IT’S A HAREM, A HAREM. RUN. IT’S A HAREM. No, I’m kidding. I’m being open-minded this season and branching out. I just hope I won’t regret it. I have to be honest, I was put off by the title of this anime. For obvious reasons, I just assumed I’d be delving into a very flat and boring storyline of boy likes girl but other girl likes boy. Oh and that girl…and that one…and so on. BUT I was drawn in by the artwork for the series, and particularly by the protagonist, Bell. His cutesy white locks and red eyes evoked memories of Shion from No. 6 and Nai from Karneval. Plus, video-game settings are almost always a winner. This first impression proved accurate when actually watching the anime as the appealing art style in the stills carried over into fluid animation well, with a few action scenes showing off what this series could potentially grow into.
So the initial impression created by the first episodes of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is a very Sword Art Online feel, except that the characters aren’t held hostage or anything like that. It’s set in a lovely and lively fantasy game world, and within the first frames of the anime, displaying the bustling streets of the market, I felt pulled into a vast and creative landscape. I just had an instant feeling that, even if I didn’t like the story, I was definitely going to enjoy the design and art aspects. As the episodes progress, a whole wealth of beautifully unique characters are introduced. It’s actually quite impressive to see so many faces brought in so early in a series, adding a nice level of diversity and suggesting possibilities for future interactions.
The story itself is pretty lack-lustre so far. As the title suggests, it’s simply about a boy who wants to pick up a girl in this video game world. The girl is strong and powerful, whereas Bell is pretty much a level one newboid, so despite the dull concept, there’s a nice bit of role reversal. There’s also the problem of Bell and his love interest falling into different ‘houses’ in the game, resulting in a Romeo and Juliet-like premise. Despite his cluelessness about girls, Bell is adorably determined and high-spirited, making him rather amusing to watch. A lot of the time, he’s just a blushing mess, but for the most part it’s endearing: we feel sorry for him, and so want to cheer him on in his efforts.
The only major issue with this series so far is the direction it looks set to head in. The revelation in Episode Two that Bell has a secret skill causing him to grow (in game stats) at a rapid rate strays worryingly into god-mod territory. I fear that Bell will lose his childish, naive charm and instead become an overpowered little nugget of annoyance. Oh, and there are also a lot of boobs (obviously, since they go hand and hand with the harem setting) for those who are interested in that sort of thing.