Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon? Ep. 3: Unconditional love

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So the kid became an “adventurer” because his grandpa died. Did he really die, though? They say he died, but they also said that Bellri couldn’t search for his grandfather’s body. But whatever. He’s probably dead. We don’t need to entertain ourselves with conspiracy theories just yet. The point here is that Bellri soon decided to become an adventurer. Why? How would your grandfather’s death motivate you to become an adventurer? Don’t most young people his age crave adventures anyway? I mean, c’mon, look at all those Tinder bios. Everyone’s an aspiring adventurer, apparently. Well, it’s not like Bellri has any other family member to rely upon. It seems like his grandfather was the only one left in his life. So imagine that… tragedy strikes, and now you’re all alone. You don’t even have a shoulder to cry on, because your family’s gone. Bellri’s essentially an orphan.

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So he goes searching for a familia to join, but nobody wants him. Of course not. He’s too weak to join their familia. Sure, for family, you might be willing to overlook a person’s weakness. For family, you will love and accept them unconditionally. But Bellri’s not family. He’s just a an adventurer who is desperate to join a familia. A familia is a family in a way, but not all familias are that sort of family.

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Luckily for Bellri, Hestia is alone, too. She’s an unknown goddess, and at the time, she has no one in her familia. Seeing the lost, wayward Bellri, she accepts him with open arms. She’s the first person to accept him unconditionally after his grandfather — again, probably the last surviving family member in his life — passed away, and he’s the first person to join her familia. But Hestia’s familia hasn’t grown since that fateful day. It’s not as if Bellri was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Rather, the goddess seems almost content to have Bellri and only Bellri as a follower. It’s like a mother feeling as though she doesn’t want to divide up her love, so she is reluctant to have another kid.

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Bellri cries a lot. He’s really a crybaby. But Hestia never minds it. It might annoy some of us because we expect someone his age to have a little more backbone. Male or female, we expect them to be tougher.

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But he’s lost his family, so it might be fair to say that his development in that regard is a little stunted. One needs to spend some time crying to the people who unconditionally love us before we are strong enough to become independent. Maybe Bellri never had that luxury that many of us often take for granted — for granted only because we usually graduate from that stage of development at such an early age.

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In any case, Hestia cheers him up, embraces him, and loves him unconditionally. We’ve already seen from previous episodes that she’ll go to great lengths to do anything for the kid. After all, that custom-made knife isn’t cheap. But we’re not just talking about monetary sacrifices. She makes all sorts of sacrifices. Even blood sacrifices. And it’s pretty obvious that she’s romantically interested in Bellri in that maddeningly naive sort of way that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in anime. Y’know, the sort of sex-less passion that an anime character will have for each other. She knows that helping Bellri grow up and become stronger will only increase her chances of losing him.

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As a reminder, Bellri’s on a mission to prove his worth to Eyes. I don’t doubt for a second that he’ll always remain loyal to Hestia, but we’ll play along and put ourselves in Hestia’s shoes. It frustrates her that he’s growing so fast, because his growth is directly linked to his feelings for Eyes. But again, the focus here is on his growth. She’s like a proud mother and she measures her “son’s” improvement on a daily basis.

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Bellri improves on a daily basis because it’s a story, and we can’t sit around for months to watch the guy grow up. We also hear that his attributes are over 600 or something, because we don’t have time for anything else. We don’t have time to show you Bellri’s incremental improvements and self-growth. So per usual, a dry, boring number is thrown out there. 600. I have no idea what it really means, but Hestia makes a big deal out of it, so I’ll just pretend like 600 is significant.

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The episode starts off with Bellri leaving Hestia behind against her wishes, because he wants to protect his family at all costs. He couldn’t do anything for his grandfather, so he’ll be damned if he loses his goddess now.

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But Hestia returns to Bellri’s side at all costs. ‘Cause she’ll never abandon him. They’re family, unconditional love, so on and so forth.

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They’re literally being chased by a rampaging… monkey thing, but she’s incredibly happy. Cause he’s carrying her? Maybe. But the themes of the show reinforce the idea that Bellri’s quickly growing up, and that Hestia is like a proud mother. The cold opening is thus very important, because it pretty much establishes Bellri’s level of personal growth. No, not the sort of growth that can be illustrated by a number. We’re talking about the sort of growth that a child goes through. He first looks for unconditional love that a family member would provide.

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It’s about finding someone that he can trust. He lost this person when his grandfather died, and it’s likely he had lost it before when his parents disappeared from his life for reasons unbeknownst to us. Thanks to Hestia’s unconditional love, however, Bellri can now move onto a different stage of social development.

