About six years ago, a withered old man was discovered in the depths of a mausoleum on an unnamed island (called “The Island” in-story) by local villagers. He claimed that he was King Delgal, the last king of the Golden Kingdom, a legendary realm once known for its fabulous wealth. Continuing his tale, Delgal said that the Kingdom was sunk underground by a mad magician a thousand years ago and that anyone who defeats the magician would inherit the Kingdom as its new King. With that, the old man collapsed and crumbled to dust. Since then, the Island has become a bustling destination for adventurers either hoping to strike it rich or rediscover ancient knowledge once lost to the ages within the underground Kingdom ruins (the dungeon).
During your latest mission within the dungeon, your adventuring team (consisting of yourself, your younger sister Falin, the elf magician Marcille, the halfling rogue Chilchuck, the dwarf warrior Namari and the swordsman Shuro) is ambushed by a huge red dragon. In the midst of the harrowing battle, you are suddenly pushed from behind. Turning around, you are horrified to see Falin held up in the dragon’s jaws and your teammates lying on the ground around you. The last thing you see is Falin screaming “Run…!” and a flash of bright light.
Delicious in Dungeon (ダンジョン飯 Danjon Meshi) is a manga written and drawn by Ryoko Kui (九井諒子 Kui Ryōko).
The story’s beginning sees the fighter Laios waking up and staring at a clear blue sky. The last thing he remembers was watching his sister Falin cast a spell upon the team from the jaws of a dragon. A moment later, two of his teammates, Marcille and Chilchuck, inform him that most of the team’s belongings were lost in the battle with the dragon and that Namari and Shuro have quit the team. Laios realizes that they must find the red dragon again before Falin gets digested (a red dragon’s digestion cycle lasts about a month if it’s asleep). Now penniless, the team is unable to pay for the equipment, supplies and registration fees needed for the return trip, so Laios proposes a daring solution: hunting the dungeon’s monsters for food! Naturally, both Marcille and Chilchuck are repulsed by the idea, but both are convinced somewhat when Laios shows them a book about cooking monsters that he secretly kept.
After catching a walking mushroom and a giant scorpion in the dungeon’s first level, the team attempts to prepare and cook the monsters to make a hotpot. Suddenly, a strange dwarf runs up to them and claims that’s not the proper way to prepare a dungeon meal! With his guidance, Laios cuts out the scorpion’s entrails and Chilchuck cuts out the edible parts of the walking mushroom. The dwarf also cuts off some algae from the dungeon walls and adds them to the pot.
After the hotpot is finished, Laios, Chilchuck and the dwarf start eating…it’s delicious! Losing a battle with her growling stomach, Marcille eats some as well. At the end of the meal, the dwarf introduces himself as Senshi and he’s been exploring the dungeon and cooking monsters for over ten years. Laios invites him to join the team and he accepts in the hope of someday tasting red dragon meat.
So begins the quest to rescue Falin…and make meals out of the dungeon’s monsters!
Laios Touden, a 26-year old male human fighter and the leader of his adventuring party. Calm and gentle, Laios has a lifelong desire to try eating monsters. He is quite knowledgeable about various monsters and their behavior, but he lacks social skills and common sense, making him somewhat blunt and tactless when he is with other people. Laios was not really on good terms with anyone in his hometown, including his own parents. The only exception to this was his sister Falin. In his late teens, he left home and signed up as a soldier in a larger town. After realizing that he couldn’t fit in there either, Laios found work as a caravan guard after his discharge. During this time, he stopped at the magic school Falin attended to pay her a brief visit, but she decided to go with him instead. Eventually, they both traveled to the Island, where they spent three years together as adventurers before the encounter with the red dragon.
Marcille, a female elf wizard. Smart, principled and uptight, Marcille is a powerful mage who provides the party’s magical firepower. She gets uncomfortable when dealing things outside her comfort zone, such as eating monsters. Fascinated with dungeon-building, Marcille hopes to one day create a “safe” dungeon where magical materials such as mandrakes can be grown and harvested safely. In the process, she has learned ancient magic spells that are traditionally forbidden. The child of two court wizards, Marcille was a researcher and teaching assistant at the magic school that Falin attended and they soon became close friends. After Falin ran away from the magic school to accompany her brother, Marcille came to the Island at Falin’s invitation four years later. Hoping to gain practical experience in an actual dungeon, she worked as the Touden party’s wizard for a year before they encounter the red dragon.
