Anime and manga often feature stories of ordinary people discovering extraordinary abilities or worlds, from becoming magical girls or superheroes to entering virtual reality or parallel universes. One popular subgenre is the isekai (“another world”) trope, where a protagonist is transported or reincarnated into a different realm with different rules and challenges. However, not all isekai stories require such drastic changes; some simply add a hidden layer to the existing world that only a select few can access. “The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter” belongs to this latter category, offering a mix of magic, romance, and comedy in a familiar setting.
The anime adaptation of “The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter” premiered on January 8, 2021, based on the light novel series written by Meguru Seto and illustrated by Note Takehana. The first episode, titled “Powerful Skill Set,” introduces us to the main character, Noir Starga, who lives in a medieval fantasy kingdom as the fourth son of a poor noble family. Despite his low status and lack of talent, Noir dreams of becoming a hero who can save his childhood friend Emma Brighton, now a talented healer in a prestigious academy for mages. However, Noir’s path takes an unexpected turn when he meets a mysterious blonde woman named Olivia Servant, who offers him a rare gift: the ability to consult with a divine book that can grant him any skill or spell he desires, as long as he pays a price.
At first, Noir thinks that it must be a joke or a scam, but Olivia proves her point by demonstrating how the book works. To activate it, Noir has to touch its cover while focusing on his intention and paying some “contribution points” that represent his effort or sacrifice. Then, the book will show him a list of skills and spells that he can choose from, depending on his available points and his previous choices. However, the book also warns Noir that some skills may have side effects or risks, and that he should not abuse its power or reveal it to others. Intrigued and excited by this opportunity, Noir decides to accept Olivia’s offer and explore the hidden dungeon that only he can enter, where he can earn more points and become stronger.
The concept of “The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter” is not entirely original, as it resembles similar stories like “DanMachi” (Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?) or “Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash,” where characters venture into dangerous areas to gain experience and loot. However, the twist of having a personal guidebook that can grant any skill adds a new layer of strategy and mystery, as Noir has to balance his desires with his limitations and the potential consequences of his actions. Moreover, the fact that Noir is not a chosen one or a reincarnated hero but an ordinary person with flaws and goals makes him relatable and sympathetic, especially since he struggles with his introverted personality and his lack of self-confidence.
The first episode of “The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter” establishes the basic premise and the main characters, but also sets up some hints of future conflicts and plot twists. For example, we learn that Emma has been kidnapped by a mysterious group of wizards who seek a rare ingredient for their experiments, and that Noir’s older brother, Barusu, is a womanizer who often bullies him and treats him as a slave. These elements suggest that Noir will face both external and internal challenges on his journey, and that he will need to use his wits and his skills to overcome them. Moreover, the dynamic between Noir and Olivia, who seems to know more about him than she lets on, hints at a possible romantic subplot or a deeper conspiracy that involves their families or their past.
The animation and the music of “The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter” are decent but not exceptional, with some good moments of action and comedy but also some awkward transitions or clichéd designs. The voice acting is solid, with Yoshitsugu Matsuoka delivering a convincing performance as Noir, and Ai Kayano adding some charm and mystery to Olivia. The pacing is also adequate, with enough exposition and action to introduce the world and the characters without overwhelming or boring the audience. However, some viewers may find the fanservice or the harem elements of the show off-putting or distracting, as Noir gains more female companions and attracts their affection despite his nerdy looks and awkwardness.
Overall, the first episode of “The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter” is a promising start for a light-hearted and enjoyable anime that combines elements of fantasy, adventure, and romance in a creative way. While it may not reinvent the wheel or offer a deep exploration of its themes and motifs, it has enough potential and charm to appeal to fans of the