Do you like cooking? Do you like fantasy series like Dungeons & Dragons? Do you like the idea of combining the two? If so, Yen Press may have something brand new that’s up your alley. Is it good?
Writer/Artist: Ryoko Kui
Translator:: Taylor Engel
Letterer: Abigail Blackman
Publisher: Yen Press
A group of young adventurers is completely wiped out by a dragon while journeying through a dungeon. When all is said and done, they lose most of their equipment, food, money, and Laios, their leader, loses his sister as well! The group needs to hurry back down to reach the dragon and cut it open to get the sister back before she’s completely digested (a quick revive spell will save her otherwise). However, in order to make it down there, they’re going to need something to eat in order to survive. What better option than the dangerous creatures that make up the dungeon in the first place?
The Initial Reaction
After hearing the premise for this manga, which took your basic fantasy RPG-style manga/light novel and combined it with a cooking series like Food Wars — I was sold. It sounded wacky and weird, but absolutely intriguing, quickly becoming one of my most anticipated new series. And after all this waiting, I’m more than happy to report that Delicious in Dungeon is a great book with a lot of charm and fun and one that really knows how to do a lot with this premise in a wonderful way.
It was a zombie and thus began the first zombie plague.
The plot of Delicious in Dungeon is both episodic and serialized. The characters all have a goal of rescuing Laios’s sister before a month passes and the dragon finishes digesting her, with each chapter following their progress; they descend levels, take shortcuts, fight their way through obstacles, and there are references and callbacks to previous monsters they’ve eaten or use as leftovers for new meals they create. On the flipside, each chapter (sometimes more) focuses on them facing a foe or making some sort of dish out of the area’s monsters. This approach gives each chapter its own special theme and sometimes puts the focus one or more of the cast, and their dynamic with the group or their past. Also, the characters, despite being focused on the rescue, sometimes don’t really act like there’s a big deal going on or that there’s much urgency to what they’re doing, surprisingly even with Laios at times. The approach and style of the plot works more than it doesn’t here, especially in the first volume. You get a good feel for all the characters, what the series will be about, there’s not that much setup beyond the first chapter, and there’s variety with how the story focuses itself. Overall, despite the oddness of the characters’ behavior and the fear that this story might get repetitive, this a great start to the manga.
Character-wise, everyone feels decently defined for the first volume. Everyone’s motivation is believable to even personal, Laios having lost his sister and his two party members, Marcille and Chilchuck, caring a lot about their lost teammate. While Senshi, a veteran who loves dungeon food, doesn’t have personal motivation, his goal for hunting and eating the dragon itself does fit well with the kind of character we see. He’s both knowledgeable and clever, but also humble. If he doesn’t know something very well or learns something new, like Marcille stumbling upon a better method for dealing with Mandrakes, he acknowledges someone being better and is willing to learn or admit when he’s wrong. He’s sort of the mentor, but also an equal to everyone else in a way, easily my favorite character so far.
Aw man, they didn’t even give us their two weeks notice.
Chilchuck is the most down to the earth and reasonable, taking his job as the lockpick extremely seriously and getting mad if someone disrespects him or goes against what he says. He’s able to adapt to most situations very well, but is no-nonsense as well. Marcille is a stick-in -the-mud, but for good reasons given her leader’s attitude and just how blunt Senshi is at his job and harvesting the dungeon monsters. The mage/druid/magic caster of the group, she’s incredibly book smart, but prone to freaking out and being overly cautious. She has a lot to learn, including how to chill a bit more, but her personality plays extremely well off of the Senshi and Laios. Speaking of which, Laios is the leader of this party and an oddball, being incredibly eager to try and cook the dungeon monsters, even if it seems impractical in the case of Living Armors. While his motivation to go in and rescue his sister is very noble, even saying Chilchuck and Marcille don’t have to join him since he can’t pay them anymore, his attitude is weird. He often seems more concerned about cooking and hunting the creatures than her, which makes his priorities incredibly skewed and unbelievable. I don’t expect the character to be moping around or be serious 24/7, but his behavior at times makes him hard to buy into. It should be interesting to see where he goes in the future.
More than anything else, I find the creativity shown by Ryoko Kui to be the true star here. The setting is great, the monsters, all familiar faces to those used to fantasy series, games, and tabletop RPGs, are given proper biology rundowns based on new and old ideas (slime biology is a lot more complex then you may think). The creator wonderfully details how each monster is prepared and cooked, running through each step and mixing normal cooking methods with fantasy elements, such as using the oil from flame traps to cook. Using both real and fictional elements keeps things interesting to read about and not just a slog of boring text about things we may already know. Throw in extra details of the cooking with serving sizes, how high in fat or sodium some of these meals are, and more and you got a really well-thought, intricate, and clever take on the fantasy genre.
The dialogue is good and one thing I especially like about it is how it never feels too overloaded with exposition. Compare that to a series like Food Wars, which I’ve read a lot of over the years, and one that goes hardcore into the dynamics, nitty-gritty details, science, and more on why the food cooked tastes the way it does, often exposition-barfing all over the pages to where it is a slog to get through. Delicious in the Dungeon is more laidback, both showing and telling us how each meal is cooked and the benefits of them. It does get into detail sometimes, but it feels more like the characters are naturally telling things to one another and restraint, instead of someone just reading off portions of an encyclopedia or scientific article and giving the audience a lecture.
The artwork, like many other things in the series, is very good. The art is clean-looking, not particularly heavy on the details but not lacking in them either. Everyone looks very different and easily recognizable from one another, their designs simple but distinguishable from one another. The monsters and locations are more detailed, resembling how you might expect themor how they’re supposed to traditionally look in the first place, such as a basilisk (big wakeup call for someone like me only familiar with Harry Potter’s take on them). The action is minimal in the book, but clean and quick, having a nice sense of flow and movement. The layouts are nice, the cooking is drawn well, and the dishes served do look quite delicious and something you might see in a restaurant. Overall, the artwork’s great and I’m excited to see the designs for future monsters and cooked dishes.
Ah, the economics of the dungeon crawling, the most important and boring part of the job.
Is It Good?
Delicious in Dungeon Vol. 1 was a delightful, charming first volume. The series has an interesting premise of combining both a fantasy and cooking series together and delivers on it wonderfully due to the creator’s fantastic creativity and intricate writing. With a great cast of characters, strong writing, and just as good artwork, this is easily one of the best fantasy series to come out in a while. Highly recommended.