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by Rebecca Silverman,

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

Novels 17-Review

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Novels 17-18 Review

Freya's certain that her search for her odr has come to its end in Bell Cranell, but he has no interest in being her true love. Tired and torn, she decides that if she can't woo him in any of her guises, she'll resort to using her divine powers, essentially kidnapping him by using Charm to convince all of Orario that he is and always has been a member of her familia. When that ultimately fails, she calls for a war game with Hestia Familia, hoping to win Bell that way. But is this truly what she wants? Can a true love that you have to trick be called "true," and is that what she's looking for in the first place?

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon is translated by Dale DeLucia.


Spoiler Warning: This review will contain spoilers for volumes sixteen and seventeen of the light novel series.

Freya is tired of waiting. She's decided that if she can't have Bell through fair means (or at least "fair" in her mind), she'll resort to foul. The fact that she takes this path shows the biggest flaw in her character: she may think she'll do anything for love, but the reality is that she's selfish. It's nothing more than that.

If you think about it, you can see that this has always been the case. The clearest indication is how she worked to separate Allen from Ahnya. Her brother was all she had in the world, and Freya manipulated him with her Charm until Ahnya was alone. She used her Syr persona to toy with the lives of others until it was no longer fun. Freya doesn't care about anyone but herself.

Or at least, that's the easiest way to see her. It is highly recommended that you read Familia Chronicle: Episode Freya (in either light novel or manga form) before picking these two volumes up, because that provides some necessary background for Freya and how she runs her familia. It's easy to read just these two and walk away with the impression that Freya is single-mindedly selfish, but that's selling her a bit short. The opening chapter of volume eighteen takes time to quietly dismantle the notion that it is her only drive by deconstructing the idea of a goddess of love and beauty and what that means. (Interestingly, Naoko Takeuchi touches on some similar ideas in Code Name: Sailor V, although they aren't nearly as well developed.) Freya's domain inspires endless devotion on the part of her followers, but with that comes the uneasy realization that they love her because she's the goddess of love and beauty – they don't see her. When Freya talks about searching for her odr (more properly written óðr), she's looking for someone who will love her for who, not what, she is. Her desire to become Syr is just as much about shedding the expectations and burdens of being divine as cutting loose, like Marie-Antoinette in the Petit Trianon.

There are some interesting discussions about how the virgin goddesses are the only ones immune to Freya's charm power. Volume seventeen only names the big Greco-Roman three (Hestia, Athena, Artemis), but the implication seems that Hestia and her brethren aren't captivated because they lack sexual desire and/or knowledge. Aiz's reaction seems to align with that because Aiz is practically unaware of her feelings. Bell, as the ultimate innocent, is protected by Hestia's power as the goddess of the hearth, and we see this again when she invokes Dio Aedes Vestas, Latin for her circular temple in Augustan Rome, turning the whole of Orario into her realm. More interestingly, this once again works to establish Freya's sexuality and sex appeal as a burden she's trying to divest herself of, setting the stage for a more precise explanation of the Allen/Ahnya situation in volume eighteen as well as the truth about what Syr means to her. Freya's real tragedy is that she thinks that by building a solid familia, she'll find her odr, but in truth, she's just surrounding herself with sycophants without true love. She has to recognize that power and love don't always go together, and by the time she does, she's already committed the crime of kidnapping Bell and starting a war game.

The idea of Freya's power, and more generally Freya Familia's power, form the backbone for volume eighteen. When Freya issues her challenge to Hestia, Guild head Royman is quick to bar Loki Familia from participating on Hestia Familia's side of the conflict. It's a stunning act of bureaucratic hypocrisy: he claims that it's because Orario (read: the guild) needs its two strongest familias not to destroy each other so that they can finish off the three big quests. He's afraid that if Loki Familia opposes Freya Familia, the two will both go down, leaving the city's dungeon tasks further than ever from being completed. The problem? His decision completely ignores the way that Freya abused her power and caused mental damage to the entire citizenship of Orario, and to be perfectly honest, it's one of the most realistic elements of volume eighteen. Royman allows himself to be blinded by the political specter of the so-called "greater good," leaving him on the wrong side of history in concept, if not in truth.

It also doesn't stop Loki Familia members from working behind the scenes to help Hestia Familia. If you're still keen on the idea of Lilly and Finn as a pair, volume eighteen should make you happy, and he's not the only member to step up and offer advice and training. Hestia Familia has the benefit of being the wronged party in this war game, which makes most people want to help them, although that isn't necessarily true for the gods, many of whom are snared by Freya's allure. Although nothing seems to come of it, it's interesting to see the disconnect between Royman, gods, and goddesses as sides are chosen, and it seems likely that the choices made here could have further repercussions in the future.

Although both of these volumes are strong, there's an open question if they, and particularly volume eighteen, needed to be quite so long. I would say almost certainly not, because while Fujino Ōmori is several cuts above most light novel authors, allowing him this many pages means he's free to indulge in his trademark overwritten fight scenes. Volume eighteen is about a war game between Hestia and Freya Familias. Still, we could have gotten the truth about Allen and Ahnya's relationship, Lilly's impressive leadership, and the return of the Benevolent Mistress ladies in many fewer pages. I think it would have been a stronger novel for it. There's a lot of bloat here, and it drags things down, particularly with how it tries to jump from scene to scene on the battlefield. Volume seventeen fares a bit better, but it feels like dragging out the trauma a little too long, undercutting the narrative by dint of oversaturation.

Still, the conclusion to what Omori calls "the fertility arc" is powerful. It brings several characters, most notably Lyu and Syr, full circle, and it capitalizes on a lesser-known myth of the Norse pantheon, namely Freya's search for her lost husband Óðr, which only merits scant mention in both the Poetic and Prose Eddas. It's bittersweet and remarkably fulfilling as a story arc, and that makes up for many of its deficiencies.

Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. Yen Press, BookWalker Global, and J-Novel Club are subsidiaries of KWE.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B

+ Fulfilling conclusion to the Freya arc with just the right amount of bittersweetness. Lyu gets some particularly good moments in volume eighteen, and Hestia in volume seventeen. Good use of a little-known myth.
Volume eighteen is overwritten and bloated, volume seventeen wallows in misery a little too long.

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Production Info:
Story: Fujino Ōmori
Licensed by: Yen Press

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Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (light novel)

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