If you could check the ingredients label of Delicious in Dungeon Volume 2, you would see that while it was a recognizable variation on the previous installment’s original recipe of RPG humor and food manga, there were subtle differences in the preparation that—favorably—affected the flavor.
The most obvious of these differences is that a few of this volume’s recipes could be prepped and cooked in a real world restaurant without speculative substitution for the fantasy world ingredients that are the staple of this series; by comparison, Volume 1’s recipes contained so many unreal edibles that it only superficially resembled the cooking manga genre that the creator was trying to invoke. Not only the recipes, but volume 2’s chapters, seem more grounded in a real world sensibility. While in my review of Volume 1, I admired Ryoko Kui’s ability to take an old school RPG module and make a living history out of it, there was still the lingering sense that I was staring into a diorama at characters subtly lacking a degree of animation. While in the first volume, Laios and his friends seemed more like puppets, and their reason to be was only to make me laugh, in the second volume they step onto a more dignified theater, and the richer resolution of this backdrop rubs off, so that while their interactions are no less humorous, they are much more dramatic. Not only are Laios, Marcille, Chilchuk, and Senshi developing these increasingly richer personalities, but Kui has also presented us with more textured antagonists in this outing.
The two most striking examples of this are in Chapter 9, “Orcs,” and Chapter 12, “Court Cuisine,” in which the antagonists of both stories—orcs and the magically animated subjects of enchanted paintings—strive to upset the two-dimensional representation that readers may have come to expect from the opposition in manga and other serial fiction. The conceit that serial fiction characters must continue from chapter to chapter often results in them fighting horrific threats with the constitution of tissue paper, and both “Orcs,” and “Court Cuisine” upend this expectation a bit, with our heroes finding themselves at the mercy of the orcs and having to befriend them to find the chapter’s exit, and with Laios finding himself beholden to the hospitality of his painted hosts and having ultimately to be rescued from the portrait of a dark elven wizard. In the case of the orcs, Kui expands upon the overly simplified orcs of high fantasy to make a satisfyingly complex political reality for them, and a political awareness as well in which they see themselves as the victims of humans and elves that have forced them deeper and deeper underground after each conflict. Now that the above ground sentients wish to expand their territory underground as well, the orcs feel justified in slaying the hypocrites that seek sport–’adventuring’–in the homeland that was forced upon them. There’s also an excellent stretch in Chapter 10, “Snacks,” in which Ryoko Kui takes eight pages to flesh out the hapless adventuring party discovered dead on the ninth page by our heroes. Kui takes just enough time to develop these less lucky adventurers that the reader can be forgiven for wondering if these are additional ongoing characters for the series.
Ryoko Kui’s merging of serial fiction with an RPG diorama is impressive, but the most enjoyable aspect of volume 2 is its dramatic sensibilities—not only the comedy to which we are accustomed, but the tragedy in the sympathetic backstory of the orcs and the pathetic adventuring party whose full lives are interrupted by a dungeon trick—and I’m enjoying the story, act to act. Not only is Delicious in Dungeon a delight on the level of the volume, but each chapter has a dramatic unity of time and place that make them wonderful microdramas. In manga reviews it’s trite to say that one is hoping for the anime, but in this case, it seems appropriate, as each chapter is written with a stage sensibility, and they would translate easily to television. More than that, however, I’m looking forward to Delicious in Dungeon Volume 3, as this series is great fun, and has quickly become one of my favorite manga to read.
Delicious in Dungeon Volume 2 arrived in stores on August 22nd, 2017, and if you find it sold out, you can buy it through this link to the Yen Press web site.
Yen Press sent the review copy.