Sword Oratoria: Is it Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? On The Side (Cert 12)
2 Discs DVD / 2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 303 minutes approx.
Release Date: September 3rd
As the lengthy and cumbersome title suggests, this show is a spin-off from an existing series, featuring one of the characters from the fantasy comedy Is it Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? and giving them a moment in the spotlight. I’ve not seen the parent show but it would appear this isn’t an issue as the lead and her support cast are introduced as if this was a fresh series.
The titular dungeon is not, in fact, a vast underground lair where people are interred and subject to daily torture, instead it is the name given to the multi-level area beneath the Tower of Babel in the city of Orario, full of monsters and other supernatural beings. Adventurers are encouraged to explore the dungeon and slay these beasts which yield crystal shards that can be used to increase their magic.
In this story, the lead protagonist is Sword Princess Ais Wallenstein of the Loki Familia, one of the many guilds created by the Gods who formed Orario as a place to have fun provided they don’t use their divine powers. Ais is flanked by novice mage Lefiya Viridis, Amazon twins Tione and Tiona Hiryute, dwarf Gareth Landrock, wolf boy Bete Loga and senior mage Riveria Ljos Alf.
Yet, despite being the most established character from the first Dungeon series, Ais soon becomes a secondary cast member to Lefiya, whose journey from timid burden to the group to a fully-fledged mage is soon revealed as the overarching thread. Over a series of adventures in the dungeon and the daily happenings around Orario, the one constant is the exponential growth in confidence and ability of this young elf mage – that and a fascination with boobs.
Everything Dungeon related is the creation of Fujino Ōmori, whose series of light novels, including this adjunct, has proven popular in Japan whilst the anime adaption of the main series has seen the franchise’s appeal grow internationally too. And therein might be the drawback of this series – fans of the original will come into it with high expectations and ready comparisons to make between the two.
Newbies like yours truly however, will find a generic and derivative fantasy show that will leave us wondering what the fuss is all about, doing little to provide an incentive to seek out its predecessor. Not that Sword Oratoria is bad – it isn’t – just uninspired and quite mediocre. The one thing it has going for it is the strong female leads but this is sadly undermined by the fan service and Sapphic shenanigans adding a twist to the standard objectification of females in anime.
If Goddess Loki (not that one) isn’t grabbing at Leifya’s modest sized chest, it is Tione’s bountiful bosom jiggling beneath her skimpy top – or worse still, flat chested sister Tiane and Loki trying to make theirs bigger via “boob exercises” during important meetings. Tione also seems to be the exception in the lady love stakes, taking a fancy to their leader Finn Deimne, who looks like a ten year-old boy but is apparently 40!
Aside from her immense fighting skills and irresistible charm with the other females – Leifya and familia namesake Goddess Loki chief among her admirers – Ais is a rather dull protagonist. She rarely smiles and her demeanour is one of introversion and stoicism, which makes her oblivious to the lust she engenders in the others.
The nearest significance Ais has to the main plot is from encountering creatures in the dungeon that keep calling her “Aria”, which was her mother’s name. In what is one of the clumsiest piece of storytelling I have ever encountered in anime, none of this is explored or built up ahead of the climactic showdown where Ais and friends defeated an extremely powerful monster hitherto unseen until the end of the penultimate episode, whose relevance and backstory is revealed is a huge info dump afterwards.
Whether the light novels are this clumsy or it is simply a case of the anime producers being bound by the constraints of a single cour series, this is maladroit scripting at its worse and I’m surprised it was allowed to go to air in such a clumsy and cack-handed fashion. The fact this is biggest thing I took away from watching this show should indicate why so many others found this spin-off to be an unsatisfactory experience.
Making a brief appearance in a few episodes is a young boy called Bell who Ais rescues from a minotaur in episode two. Bell is a shy lad who keeps running away from Ais, until eventually turning to her for training to improve his skills. Research reveals Bell was the main protagonist of the first Dungeon series and the timeline of Sword Oratoria runs in parallel to the original story, hence an innocuous crossover which won’t register with us newcomers.
Production wise there aren’t any complaints as the quality of the animation and artwork from Studio JC Staff is arguably the show’s biggest asset. Whilst the character designs clearly define the various races and creeds of this fantasy world, elves, goblins, dwarves, etc. they again are not at all original; you could easily throw any of the cast here into other shows like GATE, Log Horizon or Outbreak Company and be none the wiser.
This also applies to the action sequences, which are quite violent with plenty of blood, but ultimately play out as every other magical encounter, with multicoloured rune circles and garrulous incantations to be chanted that take an age to recite, in which time the monster would have eaten them! Well executed but we’ve seen it all before.
Not seeing Dungeon first means Sword Oratoria is easy to approach with no expectations unlike returning fans. A perfectly serviceable fantasy show, sadly lacking originality and a coherent plot, it might not be wrong to pick this up but the rewards are unfortunately average at best.
English Language 2.0
Japanese Language 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Disc 1 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black