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

Rating: ★★

The thing I liked about this was its simplicity. The show doesn't try to baffle you with counter-intuitive takes, or richly-plotted villains, or difficult moral terrain. The main character is a hero with a straightforwardly good nature. He is charitable and modest, and intuitively saves girls from danger---when (rarely) questioned on why he is protecting, for example, a female thief, he is clearly confused, this is to him axiomatically the correct behaviour. I can somewhat enjoy the earnest nature of this: Here is a virtuous hero; girls like a hero. But simplicity is also the bane of this show. The enemies are all underdeveloped or at best under development, and the supporting cast is to a large extent just a selection of different possible romantic partners, all of whom seem to adore the protagonist. The world itself is, amazingly for anime, under-explained, with a few hints as to the world's key components scattered through the show, but not quite enough for you to make sense of the rules.

And yes, this is a harem anime, and it comes with all the tedious elements of this genre -- the jealous and overbearing partner played for laughs, the various damaged women, the shopping and dating scenes, the gratuitous fanservice, and the relentless protagonist-centred mode of operation for everybody's lives. So much of it is irritating probably precisely for the reason it is an addictive formula -- there is no meaningful romantic relationship.

By a romantic relationship, I mean not one-sided pursuit or obsession, but a reciprocal relationship, something that is real for more than a scene. The core tension of the harem formula is that it offers the (male) viewer a selection of beauties by proxy of the protagonist, but cannot ever commit him to one of them, as to do so is to disfavour the others, and thus enrage the sometimes-obsessive fans. So the show becomes a carefully-calculated emotional and sexual tease, floating continuously the possibility of different love interests.

I would love to see the mould broken. A harem anime where the protagonist actually commits to one of the girls, falls in love, even (gasp) fucks them, tastefully, off-camera. It could happen in a fantasy world, it could be part of a story that actually moves forward rather than treating us to an endless set of cliched interactions. Heck, I'd be happy with a philanderer. Let him sleep around, let it get complicated and messy and real.

The world of this story has some intriguing elements. Gods as undying mortals living amongst their closest companions would be an interesting concept to explore on its own. The video-game dungeon-crawler nature of 'adventuring' is upfront and works quite well. In general, this world could work for stories. Simplicity can be good, in moderation, this show ended up just dumb.