Yen On, 2013, 216 pages
In Orario, fearless adventurers band together in search of fame and fortune within the monstrous underground labyrinth known as Dungeon.
But while riches and renown are incentive enough for most, Bell Cranel, would-be hero extraordinaire, has bigger plans.
He wants to pick up girls.
Is it wrong to face the perils of Dungeon alone, in a single-member guild blessed by a failed goddess? Maybe. Is it wrong to dream of playing hero to hapless maidens in Dungeon? Maybe not. After one misguided adventure, Bell quickly discovers that anything can happen in the labyrinth--even chance encounters with beautiful women. The only problem? He's the one who winds up the damsel in distress!
I shouldn't have expected much, but since I've never read a "Light Novel" before, and the title was pretty funny, I thought I'd give this a try.
For those not in the know, "Light novels" originated in Japan as a form of literature specifically targeting tweens and teens in short, serialized form, usually heavy on manga/anime themes, but written as short novels rather than as manga. Popular Light novels tend to become manga and anime, and Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is apparently popular enough that it's spawned manga, games, toys, etc.
Here's some merch, which should tell you everything you need to know about the target audience:
She's actually a 12th level sword-saint, but the Playboy bunny version costs $244.99.
So, what is this "Light novel"? It's basically exactly what it looks like on the cover, a wish-fulfillment fantasy for teenage boys. The main character, Bell Cranel, is a fourteen-year-old boy with white hair who comes to the main city, Orario, to descend into the dungeon there and fight monsters. He's a wimp who gets rescued by the series hottie, Aiz Wallenstein, who spends most of the first book standing around expressionlessly while her companions mock noobs like Bell.
The world-building is extremely minimal, because the story is basically set in a video game. Young people run around fighting monsters, with literal stats tattooed on their backs. Everyone is affiliated with a "familia" led by a god. The gods came to this world to have fun and mess with mortals, but aside from being immortal and having a few god powers, they mostly act like hormonal teenagers. Bell's goddess is Hestia, and the two of them make up the entirety of Hestia's familia because Hestia is poor and mostly powerless and works odd jobs scrounging rent and food money for her and Bell.
Hestia is called "Loli boobs" by her fellow gods, because... yeah, loli boobs.
The writing is not good, though it does vividly convey anime action.
It climbed to the top! It must have ignored the roads altogether and jumped from rooftop to rooftop like a wild animal swinging through trees! It's coming after us from above!
It dives straight down like a bullet.
A sneak attack from above! It's going to land right on top of us! I have to let go of the goddess! It'll crush us both!
It hits the ground with a bang, debris flying in its wake. The goddess and I get out of the way, but the beast is between us!
It's facing me, and the goddess is backing up! Quick, before he turns around. I have to do something!
I take that blast of air and monster spit to the face. Nice teeth...
It's not attacking... Was that a warning? Trying to scare me?!
Well, it worked. I can't move a muscle. Everything is clamped down. The beast's feral roar did what it was supposed to:
Scared the absolute shit out of me.
Most of the text is like this, spelling out roars and grunts and screams and narrating the characters' thoughts throughout the scene.
So, Bell has a crush on Aiz Wallenstein. Hestia is jealous of Aiz even though it seems like goddesses aren't really supposed to date members of their familias, which doesn't stop Aiz's goddess, Loki, from constantly groping her. The goddess Freya develops an infatuation with Bell, for unclear reasons (he's "innocent" and maybe the author is also a fan of Haruki Murakami, who writes much longer literary novels about hot sexy babes inexplicably becoming infatuated with bland milquetoast plebes). Bell levels up and fights tougher monsters, and by the end of the first volume his fourteen-year-old dick has attracted the interest of an entire harem of goddesses and Action Girls.
This was kind of amusing to read, but I'm not weaboo (or horny) enough to feel a desire to read any more Light novels.
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