2019’s Delicious in Dungeon, Vol. 8 is the 8th tankōbon in Ryoko Kui’s secondary-world fantasy manga series. Originally published as Danjon Meshi, Delicious in Dungeon appears in Enterbrain’s Harta. Volume 8 was translated into English in 2020.
This volume follows two plotlines that will presumably be further developed in a future installment. Laios and his companions (half-elf mage Marcille, halfling security expert Chilchuck, dwarf fighter Senshi, and new party member cat-beastkin ninja Izutsumi) explore even deeper into the dungeon. Closer to the surface, the elven special-ops Canariesbegin to tackle the dungeon (which they believe poses a danger to everything around it). How this will affect the adventurers way down in the dungeon is not clear.
Waking from restless sleep, Laios and company discover that at some point they must have mistakenly wandered through a changeling circle. Changeling mushrooms transform living animals into closely related species. Laios is now a dwarf, Shenshi a very bishi elf, Marcille is a halfling, Chilchuck is a human, and Izutsumi a dog-person.
This presents challenges that are both immediate and long-term. The adventurers soon discover that it’s difficult to fight dungeon monsters in unaccustomed bodies. Even if they do learn to master their new forms, some of these forms come with unwelcome drawbacks: Marcille, for example, may only have decades left to live, rather than the centuries her elf form could have expected1.
They set out to seek restoration to their original forms. Since nobody in the group knows how to undo the transformations, they must do some original research … upon themselves.
Meanwhile, closer to the surface, the Canaries discover what they expected to find: no amount of reasoning convinces the adventurers in the dungeon to abandon their quest for easy riches. No worries! If reason will not suffice, all the Canaries need to do is engineer a calamity that will scare everyone out of the dungeon. Not a white-hat sort of ploy, but the Canaries were not recruited for their strong ethical sensibilities.
An unexpected benefit: the Canaries attract the full attention of Thistle, the dungeon’s architect, also known as the Lunatic Magician.
Many of the creatures encountered in the dungeon were created by Thistle, so they don’t necessarily make any biological or evolutionary sense beyond “Thistle thought they’d be cool.” But the changeling mushrooms make a bit of sense: they are magical endoparasitoids. They infect other species; the new changelings are driven out of their communities to wander alone until they die; their corpses become food for more mushrooms. All part of the glorious circle of life.
At least it’s better than becoming a zombie ant. And there is a cure for mushroom infection. To say more would be a spoiler.
I was appalled at Laios’ scheme to save his sister Falin, who was mixed with a monster when resurrected. He plans to kill her again, eat the monster bits, and then resurrect her again. Disgusting, but I suppose it gets points for ingenuity.
We learn more about the Lunatic Magician in this volume. He is not amenable to reason (which might be why he is called the Lunatic Magician). He cannot be overpowered (his knowledge of forbidden Blood Magic cannot be matched), but it is possible to outthink him, to tempt him into a position where it’s harder for him bring his advantages to bear. I expect this will be relevant later on.
This volume is full of the action, comedy, and hard science fantasy (the science being ecology) that I want from the series. However, I notice that the author is writing this series more slowly than I am reading it. By April I will have caught up. What to read then?
1: Elf Marcille may not have to worry about her reduced lifespan in her new form. I suspect that few adventurers live long enough for old age to be a worry.