What’s it about? Ever since the dungeon appeared, intrepid adventurers have sought to find what lies on the bottom floor, facing countless dangers on the way. Usually, when they die, corpse-hunters find them and use magic to send them back to the surface and revive them. The knight Laios’ party, dazed by hunger, is defeated by a vicious red dragon. When they reawaken, however, they find that Laios’ sister, Falin, couldn’t return with them due to being consumed by the dragon! Laios resolves to return and save her before she’s fully digested, and his fellow party members Marcille and Chilchuk agree, but with nothing but the gear on their backs, they don’t have enough money for provisions. Laios’ solution? Eating monsters!
Delicious in Dungeon is probably the most hotly anticipated anime of the season, at least amongst fans with anything approaching decent taste, and for good reason. The manga by Kui Ryoko is excellent, by far one of the best to combine tabletop RPG-style fantasy with real-life skills. With an adaptation by Trigger, there’s absolutely no way this could go poorly, right?
This is the part where normally I’d say, “Well…” and list all the reasons it did, in fact, go poorly. But no! I’m happy to say this is actually really freaking good. It’s a highly faithful adaptation, tweaked just enough to add in some foreshadowing and make sure everything transfers cleanly from the panel to the frame. While Trigger is a studio that has produced some auteur directors with strong voices of their own, Miyajima Yoshihiro embraces Kui Ryoko’s visual storytelling wholeheartedly.
Delicious in Dungeon may be first and foremost about eating monsters, but in a way, it’s also a story about the importance of self-care even in dire situations. The party dies because they’ve grown short on provisions and, dazed from hunger, they’re unable to fight effectively when the dragon attacks. When Laios first tries to cook monsters but after just tossing them in a pot and boiling them, he accidentally eats venom and gets sick. The dwarf Senshi steps in and shows them how taking the time to prepare the food properly allows them to make something that is at once nutritious, sustaining, and tasty.
Sometimes the cost of taking the time to care for yourself—eating nutritious food, sleeping well, keeping companionship—feels like it’s just slowing you down. Laios wanted to charge into the dungeon alone, dodging monsters without a party to help him stay safe. And while time is precious, rushing in only to get himself killed and sent back to the surface would be much more costly than moving with Chilchuk, Marcille, and Senshi, resting and eating as needed.
I’ve been a fan of the manga for quite a while (though I fell off on checking the volumes out of the library in 2020 and need to get back to it), but watching the first episode reminded me of some of my early reservations about the story. Namely, Marcille, who hates eating monsters. She’s picky. She gets weirded out whenever Laios acts like a freak, which is more often than not. Everything about her feels like a stick-in-the-mud sitcom wife, who’s just here to ruin the boys’ rowdy good time with her boring common sense. It doesn’t help that she’s the sole living female character, with Falin currently resting in peace in the dragon’s tummy after sacrificing herself to save her brother.
Now, as a manga fan, I now know there’s much more to Marcille’s character that has yet to show itself. Plus, if she’s anyone’s wife, she certainly isn’t Laios’. (Harold…) It’s just that someone has to be the straight man to Laios, and that role happened to fall to her. Plus, her dismayed faces are the stuff of legend. If you’re concerned about her role in the story, please be reassured that not only does she get lots of character development, the female cast expands considerably, and there are a ton of cool, non-sexualized ladies in our future.