Delicious in Dungeon Review — by Lauren Bryant
On a whim, I decided to pick up the first book of a manga series called Delicious in Dungeon by Ryōko Kui, a story which can best be described as a Dungeons and Dragons cooking adventure. The story follows a group of fantasy adventurers who, having lost a member and most of their supplies in a dungeon, decide to save money by eating monsters while they rescue their teammate. Surprisingly, I’ve never seen this fantasy-food combo before, despite the proliferation of cooking manga and anime (which I personally am a big fan of, and would recommend to anyone who likes food). All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by the first volume, enough so that I think it deserves a little time in the spotlight.
In all honesty, the story does not have the strongest beginning, but it does pick up pretty quickly. After giving a page of general lore behind the setting, it dives immediately into a mildly confusing battle scene. All I could really tell was that the main character, Laios, was hungry (and did not seem to be paying any attention to what was going on). The reader doesn’t really know anything about any of the characters, which contributes to the confusion. While the scene does serve to set up the story, it seems a bit rushed, as it features too much happening with too little explanation. However, I am going to cut Kui some slack here as she had to set up a kind of strange story and may not have had the leeway to make her intro as long as she’d have liked. It does what it needs to do, and ultimately is just a small section of the overall story, so it doesn’t detract from the rest of the book.
As the book went on, it won me over with its unique aesthetic and fun story. The main cast consists of a very typical fantasy team with different races and classes such as elf mage or human warrior, making the setup very familiar to fantasy fans. It draws heavily from RPGs (role-playing games) as well, which could make it a fun read for any gamers out there. Having this recognizable base gives the author the freedom to take the story in her own unique direction, providing a new perspective on a genre that can be run-of-the-mill. I mean, come on; does Lord of the Rings ever talk about food, let alone eating monsters? Okay, it mentions food, but it’s not the main focus like it is in Delicious in Dungeon. I can’t say if this manga’s aesthetic would be as charming to someone who isn’t into fantasy, but because of its strong focus on food, it might still be able to rope in fans of the culinary genre.
The strongest point of the series is the creativity of the dishes. Ryoko Kui is working largely with fictional ingredients, meaning that she’s making up completely original dishes. Though many of them resemble foods from the real world, there’s always some interesting twist on the meal that leaves you hungry for more. In order to explain how a dish is going to be made, Kui goes into detail about the biology and anatomy of the monsters, which justifies their use in cooking. She even manages to do this with monsters you’d never imagine could be utilized (what can you do with a living suit of armor? Stay tuned to find out!). This creativity is what makes the cooking so exciting and leaves you coming back for more.
Overall, Delicious in Dungeon is a creative concept that’s fairly well executed. The fantasy story has its charms, but the thought put into each culinary creation is the real selling point of the series. If you’re interested in reading a fantasy or cooking series with a twist, this series just might satisfy your appetite!