I like many fans turn to anime for intellectual stimulation. Anime poses many deep philosophical questions, and I as an intellectual have attempted to answer these questions in my columns. In the past I have tackled such questions as “is the order a rabbit,” pondering our tendency to not think of meat as the animals that they come from, and “is this a zombie,” which asks us to consider the place of the “zombie” as a symbol for consumerism in our culture. However, no question posed in anime has shaken me quite to my core as the one posed to me in the title of Danjon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darō ka, or, in English, “Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?”
Let us consider the implications of this question. Obviously, the question is steeped in pick-up culture, a tactic commonly used by young men to mate with women. This culture is in many ways looked down upon by feminist critiques, and seen as immoral, sexist, and frankly pathetic. However, this anime adds a new element to the discussion by adding a new element, that of the “dungeon.” Within the context of the show the “dungeon” refers to the location in a video game where monsters are fought. By placing pick-up culture within a dungeon, the anime reveals the tendency of pick-up artists to think of romance as a game in which women are their enemies; indeed, pick-up artists commonly refer to themselves as “players.”
However, the show’s metaphor goes deeper than that. After all, a dungeon is a place where people are trapped and unable to escape. So, the question becomes, who is trapped within this dungeon? Certainly, Bell enters the dungeon willingly, but is he not just another prisoner within the dungeon of the culture he is entering into? Is the show not subtly implying that pickup artists are just as trapped within pickup culture as their targets? Clearly this show is hinting at a deep deconstruction of the effects that pick-up culture perpetrates on both men and women, and I look forward to seeing how the show explores the questions inherent in its premise. After all, who among us can truly say whether it is “wrong” to pick up girls in a dungeon?
Bob_Squob is a respected essayist in the anime world. He has won several awards for his essays analyzing popular anime, including “Whose fault is it REALLY that Tomoko Kuroki isn’t popular” and “What WAS the name of the flower that they saw that day?”