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He now seeks love from his peers, because it’s a measure of his worth and place in the world. What does it even mean to be an adventurer? It’s a rather vague assertion. Where are you going? What are you doing? Mindlessly killing “monsters” for EXP and loot? To what end? That end is the prettiest girl in the world. Game respects game. Other people — men and women both — will admire you if you have the prettiest girl on your arm.

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We don’t really know anything about Eyes. We know she’s pretty. The other characters in the show seem to repeat this fact quite frequently. We know she’s a great swordswoman. This is also a fact that’s oft-repeated. And she seems rather tight-lipped. It’s hard to say if she has personality, because she’s not inclined to show one. So as a character, Eyes doesn’t really have one. She’s not really a character at all. She’s a trophy. She’s a personification of your achievement points. What have you done with your life? Say no more. I see you have the hottest girl with you. Of course. Hestia and Hestia fans need not despair. The hero need not actually wed the hottest girl. He only needs to show that he can get her.

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Near the end of the episode, Hestia collapses even though Bellri manages to defeat the big, bad gorilla. Maybe the excitement got to her. Maybe she’s just exhausted. Still, the concerned Bellri huddles up beneath a staircase with his knees to his chest.

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Like he might lose Hestia or something. Like he might be an orphan again. Unwanted and unloved. But this is anime, so haremish tendencies start to show themselves. Syr shows up just to tell him that she’s fallen in love with Bellri thanks to his heroics. It sure seems to me that she fell in love with him a couple weeks ago, but whatever.

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That’s the truth, though. She’s loved him before he’s ever accomplished anything. Hestia also loves him unconditionally. And we sit there and we wonder why. Why do these girls love a guy like that? He’s not worthy. It doesn’t line up with our experiences. Only my mother loves me unconditionally, we might think. On the other hand, your girlfriend still needs you to prove yourself. You still need to be an object worth desiring. Smart, rich, determined, funny, etc. It doesn’t matter. Most girls won’t just love you because you exist. It’s not that Bellri won’t eventually prove himself to be a hero. We’ve already seen from this episode that he’s going to start doing heroic things. But the girls love him before he even does anything. So why are these stories embedded in fantasy land?

Well, maybe some mothers stop loving their children unconditionally. Or not as much. Maybe you are measured every step of the way, and your sense of worth is determined by some stupid number. Maybe it’s a stupid exam score. Maybe it’s something else. I mean, you can give your life and blood to a familia much like how you can give your entire life to a company. You can toil away for years, and they will always demand your loyalty. But let’s face it. Business is business. If your performance starts to drop, can you trust that the familia will be much like a family? They can and probably will drop you like a rock.

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Bellri’s very concerned about getting stronger. After all, how else will he impress Eyes? And likewise, your mother may not come out and say it when you couldn’t get into that prestigious high school, but her look and sighs say everything. These devoted shoujos, however, will never lose their faith. They wake you up, they cook for you, and they dote on you every single day. Some of these harem leads even confess that they don’t do all that well in school. Does this particular fact ever seem to bother the haremettes all that much? Not unless you’re trying to woo the valedictorian in an eroge. Maybe only then will you have to concern yourself with academics. But the girl-next-door type usually won’t give a shit about your intelligence.

On that same token, where are all the parents in anime? That’s something we always amusingly wonder. It’s almost like an airline peanuts-esque joke for anime at this point. But truth be told, maybe having the parents around just hits too close to home. Maybe it’s just so obviously unbelievable if the harem lead brings home an average test score, and the mother doesn’t say anything. You know she would. You’ve lived it. This is your life. It’s better — somehow more believable — just to pretend she never existed. And just displace the mother’s unconditional love into the haremette instead.

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Sure.

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13 thoughts on “Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon? Ep. 3: Unconditional love

  1. Akumaten (@a9ma10)

    I actually feel bad for Hesta.
    Though being a god and fapbait, she’s quite human IMO.
    The harem elements in this show ruins it

    Reply
    1. spectreandy

      Literally everybody I know who’s watching this show only talks about “fapbait” Hestia and her string-bosom. It’s almost as if that’s the one unique thing this show can really offer.

      Reply
  2. andmeuths

    That’s… a really interesting interpretation of Hestia. I haven’t seen an argument that Hestia is actually closer to a parental figure to Bell rather than a member of the Harem, but that makes surprising sense. Of course, it also means Hestia can inherently never win the romantic scenario, because of how Bell fundamentally perceives her. Bell just can never see Hestia beyond the lens of him the faithful worshiper, beloved by Hestia, his patron deity in the sense of the “love of God”, rather than romantic love between two humans.

