Sunday, December 24, 2017


For me, Christmas is a time all about good food.  Naturally, this means my mind turns to good food manga, and we got a doozy of a food manga this year.

DELICIOUS IN DUNGEON (Danjon Meshi), by Ryoko Kui.  First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2017.


Laios was deep in a dungeon when his sister was eaten by a dragon.  With Marcelle the elven mage and Chilchuck the halfing at his side, he's determined to make his way back to the dragon by subsisting entirely on food gathered from the dungeons.  Together with Senshi the dwarf, they will cook their way through floors full of basilisks, slimes, living armor and more.

I love food manga, but even I can acknowledge that they can get a bit formulaic.  There's only so many times you can watch people make a dish step-by-step and rapturously monologue about just how tasty any given dish may be before you start to crave something new.  So leave it to Ryoko Kui to do something as simple yet brilliant as combining the standard food manga formula with a silly, dungeon crawler-style fantasy.

Laios's sister might be the excuse that sets the plot into motion, but Delicious In Dungeon is mostly episodic.  Each chapter in this first volume serves two purposes: to introduce at least one new and potentially tasty monster, and to build up one member of Laios' party.  It's a pretty effective formula, and one that gives Kui's imagination all the space it needs.  She has a lot of fun re-imagining a lot of standard fantasy creatures to work with what most of us know about ecology and biology.  She also comes up with some clever new ones, such as the "living armor" made of mollusk-like creatures that join into colonies that function like muscles.  These adventures are largely self-contained, so aside from the introductory chapter you could scramble them up into any order and not lose anything as far as character development or humor.

While she doesn't get quite as crazy with the characters, she does lend them a lot of charm and the easy air of old friends.  Laios becomes increasingly geeky over his interest in the monsters of the dungeon.  Marcelle is determined to prove her worth despite her lack of physical skill and her reluctance to eat all of these strange creatures.  Chilchuck is all business when it comes to traps, while Senshi's single-minded focus on food and gathering is complemented by his generosity and his matter-of-fact manner.  The best part is that their personalities are not built at the expense of the humor, but through it.  Her gags are mostly situational instead of being based on running gags or made at the expense of a single character.  Instead, everyone gets a shot at being comic relief at one time or another (although Marcelle gets it a little more often than most due to her resistance to dungeon food).  This egalitarian touch combined with the imagination on display combines to create a combination which is as endearing as it is entertaining.


If you must read Delicious In Dungeon for one reason, read it for the faces.  Yes, the backgrounds are lovely, the creatures and dishes lovingly rendered, and the character designs communicate the cast's RPG-inspired roles without necessarily making them explicit.  But the most effective tool in Kui's arsenal is her gift for using faces as gags onto themselves.  She knows just when to hold on a strange face for maximum laughter. Some of them are big and over the top, while other are more furtive, but they are easily the most notable visual and the most effective punchlines.


In addition to the usual translation notes, there are little one-page omakes that expand on the creatures covered in each chapters along with a few more jokes.

Delicious In Dungeon is a delightful mixture of fantasy, food, and comedy that's full of personality, imagination, and humor.  It's easy to see why this became a sensation in Japan and it deserves to become no less here.

This series is published by Yen Press.  This series is ongoing in Japan with 5 volumes available.  3 volumes have been released and are currently in print.

Want to win a $25 RightStuf gift certificate to purchase manga like this one?  Then make sure to enter the Manga Test Drive's annual Holiday Review Giveaway here!

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