from the start. Elements such as guilds, dungeons, gaining experience points and more were well-incorporated into this particular book, as well as the specific skills a character may have from being in certain guilds. In Bell’s case, he had the skill of Realis Phrase. The more one desires to get stronger and the more motivation they have to reach their goals, the faster his abilities grow in strength, and this skill plays through a lot especially midway through the book.
Something I found different for this book was the element of having not just one consistent narrator, but many narrators. We got to look in Bell Cranel’s point of view (and we get his point of view most of the time considering he’s the main protagonist), but we also got a peek into Hestia’s point of view, Freya, and even Aiz Wallenstein. It was nice to have all those points of view during the novel, as it gave us a bit more depth to the characters. However, it could also get confusing when trying to figure out halfway through the book if a particular point of view is from Aiz’s point of view, Freya’s point of view, etc. because the points of view don’t just switch between the characters, but also in terms of whether it is in first person or third person. For example, it could be in Aiz’s point of view in third person, but then switch to Bell in first person. That made the book a bit confusing and more difficult to read and understand the events of the book as it went on, especially in the second half of the book.
Speaking of characters, character development was definitely something that happened during this light novel, and it was convincing development for Bell, especially. Bell, though perverted his goal may have been for becoming an adventurer for the sake of meeting girls, was initially incredibly cowardly and ran away from most fights in the beginning (and one of those times he briefly met Aiz, who saved him). After being spurred by overhearing people in Aiz’s guild mocking him, he starts having this desire to develop his own abilities. His motivation to fight goes from the goal of just picking up girls to actually proving to other guilds that though he may not be a great adventurer, he’s still capable of holding his own. That motivation eventually transforms into being an adventurer for the sake of protecting people and helping people, such as when Bell had to protect Hestia in the latter half of the book from a monster that Freya set loose on her. Because of this desire to prove himself, Bell’s Realis Phrase skill kicks in and his growth in his abilities is extremely rapid (and this surprises not just Bell but even Hestia, who gave him the ability in the first place). He grows more confident in his own abilities and his growing strength in his abilities reflects that, which I really liked.
Hestia, the leader of his guild (and the only other member of his guild, because Hestia’s guild is extremely small compared to most guilds), offers him support. She wants to be the one that Bell loves, and she does truly care for him, worrying about Bell whenever he enters a dungeon. Bell is also the only member of Hestia’s guild, and Hestia’s guild is so poor that she has to take on part-time jobs so her guild survives. She’s a hard worker and though the other guild leaders mock her for how weak/small/poor her guild is, she’s not going to let them get her down so easily. I liked that resilience Hestia held in the book towards reaching her goals (including getting another guild leader to make a special weapon just for Bell to use), no matter what obstacles were up against her.
The relationship between Bell and Hestia was also fun to read. Bell kind of sees Hestia more of a friend/sister figure than love interest in this book while Hestia is head-over-heels for him, so there were some touching moments that were awkward for the two characters but also cute in a way. It’s clearly seen that the two care for each other in their own way and I think it’s clear that their relationship could progress further but also could stay the same and still be good to read. Whether their relationship progresses further than what is currently shown in this book is up to the books that take place after this one.
Aiz, in her own way, pays attention to Bell just like the rest of the possible romantic love interests. What I interpreted from her actions, though she didn’t directly interact with Bell much, is that she sensed the potential in him to be a great fighter but she would rather watch from a distance and see if he is even capable of developing it first. She wants to examine his individual growth to see if he is a worthy adventurer. By the end of the novel, she’s impressed that he managed to take down a silverback all by himself (compared to how he freaked out at the Minotaur that tried to kill him at the beginning).
What I find interesting with the relations between Aiz and Bell in this book is that though they rarely interact, Bell looks up to her as a hero kind of figure (and especially since she saved his life in the beginning of the book). Bell’s been raised on stories of guys protecting the girls/damsels in distress and now he’s given this role reversal where he is often the one being saved (at least in the beginning of the book). Because of this role reversal, he initially wants to prove himself. Though his main motivation to grow was due to looking up to Aiz so much (as well as wanting to prove his worth to Aiz’s guild and the other adventurers also by halfway through the book), he develops his own sort of heroism through his kindness and care towards others, and I think Aiz can sense that motivation in him changing, too. Though I see her care for Bell in a sense (as she noticed him run out of the tavern while the rest of her guild was making fun of him), I don’t feel as much as a possible romantic connection between them. However, I think it would be interesting to see how her view of him changes throughout the series (provided I pick up the next book in this series to read and review that is).
As for the rest of the potential love interests other than Aiz and Hestia, there was less development for them. Some of the characters such as Freya had developments that were a bit too sudden. Staying on the topic of the character Freya, I found her to ultimately creepy due to her eventual plan to try to kill Bell by releasing a silverback type of monster and letting it rampage around the whole place by making it attack Hestia (so that Bell would hopefully die while defending Hestia). Thankfully the plan backfires and Bell manages to protect Hestia and stay alive while taking down the silverback, but I still found it scary, mainly because that decision seemed so sudden. I feel like the character development for Freya was a bit rushed in the book for sure.
Ultimately, I’m going to give this book a rating of 4/5 stars. The book definitely has its humour and some touching moments (particularly between Hestia and Bell in my opinion) as well as some interesting relationships between characters, the lack of character development in some of the potential love interests for Bell dragged it down, as well as the awkward point-of-view transitions. Despite that, the book is a fun, quick read for anyone who’s interested in reading something set in a Fantasy-RPG type of world.