So when I volunteered to write something for this “first impressions” series, my favoured shows were already snapped up by my fellow writers’ sticky paws. Oh well, I thought, maybe it’ll be fun to review something I’ve never heard of. This “Hidden Dungeon” thing might be fun.” I held uneducated preconceptions that this might be some kind of whimsical, light-hearted magical adventure, and to be fair, the first minute did nothing to dispel my unwarranted optimism.
“This world is filled with dungeons,” intones the narrator, as the visuals morph from a foreboding cave entrance to a rushing river, a doom-laden sky to a roiling sea. We see a selection of mysterious edifices — an underground temple, a floating castle, a snow-bound citadel. Yes, yes — this is what I’m looking for, I thought. A straight, classical adventure series.
We’re introduced to Noir Stardia, a painfully generic-looking young male anime protagonist, and learn that although he is of noble lineage; his family is lowest in their society’s pecking order. He can’t even get a job as a librarian because a higher-ranked noble displaced his upcoming apprenticeship position. Within the first two minutes, the animation quality takes a precipitous dive into two-frames-per-second bargain-basement exaggerated “humour”, dragging the tone down with it as we meet his grovelling father and overly-tactile sister. With a behind-the-butt view between her legs before she glomps onto her “dear brother”, I realise that Alice is going to be one of those sister characters.
Things don’t improve as we meet Noir’s improbably proportioned (and also improbably named) childhood friend Emma Brightness. The director takes pains to introduce this pivotal character heaving-bosoms-first in order to prevent viewer misconceptions about her role in the story. Funnily enough, the animation quality miraculously improves — her levitating orbs truly appear to be magical indeed.
So it turns out that in this tediously JRPG-trope-infested world (the same as hundreds of other similar series) people are born with innate skills and level up by fighting monsters, complete with status screens to ensure that the viewers dumb enough to be duped into watching this trash can keep up with the very basic RPG concepts fundamental to its derivative setting.
Despite the fact that this isn’t an isekai (transported to/trapped in/reborn into another world), from the outset this is a barely disguised geek power fantasy. Weedy little Noir’s inherent skill “Great Sage” is completely broken, just like Rimiru from That Time I Was Reincarnated as a Slime. With it, he can instantly break down and comprehend the truth of anything in the world. Unfortunately, using the skill gives him crippling headaches. Just as well that French-kissing his bulbously-endowed and eager childhood friend cures them. Ah, proud feminists of anime weebdom unite to celebrate Emma’s true purpose — she’s not only a pair of intricately-animated physics-defying flesh-bags — she provides the main male character with power via sexual gratification. I mean, this truly represents the culmination of what past generations of oppressed women bitterly fought for. The right to vote, the right to self-determination, the right… to… be… a… fleshy… MP… replenishment item…
It gets worse.
The “Hidden Dungeon” of the title is merely a plot device to help the main character build a harem of women he can harvest magical energy from in various moist, humiliating ways. Barely any time is spent exploring said dungeon, for in it he meets an immortal blue-haired-girl in eternal bondage. Apparently he can’t break her chains because it would kill her. Why he doesn’t just separate the chains from the walls, I don’t know, but it’s clear that this was not a story constructed with much logic in mind. In fact this tightly-bound ageless mage (her name’s Olivia) never even opens her mouth to speak. Whether this is because she communicates via telepathy or because the animators couldn’t be bothered to animate lip-flaps in her case, perhaps we’ll never know.
Olivia gives Noir three further utterly broken skills — “get creative”, “bestow,” and “edit” — which allow him to create new skills out of nothing, give them to himself, another person or any object, and then even enhance them further. The only problem is using these skills munches up “LP” or “Life Points,” and if he expends all of these, he’ll die. But! There’s a solution — he can refill LP by making money, or eating lots of good food, or… uh… getting “busy” with the opposite sex. Yup, the more women Noir screws, the more powerful he will become. Now, as of episode 2, there isn’t any actual screwing… yet… but the implication is there. I… uh… Ugh.
Every prominent female character in this show is introduced boobs-first in every scene. It’s so noticeable. They exist only to pander to the male gaze — both that of the audience and of the main character. Seriously — the sister character’s one trait seems to be “I want to fuck my brother and don’t care who knows it” and Emma’s seems to be “I have huge boobs and am so horny for my childhood friend I’ll let him completely use me for his own gratification but I don’t care because then at least he pays attention to me.” This is not a particularly healthy relationship. Let’s not even get into the dynamics of the scene where Noir decides to use his new skills to shrink Emma’s boobs for her, without her consent.
Episode 2 introduces (via her boobs) a new female: Adventurer’s Guild receptionist Lola. Of course in her first scene the show finds a way for her to utterly humiliate herself and show Noir (and the viewer) her panties in an egregiously contrived scene. Of course when she meets Emma it’s suddenly manicured cat-claws at dawn because god forbid two female characters in this show show mutual respect to one another as human beings without fighting over the personality-bereft main character. UGH.
Also in episode 2: a team-up fight with Noir and Emma against a monstrous bunny. Emma wants to prove her ability but can only do this after a supremely creepy scene where Noir asks to nibble her ear in order to… uh… raise his uh… “LP” so he can “enhance” her. This scene is played like something out of a really skeevy softcore porn movie with Emma rotating her hips and moaning orgasmically while Noir drools all down her ear. UGH.
The subsequent fight features enough panty-shots to fill a Veronica’s Secret catalogue. But don’t worry — Emma herself gives us (via Noir) “permission to keep looking.”
Look, this isn’t a good show. It’s painfully generic, poorly animated when there are no panties or boobs on screen, the underlying power and gender dynamic is gross to the point of offensiveness and there are no compelling characters or story yet. The ecchi elements are really off-putting and I worry how much further this show will degenerate. This is a dungeon that should have stayed hidden.
The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter
Based on: the light novel series written by Meguru Seto and illustrated by Note Takehana
Produced by: Studio Okuruto Noboru
Streaming on: Crunchyroll
Episodes watched: 2
This article is part of a series where my fellow AniTAY authors and I offer our thoughts on the shows that caught our eye from the Winter 2021 season.
Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki: AniTAY First Impressions
I’ll get this out of the way up front: Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki is my favourite currently publishing light novel…
Yuru Camp△ SEASON 2: AniTAY First Impressions
Yuru Camp is one of the most relaxing, comfy shows that I’ve ever seen, and after the first season came to a close…