A Nobody’s Way Up to an Exploration Hero – Episodes 1-2

By: Chiaki Hirai July 7, 20240 Comments
A hand feeding a a red jewel into a small girl's mouth

Content Warning: Casually feeding little girls rocks like it’s a normal thing to do; mild fan service

What’s it about? It’s been 13 years since dungeons mysteriously appeared all over the earth, and two years since Takagi Kaito got his ass beaten by some goblins trying to explore one. Somewhat traumatized since then, Kaito has played it safe and farmed slimes on the first level of his local dungeon in Japan, but things change when he finds a rare servant card that enables him to summon Sylphy, a demi-god, to his aid. Armed with a petite-yet-devout partner, Kaito finally feels his fortunes have turned.

You know what’s bad about this show? Child labor, for one.

The world suddenly discovers there are monster-ridden caves going deep underground in the mid-nauts, and what do they do? Make dungeon exploration a profession and hands out licenses to anyone over the age of 15. What’s more insidious, they went and built a theme park over the dungeon entrance to attract kids dreaming of adventure right to its front doorstep, like it’s goddamn Pinocchio up in here. 

And then how about the relentless capitalism that pervades it?

Kaito is essentially being sent to work in the mines, and he’s going underground to kill slimes with bug spray (which he buys with his own money). All this to eke out $10 a day or so at the outset. All of this while modern society has commercialized and glamourized dungeon splunking with cheesy recruitment ads and commercials for equipment (which are also expensive.)

What a functional economy.

And what about the pervasive use of menus, and stats and levels that fill Kaito’s vision?

This isn’t even an isekai story. This supposedly just takes place in regular old Japan, but with magical dungeons, and yet we’re entreated to video game mechanics up the ass as Kaito opens up skill descriptions and defines his own worth through how many stat points he has or what level of the dungeon he can visit. Everything is manicured and needlessly artificial, to the point it seems almost purposeful for something more elaborately written, but so little of the show inspires any confidence, it’s hard to afford Exploration Hero the benefit of the doubt.

Yeah, the production is shit too.

There’s close-up after close-up of faces to minimize animation costs, and then there’s cuts cleverly reused several times already in this double-episode premiere. The next episode previews are just seconds long and contain no voice-over. It makes me wonder why even bother having it included at all. The show makes a joke about the Dungeon Exploration Complex’s efforts to rope kids into dungeoneering with minimal marketing budgets, but it feels like the kettle calling the pot black when you look at things a few steps back.

Kaito, a young boy misses and stumbles in front of a poorly animated deformed goblin. His eyes are dots and everything looks cartoony.
To be fair, I’d be clapping about this screenshot if this were the Ranma ½ remake.

Or how about — okay, I can’t beat around the bush anymore. What the fuck is up with Kaito hand-feeding Sylphy, his self-professed little sister (who is a demi-god 10 times stronger than him), magical rocks like he’s Seita from Grave of the Fireflies?

Yeah, sure, he’s like 16 or something, but why are his travel companions also like only nine years old?

Why is Sylphy so single-mindedly a male wish fulfillment fantasy showering Keita with nothing but positive affirmations and pledges of eternal fealty? Does she have to call him “Master”?

Is there anything beyond that to her? Why couldn’t we have her in the big booba form and just appreciate her as a power mommy?

Why? Why? Why?

Slyphy sparkles as she announces: Of course. I exist only to serve you.

Yeah, there’s more to this show, I guess. Kaito has a love interest, Katsuragi Haruka. Some girl whose dad inspired Kaito to become a dungeoneering adventurer in the first place; but by the looks of things, Haruka’s dad is probably dead. At least, that’s probably why she doesn’t want Kaito going down into the dungeons despite her own dad supposedly being such an accomplished adventurer.

Haruka seems like somebody with some kind of character depth, but with two episodes of Kaito faceplanting into the dungeon so far, we get very little about Haruka beyond establishing she means a lot to Kaito for some reason or another. I guess the ultimate story is going to be something like, “I, Kaito McPotatoFace Takagi, swear to find Haruka’s long lost dad to win her love and affection, because I’m a real man,” or something like that.

A normal looking girl with brown hair stares off blankly: I wouldn't say it turns me on, but I do love cheese.
This is the spiciest thing a girl has ever said to me.

And then there’s other characters who are strong enough to go into the dungeon that Kaito has yet to meet, and the second waif Kaito has summoned at the end of episode 2, but I don’t know what to make of any of them just yet.

I’m just… not really here for this. At all. This isn’t even a fun train wreck to watch, as so much of this show is just a mishmash of themes and tropes with no real focus. I just don’t know who this show is even for (beyond lolicons, I guess).

Maybe it’s the record breaking heatwave frying my ability to give a fuck while wasting away in my unairconditioned room, but there’s so much better people can do to find mindless entertainment no matter what you’re coming for with this show.

Oh, but it’s nice to hear May’n sings the ED. She’s pretty good. I like her music.

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