IS IT WRONG TO TRY TO PICK UP GIRLS IN A DUNGEON?: SWORD OF THE ORION (3.5 out of 5) Directed by Katsushi Sakurabi; Written by Fujino Omori; Starring Maaya Sakamoto, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, and Inori Minase; Film not rated; Running time 95 minutes; Limited Release July 23, 2019.
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Arrow of the Orion is a film based on the outrageously named anime and light book series Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, or more commonly known by its abbreviated Japanese name DanMachi, and while it serves as a wonderful midpoint between the first and second season, it is not friendly to newcomers of the franchise.
The world of DanMachi has a fantasy setting in which the gods have come down from the heavens to live among humans to experience excitement and to build guild like communities referred to as familias. Familias with the stronger and more popular gods attract the strongest and richest adventurers, but our protagonist Bell belongs to a Goddess named Hestia as her sole familia member, while he levels up and helps the Hestia Familia grow.
Arrow of the Orion is aimed squarely at fans of the franchise, whether they’ve seen the original 2015 anime season, the spin-off series Sword Oratoria, or any of the novels or manga volumes, but if you’ve never consumed the franchise this movie will do nothing to ease you into the world of DanMachi.
The movie begins with Bell and Hestia doing their regular daily activities and before long get involved on a new journey as Bell pulls a magical spear from a rock. Chosen by the spear, Bell has to help the gods Hermes and Artemis defeat a new evil while investigating why new monsters are appearing in the wilds. Artemis is the core of the new story as Hestia figures out that not everything is alright with her old friend and Bell swears to protect her on their perilous journey.
The show does not help newcomers settle into the world or characters, but the limited cast of 6 characters keeps the focus tight on our main trio, Artemis, Bell, and Hestia. The comedy plays off really well as Hestia continues to grow jealous of Bell and the attention he places on the goddess Artemis as he tries to protect her, even though she is more than capable of defeating the monsters in the countryside. Hermes, Welf, and Liliruca help provide some of the lighter moments in the movie while traveling with the main trio.
The animation in the film is beautiful with some great moments really standing out and elevating this above most anime animation. Battle sequences are well done, with some great choreography and tension built up before hitting the climax of the fight even though we know the gods and adventurers will win. One of the jaw-dropping moments in movies is a beautiful nighttime scene as Bell and Artemis dance in a moonlit lake, the two share a heartfelt moment about their roles in the journey and in their lives as a goddess and adventurer. The lighting is beautiful, the music is on point, and the scene composition is masterfully crafted, though viewers not particularly attuned to anime’s wild roller-coasters may still be finding their footing as this scene comes right after a comedic fan-serviced scene regarding a hot spring and the many male adventurers trying to sneak a peek at the beautiful group of female adventurers on the eve before the final battle of the movie.
The climactic final act contains one of the best animated battle scenes and a well done twist, even if the set up for it feels minimal in the context of the film as there are hints, but the rules aren’t well established for the viewer. Bell and Hestia’s growth in the movie feels substantial, but without the context of the previous and following seasons, it’s unsure how much that plays into the grand narrative of the franchise.
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Arrow of the Orion is a charming and wonderfully animated film and stop gap for the main series, but not friendly at all to newcomers of the series. If you’ve seen the show, read the books or manga, or even watched the spin-off and enjoyed the series, then this movie was made for you.