Reviewby Theron Martin,
Delicious in Dungeon
Once upon a time, a collapse in the catacombs of a tiny village led to the discovery of a vast dungeon, which supposedly hid an ancient city cursed by an evil magician, with untold treasures awaiting whoever could defeat him. Years later, Laios and his party of adventurers was getting close to that goal, but hunger (resulting from a loss of supplies) hampered them from defeating the penultimate obstacle, a dragon – at least that's how Laios interprets the loss. Liaos is eager to return and recover a sister who was eaten by the dragon, but party defections and a lack of supplies has put them in dire straits. The solution he comes up with is simple: they'll just eat the things they kill in the dungeon. Though Marcille, the party's elven wizard, is averse to the idea, they happen across a dwarf who happens to be an expert on dungeon recipes, helping them discover the gourmet secrets of the dungeon.
Jokes about cooking and eating critters encountered in a dungeon have been around nearly as long as tabletop fantasy RPGs themselves. However, these have almost always been one-shot gags in D&D-themed comics. To my knowledge, this is the first notable effort to base an entire fantasy RPG story around the Toriko-like concept. Perhaps as a result of that, Delicious in Dungeon goes way farther with the premise than I have ever seen before. The result is a first volume that takes its cooking very seriously despite being gleefully irreverent about everything else – including character deaths.
The very standard premise behind the story is exploring a dungeon to get to a lost city of treasure at the bottom, which then becomes a mission to recover the body of Liaos's sister so she can be revived before she gets fully digested by the dragon who ate her. Both of those are little more than framing devices, however, because the real story here is the cooking. Want to know the best way to cook a walking mushroom? The dwarf Senshi will tell you how to turn it into a great hot pot meal mixed with giant scorpion. Attacked by a slime? No problem, they're edible too, although drying them out first by hauling them around in a specially-designed rack on your back works best. Make some gelatin out of the slime, mix it with leftover scorpion broth, fruit, and leaves from man-eating plants, and you can make a fine tart. The dwarf also shows the group how to turn roast basilisk and giant bat into succulent meals, while Liaos discovers on his own that even “living armor” is edible if you can actually find the living part of it. The beautiful conceit of the story is that it gives you actual recipes for each of these dishes, including estimated servings and a chart showing fat, protein, minerals, vitamins, and energy from the dish.
The cleverness of all this is the series' biggest selling point. Clearly this was written by someone who's either a trained cook themselves or has studied the culinary arts thoroughly, as it delves into many tricks of the trade that would be very conventional if used on normal food (scoring things so that they will cook better, for instance). The way living armor is discovered to be edible is nothing short of brilliant, and the use of traps for deep-frying purposes is also pretty amazing. If you've ever wondered what a cooking show conducted in a fantasy dungeon setting might look like, this is it.
Everything else about the story is kept lighthearted. Liaos seems like a straight-up guy, but his secret hankering to eat just about anything he encounters becomes a running joke, as do Marcille's long-suffering travails with the whole business. Even death isn't a big deal, as revivification magic is readily available as long as the body isn't totally destroyed; as the characters put it at one point, someone can be revived from being turned into mincemeat but not from being turned into poop. Characters reminisce about the first time that they died, and there's even an industry for people who go into the dungeon to recover the bodies of the dead so they can be revived, with a generally agreed-upon fee for such a service. If you can appreciate the kind of morbid humor that commonly goes hand-in-hand with fantasy RPG parodies, then you should have no problem with anything shown here.
While the story is special, the artistic effort by Ryoko Kui is rather ordinary outside of the depictions of finished dishes. The cover art is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to background detail, with many panels having no backgrounds at all, and character designs are kept simple and straightforward. The only thing that gets much detail work (other than the food) is one very ornate suit of living armor. Characters still manage a fair amount of expressiveness though, and panel layouts keep things lively.
Yen Press's release of the title uses a distinctly larger-than-normal format and non-glossy cover. The 185 pages of regular story are followed by a page of translation notes and six pages of Miscellaneous Monster Tales which focus on other peculiarities of the encountered critters. Japanese sound effects are retained with innocuous (and sometimes hard-to-see) translations accompanying them.
Although this is an entertaining title in general, I especially recommend it for anyone who has ever played tabletop fantasy RPGs, even beyond the normal crowd of anime and manga fans. You won't find much depth here, but Delicious in Dungeon's quirky sense of humor and cooking acumen is loads of fun.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B-
+ Cleverly handles its concept, amusing recipes
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