Anime Review: Sword Oratoria

By Drew Hurley 02.10.2018

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Sword Oratoria (UK Rating: 15)

Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (Danmachi, for short) was a sleeper hit when it landed in Japan back in 2015 and was even part of Cubed3's picks of the must-watch of the season. It seemed a simple Isekai, just the latest medical fantasy style that seems like an MMO, but it stood atop its contemporaries. 2015 was the year the anime launched, but the light novels it came from actually launched back in 2013. A year after the first volume of the light novels launched, a spin-off light novel series entitled Sword Oratoria was released. Three years later it received its own anime adaptation and now it's arrived, courtesy of MVM.

The world of Danmachi feels like it could be adapted from some JRPG. A world where the gods have descended from the heavens down to the lower world in hopes of finding excitement. To do this, they have created a huge dungeon of multiple floors, stuffed to bursting with monsters. Each of them has recruited humans to become part of their "Familia," granting the humans that join up with them special powers and abilities for doing so. The original series of Danmachi introduced all of these elements of the story, following the Familia of the Goddess Hestia. A Familia made up of a single member Bell Cranel, a lowly level 1 adventurer who fell hard for a high-level adventurer he bumped into in the dungeon; he fell for her hard, both romantically and professionally. Over the course of the series, he gained some strange special power and worked to reach the level of his idol.

The story of Sword Oratoria runs parallel to the original, with the conclusion of the first episode synching up with the original nicely, although it reuses content from the original series quite criminally. When not using scenes from Danmachi, the original scenes tell the story from the point of view of Ais Wallenstein, the Sword Princess, Bell's idol. One of the biggest issues with the original series was the lack of interesting characters, with everyone outside of Bell and Hestia mostly one-dimensional characters. With the focus on Ais and the Loki Familia, it gives some much-needed background and development to these other characters.


 
Sadly, even after giving them some time in the spotlight, it's difficult to connect with most of the characters - they are mostly great designs with no real personality outside of tropes. The story suffers from as many issues as its characters. There's some really strange pacing and focus for many of the episodes, with the story really dragging at points. While some of the episodes focus of Ais and her fight against a mysterious woman, far too many are instead dedicated to Lefiya Viridis. Lefiya is a young elf mage of the Loki Familia, who has fallen in love with Ais and chases after her, bemoaning Ais' interest in Bell.

The episodes based around Lefiya get downright dull at points, frustratingly so as a shadowy enemy is hinted at, but never really developed. Even when the season has reached its conclusion, nothing is really resolved, and there are no steps forward towards the grand overarching story. Hopefully, it's all being set up for the sequel. Those final episodes are worthwhile, though, for the spectacle they deliver alone. A huge battle straight out of an MMO that looks great, with some fantastic choreography and big fight moments. It goes to show just how good the show could be if it didn't focus on telling the story of a lovesick, whiny elf.

There is a considerable amount of fan-service throughout: Ais retains her breastplate missing half a boob for convenient clothing damage and the girls have plenty of scenes groping each other, or bathing. It's not egregious, but there's plenty. Unsurprisingly, really, considering the series is directed by Yōhei Suzuki, who previously directed Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn't Exist. Every aspect of the presentation is impressive, with character designs from Shigeki Kimoto, designer of the original, and animator from the superb A Certain Scientific Railgun and A Certain Magical Index. The series comes from J.C. Staff, who also produced the aforementioned shows, in addition to numerous others, including the upcoming One Punch Man season two and every season of Food Wars. They are on top form here, with some great, dynamic action sequences and rich, colourful art across the board, painting an impressive world. It's just a shame it has so few opportunities to shine. The odd big scenes, like the final battle, show some serious talent.

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Sword Oratoria is a decent little addition to the original series, one with some breakout moments, and the odd great episode, but ultimately far too much of the show is wasted on a boring subplot and the interesting real story is mostly neglected. It seems to be setting up something big and, hopefully, it may now come to pass. Fans will be more excited to know that a second season and original film for Danmachi was announced earlier this year. With 13 light novels to pull from, there is a ton to adapt and some fantastic stories in the future of this world of gods and Familias.

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