    It makes me wonder, whether on some level, a similar mechanic lies behind Eyes and Loki, but that’s probably material for a future arc.

    Also:
    “. We don’t have time to show you Bellri’s incremental improvements and self-growth. So per usual, a dry, boring number is thrown out there. 600. I have no idea what it really means, but Hestia makes a big deal out of it, so I’ll just pretend like 600 is significant.”

    Considering the nature of this kind of show, I imagine that explaining what 600 means would require a five to ten minute long, clumsily tacked on monologue or narration explaining the leveling up mechanics of the world, in an unsubtle attempt at world-building. In the interest of both time, and the audience sanity, they reduced the mechanics into a single line of technobabble, and got on with the fight.

    Although, in the past two episodes, I’ve been shouting at the screen for Hestia to just give Bell the Hestia Knife and get it over with. In doing so, your post made me realized I missed quite alot of interesting nuances actually happening within the scenes – the delay in the Knife being passed, is not sloppy writing, but rather, a deliberate attempt to illustrate Hesita and Bell’s relationship.

    Reply
  3. IonCaron (@IonCaron)

    I agree with Reiseng about your combination of cynical and touching here. To be honest I was wondering why you were reading so deeply into the haramette’s “motherly” qualities until you brought it home in the end.

    Not much I can say to that. You’re right: romance is the substitute for parental love.

    You find this even outside of anime, though, mainly because of the social stigma involving someone who is so close to their parent as to allow or even participate in public affection. It also has to do with the idea of breaking away from one’s parents into maturity and that many aspects of what we’d typically consider to be parental qualities are things we look for in lovers as well. The ability to be nurturing has always been a precious gem of a characteristic that makes a woman as attractive as a man who is always able to be protective.
    ___The less informed regard this as instinctive traits, but that’s only part of it. The utterly misinformed think it’s because “we juss wanna date our mothers/fathers”, likely a nugget of wisdom they read on a blog that grossly simplified excerpts from Sigmund Freud.

    In any case, the idea of the mighty (often stoic to some degree) knight and his tender, healing maiden is just as much a part of fantasy as it is a part of the human condition. I sometimes call it the “Tower Shield and Tender Diamond” concept whenever I want to feel pretentious. Hahaha
    __However, with this anime you make a great point, one only driven home by character designs. Or, to put it another way:

    Why did Hestia need to be a young woman? We’re clearly not dealing with a Tower Shield and Tender Diamond pair of characters. Bellri is a much different character, only made interesting because his typical harem-lead meekness is amped-up and actually made understandable due to his circumstances. Hestia is also more than his healing, nurturing companion. She truly does take on a motherly role with him. This being the case, why couldn’t she have been, you know, a grown woman? Why did they bring in romance to their relationship, when the dynamic of a motherly goddess and her stunted hero would have made for a more unique and well-rounded pair?

    Because the love of a mentor and their pupil, the love of a parent and their child, does not sell as well as the love of two adventuring youths. It feels like I’m being too cynical by saying so but look at what we’re talking about!

    She could have still been dressed sexy enough to move figma (though obviously not too sexy because, considering her motherly role in regards to Belri…ew). She could still have been secretly apprehensive about him growing up to the point of not needing her anymore. However, mature women are not moe, and again, romance sells more.

    By taking what could have been a sincerely interesting concept and one daring in comparison to the show’s peers, they wrapped this nugget of potential in a giant ball of harem marshmallow. Well, I hope the sales and merch make up for it, because the result is the type of character exchanges that in retrospect makes one very uncomfortable. At least it does for me.
    Maybe Belri really does want to date his mother…

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I agree with Reiseng about your combination of cynical and touching here.

      The touching or cheesy comments are interesting. The truth is that I find the whole thing sad and pathetic. It’s rather incestuous in a way, because it mixes romantic interest with unconditional parental love. At its worst, this sort of relationship can become co-dependent. I feel sorry for Bellri, but I do not find his relationship with Hestia very touching. He’s a kid who still has a lot of psychosocial maturation to go through, but seeing as how this is first and foremost escapism, the kid’s real problems will go unaddressed as the narrative will likely play itself out in a very safe and predictable manner, i.e. let’s harem this shit up.

      I’ll respond to the rest of your post at another time when I’m not about to sleep.

      Reply
      1. IonCaron (@IonCaron)

        Haha No worries, mate.

        And yes:
        “The truth is that I find the whole thing sad and pathetic. It’s rather incestuous in a way, because it mixes romantic interest with unconditional parental love.”
        Exactly my view.

