2017’s Delicious in Dungeon, Volume 4 is the fourth tankōbon collecting Ryoko Kui’s secondary-world comic ecological fantasy manga. Originally published as Danjon Meshi, Delicious in Dungeon appears in Enterbrain’s Harta magazine. Volume 4 was translated into English in 2018.
Our heroes—human fighter Laios, halfling lock expert Chilchuck, half-elf mage Marcille, and dwarven warrior gourmand Shenshi—return to the orc community they visited earlier, only to find the orcs gone. Vanished. There’s evidence that suggests the orcs left in a hurry. Whatever scared the orcs off must be formidable. Good news for our heroes!
Provided that whatever scared off the orcs is the monster for which the party is searching.
Provided they survive encountering it.
The group is searching for the red dragon that ate Laios’ mage sister, Falin. Falin died saving the party from a Total Party Kill. That earlier incarnation of the party had six members, one of whom died, and two of whom have since left the party. Although the party’s current numbers have been augmented by Shenshi’s recruitment, the fact is that the party is smaller and weaker than it was when the dragon trounced it.
Where raw might is lacking, cunning may suffice. This time, the party ensures that it is well fed and not half-starved when it meets the dragon. This time, they will make full use of their environment to deny the dragon full use of its superior speed, size, strength, and natural weapons. The group may be smaller, but this time they will try to be smarter.
Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy. Even if the group somehow manages to defeat the red dragon, there will remain the issue that the red dragon having had so long to digest Falin, there may not be much left of Falin to resurrect. Not only that, but Falin was the healer.
Marcille has an ace up her sleeve. She may not be the healer Falin was. She is, however, surprisingly adept in dark arts most sensible sorcerers avoid. What could possibly go wrong with a resurrection drawing on That Which Is Forbidden?
Art is a problem with reviewing manga tankōbon by tankōbon, inasmuch as “Yep, still perfectly functional” gets repetitive. The art in this series isn’t as striking as the art in some manga I could mention, but it does the job. I particularly appreciate how easy it is to tell the characters apart.
I am about 80 percent certain that the author began by asking themself what premise would justify lavish food-porn scenes in each volume; the whole D&D angle came later. Even though the characters are eating monster meat, one does get peckish while reading this manga.
Fantasy-roleplaying-game fans will recognize this volume as the sort of encounter where each character is down to a few measly hit points, where the sensible plan runs afoul of the unforeseen (e.g., that Laios’ intelligent sword would take one look at the red dragon and flee, leaving its human weaponless), and where the overlooked element (that it’s hard to coordinate and regroup in the face of setbacks if the two parts of the party cannot hear each other) bites hard. If the party had worse luck or if they weren’t being written by an author who had long-term plans for the series, the manga could have ended here.
Since this is the fourth of at least twelve volumes, it’s like that any triumph the party might feel at the end of the tankōbon can only be momentary. The group still needs to get back out of the dungeon, Falin seems pretty traumatized by having been eaten and digested down to her bones (yeah, that’s a spoiler), and there is probably a very good reason that the dark arts are discouraged. Not to mention that there are grand issues of power politics waiting to trip up the party.
Sure there are ominous forebodings, but … this issue was a welcome respite. No doubt terrible things are waiting in the wings, but in this particular volume, there is hope and victory.