DanMachi Review

DanMachi review

*Guy saves a girl from a monster in the dungeon*
Girl : *All blushing* Thank you!
Guy : Hey! Do you know what's today's word of the day?
Girl : *Confused* Nope.
Guy : The word of the day is legs. Let's go back to my place and spread the word.
Girl : *Goes all red* BAKAAA!!!! *Slaps him and runs away*

After hearing the name of this anime, if you're expecting a scenario like that, you have been mislead. [Insert Doge meme here](Don't worry, this is not a rant about Hestia's boobs. I'll be following my "Bash First, Praise Later" policy here.)
Before I begin the whole "bashing" part, let me give you a little info on the story. DanMachi is setup in a world where a Dungeon exists in a city called Orario. The Gods and Goddesses of this world decided to give up their place in the heavens and came down to live among the common folk. These Gods and Goddesses formed their own familia (like a clan) and they 'recruit' people into their familia by giving them their blessing which allows them to upgrade their stats and levels. And adventurers from all around the world come there to explore the dungeon and to defeat the monsters. So, this isn't a game world but a real world where the RPG game mechanics are 'common sense'. The story follows Bell Cranel, a guy who just started his 'career' as an adventure under the familia of the Goddess named Hestia. Since, he is the sole member of the familia, he has to go into the dungeon alone without a party. One day he gets chased around by a Minotaur and is almost killed by it only to be saved by the Sword Princess Aiz Wallenstein. He is infatuated by her charm and skills and decides to catch up to her. We follow Bell as he tries to get stronger and meets more and more people during his adventures in the dungeon.[Sadly, this isn't about picking up girls at all.]

Now, putting all the differences with the naming aside, Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka aka DanMachi, when looked at closely, really turns out to be an unoriginal story about a hero who just wants to get stronger. And there isn't anything wrong with that kind of story. After all, almost all of the stories, in fact, can be broken down to that same plot. It is how the story is coated with several layers of plot twists, narratives and character development which really makes them stand out and seem 'original'. Despite how DanMachi really tried to present a fresh perspective on the whole "RPG game world" story, it didn't add enough of those unique layers to either it's story or the characters which would give this an original feel.

To back up that statement, we can simply take the example of Bell Cranel. He's a guy who is really weak and unknown, who is chasing after someone stronger than him (Aiz). He then gets a rare power that makes him ridiculously stronger faster than anyone else, and he has a secret that is part of something much bigger. If you're wondering where you've seen this, here's a little hint for ye : Naruto (He was really weak in the beginning, chasing after Sasuke who was way stronger than him, had nine tails inside him, which plays a very crucial part in the long run and helps him get stronger really fast.) It is disappointing how easy it is to draw parallels between Bell and some of the other main characters from the popular shonen series.

DanMachi gif
When in doubt, go face first.
Not only that, even the story has a lot of questions left unanswered. Normally I wouldn't complain about that since the anime does need more than one season to really wrap up everything and majority of the complains can be dismissed by that excuse, but there were several questions that I really couldn't ignore. The very first is regarding the Dungeon. Since the story dictates that this isn't some sort of a game world but an actual world where mechanics/logic similar to an RPG game are implemented, it really annoys me when they don't explain what the Dungeon really is. Since there are Gods involved, where did it come from? Did someone create it for a purpose? You can just answer that with "Maybe, it was just there. Just like everything else." But that still does not solve the two major questions, that is, "How many floors are there?" and "Is there a reward at the end?" [As much patience as I have, I really can't watch a whole season in peace without having those answered]

Another question that is going to stand out is "If the Dungeon is such a scary place, then why would anyone risk their lives by going in?" The synopsis clearly suggests that the Dungeon is located in a city called Orario and life without being an adventurer is really possible. So why would anyone be stupid enough to go into a place filled with bloodthirsty monsters? Since we don't know what lies at the end of the Dungeon, this bothered me constantly as it makes no logical sense.[To a degree, you can dismiss this question if you really think about it in terms of human nature by asking a very simple question, "Why do people climb mountains?" It's not easy and you might really die doing it. The answer is, because they want to or they love the thrill of an adventure. Still, there is name and fame in the society at the end(and of course bragging rights) which can be looked upon as a motivation. And so a lack of motivation for the adventurers really bothers me.]