        Reply
  4. spectreandy

    It’s just amusing to see the level of waifu-fetish that Hestia portrays. Which is kind of saying something since “waifu” already has the implications of extreme fantasy and obsession in the first place.
    Maybe Hestia would’ve been better off as a dog? Because her level of commitment to Bellri the Great Nobody (as of right now) is something you’d see in a relationship between a human male and a (fe)male canine.
    Maybe because the dog doesn’t know any better. What they probably see, smell, taste, and hear is what they’re zeroed in on for that moment. Because let’s face it, unless the dog is owned by the Dalai Lama or Pope Francis, there’s probably a better owner SOMEWHERE out there.
    Now excuse me for making it sound like I’m degrading Hestia by calling her a dog. But for me at least, I don’t really see her as representative of what a human is either. Regardless of all that “fantasy world” crap, humans are still humans and these main characters we’re watching do dumb shit are supposed to be like Earth-borne humans.
    Just from memory, there’s no other anime-waifu that I can think of so overbearingly invested in a nobody. Hestia blows waaay past “waifu”. It’s almost in the same vein of what a Mary-Sue or Gary-Stu is. Maybe TV Tropes has a term for it already, but it’s a set of incredibly perfect attributes that NO one person can have, and it’s all just stuffed into a puppet that is then passed off as a character. She can have her anime-typical anime body and face, but why not be a complete bitch? Or being super social and friendly but looking homely? Are you trying to tell me that Hestia doesn’t have Hera-levels of jealous tantrums and murder-thoughts?
    People say that these types of imperfections are what makes humans beautiful, maybe even that it accentuate their perfections. It’s a balance that I think is entirely tipped to one side for Hestia, and for Bellri for just being another status-quo harem lead.

    Now simply put: this show has just “Meh” to “Shit” characters. If I were to write down a list of these characters’ attributes, I’d have a really shitty time and probably end up with lists that happen to line up with a dozen other shows’. And it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. It’s probably been YEARS since I’ve seen a show with some half-way decent characterization for at least half of the cast.

    I mean, aren’t anime-parents the worst? Why would viewers want to see a parent in their shows and then remember a half-hour ago they were nagged about getting a life? That shit’s too real when there are panty-flashes and boob-bouncings to be seen.
    But really, there are pretty much only like three or four pairs of anime-parents. They’re rent-for-a-fee adults, flash-cloned so that everybody can use them. If they’re even needed at all.
    How many “motherly-sisters” or “fatherly-brothers” can there possibly be in a first-world nation like Japan, that they not only have academic and occupational obligations but they have to take care of their siblings like they were involved in birthing them? Eww, again incestuous. I guess the writer was like, “Well shit. I dunno about mom or dad… Fuck it, big sister (99% of the time) it is.”

    And again, scientifically proven that when you try to apply harem elements that does not explicitly belong in the harem genre, your shit is irrevocably ruined to high heaven.
    Like seriously, if you want to make a shameless tits-and-ass fest then just make a shameless harem show and make it the raunchiest thing you can show on TV without it getting banned by an ethics committee. There is nothing wrong with that. Sure, it’ll be shit but porn still a billions dollar industry. You don’t need an ounce of artistry for that.
    But if you went out of your way to think of a premise that isn’t porn/hentai levels of retardation, then maybe have a little decency and create a cast and story that isn’t just a bunch of dumb chicks all wanting to jump on a little boy’s dick all at the same time.
    And wow, it really does irk me that NOBODY tags shows correctly. This anime is a unarguably a harem show; it’s a relatively mild harem show compared to shit like To-Love-Ru or Nisekoi, but it’s still a harem show. It’d be great if it were labeled as such instead of simply slapping “Romance” on it.
    I know this may come as a shock, but it’s TOTALLY possible that romance between ONE man and ONE woman, regardless of age, can be engaging and can fill a cour. I know. It’s almost blasphemous to say. Please forgive my trespasses Anime No Kami-sama.

    PS: Didn’t get to say this before, but wow does is this world-building and its look and feel just… blander than a Skeleton Archer A in an RPG.
    Really, you can’t just yell “FUNTAZEE WURLD” and just think that’s good enough. Especially for a genre so over-saturated in its own fat. Hell, I don’t care much for steampunk, but at least the show would be at least a little more interesting to even look at if it had that theme. I mean, Steamboy is the hypest shit in terms of anime steampunk.

    Reply
    1. Raysenn

      ” It’s probably been YEARS since I’ve seen a show with some half-way decent characterization for at least half of the cast.” Obviously, we haven’t been watching the same shows.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        ” It’s probably been YEARS since I’ve seen a show with some half-way decent characterization for at least half of the cast.” Obviously, we haven’t been watching the same shows.”

        Garo?

        Reply

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