Do you like food? Of course you do. How about Dungeons & Dragons? You dabble, yeah? Maybe played a fantasy role-playing video game or two? Never? That’s cool, too. You’re still gonna want to check out Delicious in Dungeon.
Based on the beloved and recently concluded manga by Ryōko Kui, the new Netflix anime is a loving, faithful adaptation of one of the most charming fantasy stories in recent memory, a series that cares just as much about food (like Chef’s Table) as it does fun tabletop-style adventuring (like Baldur’s Gate 3). The story follows a party of adventurers in a world where a mysterious dungeon has appeared, with a spectre delivering a message that unimaginable treasure awaits those who descend into its depths to defeat the wizard lying at its heart.
Laios and his friends Marcille and Chilchuck are one of many such groups making regular expeditions into the dungeons, and we meet them in a moment of very bad luck as a dragon kicks their asses and seems to swallow their friend, Falin. Fresh out of resources to mount a proper rescue and very hungry, Laios hatches a last-ditch plan to make it back to the dragon and save Falin: They eat their way through the dungeon, finding and cooking edible monsters to sustain them as they journey deeper without supplies.
That’s kind of it! With just one episode currently available (Delicious in Dungeon is the rare Netflix simulcast) the series can leave the viewer with the impression that it’s pretty slight. Given how faithful an adaptation Studio Trigger is making here, it will almost certainly get better. But that doesn’t mean the show isn’t without its charms from the start.
As it stands, Delicious in Dungeon is a great D&D-flavored hangout show, one that insists on filling its dank, monster-filled halls with good vibes and sitcom quirks. You’ll only get a small taste of them here, but it’s easy to see the way the main cast bounces off one another: Laios is kind of a determined dummy, Marcille is squeamish and put-upon, Chilchuck resents how hard everyone makes his job as the thief, and dwarf newcomer Senshi is freakishly into cooking.
A big part of Delicious in Dungeon’s appeal in manga form is that Kui, by all accounts, is a huge nerd. She has a clear love for cooking and fantasy role-playing games (take a look at her wonderful portraits of the Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 casts), and Delicious in Dungeon is an adoring outlet for both passions. Reading the manga, it’s easy to get caught up in the equally great care Kui puts toward the illustration of scoring meat with a knife, as well as the gear of her party of adventurers or the anatomy of the monsters they face.
This is perhaps the biggest hurdle to the anime adaptation of Delicious in Dungeon: A lot of the manga skews explainer-y, and that’s a bit less interesting in motion than it is on the page. An uninitiated viewer might wonder what the point of it all is.
Knowledge of where the story is going helps here — because while Kui’s manga is heavily episodic and almost hilariously unconcerned with the inciting incident of Laios and his party saving their friend from the belly of a dragon, it’s in fact very interested in slowly building out its characters and long-term story, to a degree that won’t be apparent for a little while.
Until then, though? Relish in the details. Delicious in Dungeon builds an entire fantasy world out of the silly little questions first-time fantasy fans ask of genre fiction. “What does everyone eat?” is the big one, obviously, but it doesn’t stop there. Instead, it becomes a thread continually tugged, constantly yielding new details. If a dungeon’s monsters are edible, then what do they eat? Food chains beget ecosystems which beget cultures and rules and a richness that slyly turns the generic fantasy world of Delicious in Dungeon into something singular.
And maybe you’ll pick up some cooking tips along the way. The monsters might be fake, but the knife skills are legit.
Delicious in Dungeon is now streaming on Netflix. New episodes drop every Thursday.