[Review] Something's always Delicious in Dungeon Meshi

by Shiren
  • Shiren 05-25-2017, 11:14 AM
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    Dungeon Meshi, subtitled in Engrish Delicious in Dungeon, is an adventure fantasy manga by Ryoko Kui, and her first venture into the world of long-form serial comics, running in Harta -- the same magazine that gave us the comfy Central Asian historical romance Otoyomegatari. Kui's writing feels very mature -- by which I don't mean that it contains graphic depictions of sexuality or violence so much as that, despite its adventure fantasy setting, it doesn't feel like wish fulfilment or escapism, and at the same time doesn't feel excessively gritty or grimdark. The characters are distinct and grow on you quickly, all without leaning on goofy quirks to keep them interesting.

    The premise is a rather goofy one that the series nonetheless takes very seriously: a party of dungeon-delving adventurers, like you might see in an stereotypical fantasy roleplaying game, learns to become more efficient at dungeon-delving by butchering, cooking, and eating the monsters they slay, in order to save a lost comrade. Detailed recipes for the delectable dishes are provided, sadly unaccompanied by applicable advice regarding the procurement of the ingredients. It's clear that Kui knows a thing or two about food.

    As a fantasy setting, Dungeon Meshi is quite traditional, even retro, in "flavor". It takes a lot of inspiration from the Wizardry series of dungeon crawlers, which, due to its inexplicable popularity and influence in Japan, form the basis of a whole lot of Japanese-style western-style fantasy. If you're a fan of Dungeons & Dragons, especially of its older material, you will feel right at home here*. Influence from modern MMORPGs is practically nonexistant in Dungeon Meshi. What sets it apart from that style, though, is its elaboration upon concepts with a sharp attention to detail. The worldbuilding has answers to your questions. This series tells you how dragons can breathe fire, and where they keep their fuel. As early as the first chapter, we're shown anatomical diagrams of slimes. I don't like describing fantasy as "realistic" or "unrealistic", since fantasy is, by definition, a deliberate departure from reality, but this series is believable. It incorporates a little bit of real science, a bit of abstractly defined fantasy logic, and a good bit of fantasy cuisine. I'm not normally a big fan of the anachronistic mixing of pre-modern or pre-modern-inspired settings and modern scientific thought, but Kui does so in a compelling and interesting way, blending them together seamlessly.

    Dungeon Meshi is a real treat, and an English release is off Yen Press's presses. I haven't been able to check out the quality of the translation yet, but I do know that, Yen Press failing, the current scanlation group is very good. Check it out on batoto!

    *If I had to compare the series to a tabletop RPG more directly, I'd probably say GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, though. Serve with asparagus!

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[Review] Something's always Delicious in Dungeon Meshi