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    Review for Sword Oratoria: Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? On The Side Collector's Edition Combi

    8 / 10


    It’s astounding just how effective a marketing tool a strategically placed ribbon can be. When I reviewed Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon Season 1 last year, I found it to be a watchable but decidedly average series, one which only scratched the surface of its story over its dozen or so episodes, and a series which very much demanded a second season to really discover what the show and the characters are about. But that one series has certainly generated its spin-offs, with an OVA, Is It Wrong To Expect a Hot Spring in a Dungeon? and there’s a movie scheduled for next year as well. This series isn’t the long awaited second season; that’s actually still in production, but Sword Oratoria: Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? On The Side is what the title suggests, a side story that goes in parallel with the first season. This is the story as it focuses on swordswoman Ais Wallenstein, who so humiliatingly rescued Bell Cranel from a rampaging minotaur at the start of the first season... She does it again here.

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    Sword Oratoria focuses on the Loki Familia. The original series might have introduced us to Bell Cranel, sole member of Hestia’s Familia, one goddess and her follower slumming it somewhat, but more renowned gods have Familia with far greater status and prestige. Loki’s Familia has among its number the renowned Sword Princess, Ais Wallenstein. She also has a new member in the ranks, Mage Elf Lefiya Viridis, who is eager to prove herself, and who nurses a strong crush on Ais. Lefiya’s biggest problem is her lack of confidence, not helped by her needing rescuing so often. Ais isn’t exactly a people person, and her confidence is about to take a knock too, as sinister machinations are afoot in the city, among the gods and in the dungeons.

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    12 episodes of Sword Oratoria are presented across three discs from MVM.

    Disc 1
    1. The Sword Princess and the Elf
    2. Fittings and Purchases
    3. Festivals and Courage
    4. The Murder and the Jewel

    Disc 2
    5. The Red-head and the Lone Ruler
    6. Subjugation and Escape
    7. Requests and Divisions
    8. The Corruption and the Maiden

    Disc 3
    9. Training and Jealousy
    10. The Boy and the Hero
    11. Adventure and the Unknown
    12. Sword Oratoria/Kin of the Gods

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    This is an odd one. As it’s part of an ongoing series with previous, Sentai Filmworks released Sword Oratoria on DVD in the US, so technically, MVM could have just repurposed those NTSC discs, and for that matter, so could have Madman Entertainment in Australia. But in the end, Madman opted to re-master the discs for Region 4, and bizarrely have gone for an NTSC-PAL standards conversion. Those are the discs that we get here. It’s the old way of doing anime, a DVD format that hasn’t really been seen here for around ten years, and Madman aren’t as proficient at it as they once were.

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    Sword Oratoria looks pretty bad on these DVDs, the 1.78:1 anamorphic NTSC-PAL image exhibiting all the flaws of the format, low resolution, ghosting, blended frames, the odd bit of judder, and on top of that, there’s an odd glitching effect that appears during pans and scrolls. It’s a shame, as if you’ve seen the original Danmachi, you’ll know it’s an elaborate fantasy world, great character designs, and effervescent animation, and these DVDs fail to do all that justice.

    Short version... Watch the Blu-ray.

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    You have the choice between DD 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese with locked subtitles and signs. I tried and failed with the English dub, so Japanese is the way to go here, with spirited characters, and the stereo bringing the action across well. I particularly liked the music in this show. While the theme songs might be forgettable, the incidental music is really well done, rousing and driving the action when required, but becoming quite quirky and whimsical for the relationship comedy. The subtitles are accurately timed and are free of typos.

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    I only had the DVD discs to review from this Collector’s Edition combo, so I can’t comment on the Blu-rays, the packaging, or any physical extras with the release.

    The discs present their content with static menus, and look to be the Sentai discs reworked for PAL presentation. Each episode is followed by translated English credits, and there are jacket pictures to look at when the discs are at rest in compatible players.

    Disc 1 has the textless opening, two textless closings, and 5 Japanese promos for the show running to 2:36.

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    When I reviewed “Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?”, I found it to be an enjoyable, but ultimately thin and trivial experience. It’s set in a world that accomplishes the incongruous, that of making a universe conform to the rules of a role playing game, and there are plenty of machinations and schemes as the gods play games with the lives of adventurers. That show pushed much of that to the background to instead concentrate on the day-to-day lives of a goddess and her sole believer, Hestia (she of the boob-ribbon), and Bell Cranel, although Bell’s path would repeatedly cross with Ais Wallenstein’s. It was a lot of fan service and silliness that promised much, and delivered little.

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    Now the sequel (or rather sidequel) is here, and you might be forgiven for expecting more of the same. But Sword Oratoria really does improve on things, and it has the added effect of making Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? seem better as well, one of the unexpected advantages of having its story occur concurrently with Bell Cranel’s. Sure enough we get to see those encounters with Ais Wallenstein again, this time from Ais’ perspective; giving them added weight and meaning. But more importantly, Sword Oratoria is Ais Wallenstein’s story, and the focus is on her Familia, the Loki Familia. There’s more of a cast here, as she has plenty of comrades; this show’s emphasis is on the relationship between Ais and a trainee mage, an elf named Lefiya. Lefiya has all the signs of nursing a big crush on Ais, and it’s fun to watch that character dynamic play out, as Lefiya uses Ais’ example as one to aim for, to better herself.

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    With the Loki Familia a big player in the dungeon crawling scene, we also get a whole lot more in the way of politics. The back story really does come into play in a way that was pretty much neglected by the original series, and we get to see what’s behind all the strange goings-on in the city and in the dungeon. Most notably we find out what was behind that stampede of monsters that forced Bell Cranel into levelling up at one stage.

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    Ais’ fascination with Bell Cranel is explored here, the neophyte adventurer who’s apparently on the fast track to great things also inspires Ais’ desire to become stronger, and as she ventures into the dungeon time and again, she gets drawn into a mysterious conspiracy, where new species of dangerous monsters are appearing with unexpected abilities, and it turns out someone is manipulating them, someone who knows of Ais Wallenstein’s past. The temptation to learn that past draws Ais and her friends in the Loki Familia deeper into the dungeon than anyone has ventured.

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    Sword Oratoria gets its triumvirate of action, comedy, and story balanced in a way that the first series failed to, and as a result, it’s a lot more rewarding to watch. But as it fills in some of the background that Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? neglected to, it actually makes it useful to watch both shows side by side, improving the viewing experience of that show as well. We truly are coming to the end of the anime DVD era, and the quality of the presentation on these discs would have been disappointing 20 years ago. Stick to the Blu-rays.

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