Released between the first two seasons of its parent story, Sword Oratoria: Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? On the Side is a spin-off anime focusing on the prestigious Loki Familia and its ace adventurer, Ais Wallenstein (Saori Oonishi). Much of the show focuses on its own story but it does run parallel to the adventures of DanMachi‘s Bell Cranel (Yoshitsugu Matsuoka) up until the ninth episode of Season 1. On occasion, you get to see some of the same scenes from Season 1 told from Ais’s perspective.
Mainline DanMachi does a strong enough job presenting you the franchise’s quirky little fantasy world but there are a surprising amount of details added in by the spin-off. Since the show follows the Loki Familia, you get to see a different of adventuring. Some visits to the Dungeon are more methodically planned out and explore some of the higher numbered floors of the dungeon that Bell and company haven’t reached at this point in the timeline. You also get to see some more of the inner workings and mysteries of the Dungeon as well as the relations and tensions between prominent Familia such as those led by Hephaestus and Freya.
Following the Loki Familia for a change does have its disadvantages however. Since the focus is now on a group that has gotten the farthest in the Dungeon and are already well off in their stats, Sword Oratoria needs to look elsewhere to have a story. Thus the show provides us with a mystery box revolving around a mysterious new species of monsters that threaten to invade Orario as well as humanoid residents of the Dungeon who know more about Ais than she does. It’s grand, there’s no denying that and I can’t deny that some of the action arises from it is entertaining. However, it’s so grand that it feels like the show is overcompensating, trying to one up its parent story’s first season, something a spin-off should never do. The conceit of the story also begins to get questionable. The more the stakes are raised, the more you start to wonder how none of the main characters in DanMachi don’t even hear about what’s going on, let alone mention them (besides Sword Oratoria being made after I mean).
The most baffling narrative decision however comes with whom the show revolves around. Given the title, you expect Ais to be the protagonist but surprisingly, a large chunk of time is devoted to Lefiya Viridis (Juri Kimura), a fairly new and promising member of the Loki Familia who really only had a cameo appearance in Season 1. The idea behind Lefiya is fine actually. By centering on a more inexperienced member, you preserve the underdog aspect of DanMachi‘s story. Furthermore, she can act as a viewpoint character whom Ais can open up to, thereby allowing the viewer to better understand her.
Unfortunately, Lefiya is really, really annoying. Because she’s the underdog, she functions far too similarly to Bell right down to admiring Ais as the person she wants to be stand equal to. Unlike Bell however, her feelings towards the Sword Princess is much more in the foreground. Bell crushes on Ais but he’s not overtly conscious about it and there’s other reasons he finds to get stronger. Lefiya fantasizes being praised by Ais, giving her sweets, getting head pats from her, or laying on her lap and she fantasizes a lot of the time. It’s not creepy but it is overbearing, repetitive, and it gets stale in a way that Bell’s flustered panic attacks don’t. You do get one amazing moment where she gets jealous and depressed upon seeing Bell receive training from Ais but even that joke overstays its welcome as Lefiya acts irrationally mad and forces Ais to train her as well. The character does get more tolerable when she’s not obsessing over Ais, her interactions with fellow elven adventurer Filvis (Hisako Kanemoto) for example are pretty charming, but that’s also rather telling of the problem she presents.
When Sword Oratoria does focus on Ais, that tends to be when the show is at its strongest. You understand her character perfectly fine in DanMachi but the additional insight provided by the spin-off series is welcomed. You find out that Ais has been seeing a stagnation in her stats and has been desiring to gain a new level (which in DanMachi is pretty hard to obtain). After losing to a new and powerful rival, she gets even more motivated to get stronger and gets more reckless as a result. Not only does it surprisingly mirror Bell’s goal, it also sheds light on Ais’s interest in him. That this newcomer could grow so quickly in a short period of time would pique anyone’s curiosity but it makes even more sense in Ais’s case once it’s revealed how her growth has been faring.
It’s also just a lot of fun seeing some scenes play out from Ais’s perspective. For example, in DanMachi, there’s a scene where Ais lets an unconscious Bell rest on her lap and when the rookie wakes up, he (literally) rolls away in a panic. It’s a funny enough scene in the main show but Sword Oratoria adds extra details. You find out Ais has Bell rest on her lap because her vice-captain Riveria (Risa Taneda) suggests it and that she hopes doing so will allow her to apologize him for the Minotaur incident that started the whole series off. She also pouts when she fails and gets annoyed when Riveria starts snickering about it, showing the viewer a cuter, more innocent side of Ais that is shown pretty rarely in Season 1. It’s moments like this and the re-contextualization that it brings that help make watching Sword Oratoria worthwhile.
The other members of the Loki Familia are pretty decent. Twins Tione (Minami Takahashi) and Tiona (Rie Murakawa) are much more prominent in Sword Oratoria and they provide an amusing dichotomy in they alternate between who’s the hotheaded twin and who isn’t. Bete (Nobuhiko Okamoto) is slightly more interesting, acting less of a one-dimensional jerk like he does in the main series, and actually getting to see him fight is fun. Meanwhile, leading members Finn (Mutsumi Tamura), Riveria, and Gareth (Kenji Nomura) don’t really benefit from the additional screen time and Loki (Yurika Kubo) is more often annoying than entertaining with her perverted attitude. All in all, the team is fine but I found myself wanting to see more of Bell and his party again.
If you really enjoy DanMachi (at the very least, its first season) and you have the time to spare, Sword Oratoria makes for a decent companion piece. It does add quite a bit to the mythology of the series and seeing some scenes from Ais’s perspective is really neat. That being said, you’re not really missing much if you decide to pass on this. You still have to contend with a much more flawed story and its parent series works perfectly fine without it.
Thanks for reading!
Temporary Note: I’m holding a poll asking visitors to vote on an anime for me to cover for the Summer 2020 season. Click here to vote!