By Ryoko Kui. Released in Japan as “Dungeon Meshi” by Enterbrain, serialization ongoing in the magazine Harta. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Taylor Engel.
This is, when you come right down to it, a straight up mix of two popular genres right now. Dungeon Crawling is popular in both isekai works and others that just like the genre of the fantasy RPG. And cooking manga has always been popular in Japan for years, with people spending pages upon pages telling readers how delicious they can make something in great detail. Combining the two is a clever idea, and on the face of it the main reason to read this book, but I’m going to be honest, I found the actual RPG and food sections rather boring. No, the real reason to read this book are the main characters, who, while not the most original bunch, do give a off a certain weird charm – emphasis on the weird. They’re individually eccentric, but even more eccentric when put together.
Our party seems very standard by RPG terms: among others, they have a front-line warrior, an elf mage, and a small, grumpy trap expert. At the beginning of the title, they have even more people, but they miscalculate what supplies and food they need to successfully fight off a monster, and as a result are exhausted and starved. So they lose and have to run away – and worse, our hero’s sister in literally eaten by one of the monsters. When most of the rest of their team quits, they’re left in dire straits – the sister can be rescued, but only if they return immediately. Thus a truly foolish, desperate idea – save on supplies by eating the monsters they capture. With the help of a dwarf who had a lot of cooking knowledge and very little common sense, they set out to slowly return to where they left off and maybe try to rescue the sister, though honestly they’re taking so long I’m not expecting much.
As I said above, the main reason to read this is the off-kilter sense of humor it has. Laios, our hero, is a monster freak with a lot of idealism and book knowledge, but it’s also made him a bit of a ditz. Marcille, the elf mage, is a walking font of common sense for the most part, forever forced to be the tsukkomi and be shocked to find the technically gross things she’s eating are actually really tasty when cooked properly. The other one with some common sense is Chilchuck, the trap expert, and he contrasts well with the dwarf, Senshi, who is a bit of a pop-eyed lunatic when he’s not talking about food. Fortunately, Chilchuck is easily flattered. Together, the four of them get into vaguely death-defying situations as they attempt to save Laios’ sister, whose fate seems to be a bit of a running gag, but I suspect will pop up later on if only as the alternative is a bit too dark.
I’m not exactly sure if this is a series I’d want to keep reading on a regular basis, but the first volume was amusing enough, and is definitely worth it if you enjoy dungeon crawls. As for the foodie crowd… possibly less so.