Last but not the least, the ending. A major problem problem with majority of the shonen anime is the humongous amount of asspulls we see at the end where the character whose chances of beating the final boss are equal to that of a candle's in a cyclone, somehow gets a powerup out of nowhere and ends up defeating the final boss. DanMachi is 'cursed' in that same way with it's over-the-top flashy ending with a huge asspull in the name of plot. I do liked how they avoided fighting a major boss until the very end, but that ending, despite how exhilarating it might seem, made little sense and was all done for fanservice.

Aiz Wallenstein
If you stare at this long enough, you'll go crazy.
So, then, what makes DanMachi watch-able?I did say that the anime made an "attempt" to be different. How, you ask? Well, the very first thing is the world-building. It actually implements majority of the RPG game mechanics and really did focus on them in the beginning. I really like how they show us the whole exchange system that is in place where you can get money for the crystal drops from the monsters. Not to mention every familia is like a big 'clan' with a God as a leader on top. And they even give us info on how and, to an extent, why these Gods came down to live on the Earth. Not only that, how all the players have their levels and their unique stats which can only be updated by their familia God/Goddess is something very unique of its own. And these stats and levels don't just jump up rapidly in a few episodes, instead the progression is slow and subtle seems somewhat realistic.And then there's the Dungeon. Though most of the info about it remains unknown, I like that they actually paid attention to some of the finer details inside. Like on the 18th floor they take the time to show us that the illumination in the surroundings actually comes from a crystal roof. Or how there are 'holes' in the floor of the dungeon that can be used to go down quickly. (Though some might see it as a plot device)
You see, it is because of these details that they put in the show that I get really frustrated when there are some major questions left unanswered. (which I mentioned above) But I guess for a light series, it did a good job giving us at least that much and I appreciate it.

While we are on the topic of the worldbuilding, there is a major problem with the main character which arises mainly because of the setting of the anime. Since there are no respawns in this setting, the main character Bell must ALWAYS come out alive. Despite how much he struggles, he somehow manages to (or must) climb out of a tough situation. But what that ends up doing, is that it gives off an impression that the guy is unbeatable. And majority of the anime with this kind of setting suffer from this 'dysfunction' in their main character. Now he did get saved by Aiz at times but that still doesn't give that realistic depth that I was looking for in it's character. (I have put this point here because that is a flaw in the character which is because of the whole setting and you can't really do anything about it. Because if he gets beaten, i.e., dies, the story is done.)

As for the other characters, they are all done just fine and they play their role as supporting characters (From the perspective of a light series of course.) There are certain issues with the female characters 'liking' the main character (all for different reasons; and at times it seems more like an infatuation than an actual love interest), but they are your standard light series tropes so I don't see how that's so much of a bad point. (Unless you're taking the series too seriously) In fact, these make for quite a lot of entertainment value of the show. Even though at times, the whole comedy routine might feel a bit generic, the relationship between Hestia and Bell kept the whole thing fresh for me.Speaking of Hestia, I think I should adress the topic of fanservice. The amount of fanservice in this anime, from the standards of a light series, is quite moderate. It is not so much in your face as to be a turn off. But since I have a neutral standpoint on fanservice, I'll let you know that it's there and leave the judging part upto you.

Good animation
The animation is really well done.
So that brings us to the animation of the show. For a light series, the animation quality was quite good. The character designs are well done and refreshing and the animation remains fluid for the most part. It really shines when the action scenes show up with good fight sequences. Though I would have liked some more variety on the dungeon monsters, they look a little too average and not so scary (maybe it's because it's only the starting floors of the dungeon.) Same goes for the floor boss. As for the soundtrack, it makes its presence knows in the last couple episodes. Until then, it was quite average and was just there. Though I still wouldn't go out of my way to search for the tracks.

In the end, this isn't such a bad series if you simply look at it from the perspective that this is supposed to be a light series. If you take it too seriously and try to pry out every single negative flaw in the series, you're simply going to end up being frustrated. So, I recommend this series as a light entertainment for you to enjoy and not something to think too much about.
DanMachi Rating

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