Chilchuck, a 28-year old male halfling rogue, locksmith and trap expert. Shrewd and practical, Chilchuck prefers to not take on jobs without being paid in advance. Like all halflings, he has excellent hearing and appears to be a child despite his age. Chilchuck has worked with various adventuring teams in the past and has influence with the Island’s local halfling community, acting as an informal leader. When at work, he keeps up a tough front and stays quiet about his private life because he has seen how relationships within an adventuring team can lead to its dissolution. Of all the dungeon’s monsters, Chilchuck particularly hates mimics (crab-like monsters that live in boxes or chests) because they have killed him many times over the course of his adventuring career (resurrection magic is possible within the dungeon).
Senshi, a 46-year old male dwarf dungeon explorer. Stubborn yet passionate, Senshi (meaning “seeker” in the Dwarven language) has lived a mostly solitary life within the dungeon, hunting monsters for food and occasionally travelling to the surface to buy supplies. He is a very skilled cook and survivalist, seeing the dungeon as a delicate ecosystem not unlike a forest and never taking more than what he needs for survival. He also dislikes magic, which puts him at odds with Marcille sometimes. Unlike most dwarfs, Senshi has no interest or talent for blacksmithing or mining. In the past, Senshi formed a friendship with the orcs who lived within the dungeon and he still sometimes trades with them.
Falin Touden, a 23-year old female human magician. Like her brother Laios, Falin is calm, gentle and is fascinated with monsters, but she is also considerate, kind and self-sacrificing. She has an affinity for spirits and is a magician who is particularly skilled at casting healing and protection spells. During her time at the magic school, Falin displayed an astounding talent for magic that impressed even her teachers. One such event was when she created a massive amount of spiritual energy within a miniature dungeon experiment, which eventually led to her close friendship with Marcille. After the battle with the red dragon, Laios and his friends decide to return to the dungeon quickly in order to retrieve Falin’s remains before they are digested, making her eventual resurrection impossible.
The overall problem that the heroes face here is the fight against societal bias and prejudice. In the story of Delicious in Dungeon, almost everyone holds the conventional belief that eating monsters of any sort is unhygienic, despite the fact that they have never even tried it once! Cows and pigs were proven safe to eat after proper preparation, so why not certain monsters like basilisks (human-sized chickens with the tails of snakes), mimics, giant bats and giant frogs? More exotic creatures such as treasure bugs (insects camouflaged to look like gold coins and jewels) and living armor (mollusk-like monsters that grow armor-like shells to form a hive creature that looks like a suit of armor) can surprisingly be made into food as well. What society considers taboo could actually be hidden innovative ideas that could open up new options and experiences for us if taken into consideration with proper preparation.
The problem with societal bias goes a step further when we learn that Marcille’s knowledge of ancient spells is illegal in conventional society and magic guilds. Why are such spells illegal? For starters, some of these spells involve the manipulation of blood and souls, which could possibly lead to the mix-up of humanoids with monsters in body and soul. It does sound risky and dangerous, but think about how such magic could prove beneficial. More research and experimentation could lead to an improvement in healing magic or more effective resurrection spells. In an extreme case, perhaps even longevity or immortality (though that in itself is another issue)! Yet, we see people who have never used magic before or are ignorant about magic in general denounce this as “dark magic” without a second thought. Is a weapon evil because it killed someone? Or is it the person using the weapon?
Ms. Ryoko Kui has gone to considerable lengths to demonstrate the preparation of various monster cuisines in her story, creating a lovingly detailed cooking experience within that is both expressive and masterful. She has also made the dungeon setting into an entirely new world of its own, complete with different monsters with their own unique behavioral traits, devious traps, a ruined castle surrounded by a labyrinthine town and a community of orcs living within the dungeon, away from the adventurers who would harm them. Together, this all creates a captivating story.
Just because society declares an idea taboo or wrong, doesn’t mean it should never be explored. With careful preparation, such ideas could bring benefits never considered before.