4 out of 5
I was able to read much of the first ten volumes of Delicious in Dungeon in a binge – volume 10 came out soon after I had caught up with the previous nine. …But that left me with months before volume 11 came out. And though the wait was painful, the plus side is the pause provided a huge, jolting reminder of how unique the series is, on all fronts: the scope of Kui’s world-building and imagination; how high the stakes have been built and maintained; how rich the characterizations are; and all of this besides the flowing art, and laugh-out-loud humor (assisted by Taylor Engel’s translation).
We have approximately two arcs here, with Laios fighting the Lunatic Magician in the tankobon’s first half, and the DiD crew’s confrontation with Kabru and the Canaries in the second half, with game-changing stitching connecting the two. Kui’s fight scenes are a lot fun, because it’s easy to pull stuff out of one’s ass when magic’s involved, and that happens for sure, but there’s this inherent logic that’s been running throughout that allows the book to balance surprise with in-universe believability. Combining that with how heavy everything is with the dungeon, and yet how innocently Laios approaches it… it’s brilliant stuff. This carries over to the interaction with the Canaries, which still has its share of action, but leans more on dialogue, with plenty of silly little flashes of Senshi and Chilchuck.
The only thing I’d criticize, and this has popped up whenever the book has gotten crowded with its cast – which it very much is with the Canaries – is that keeping the less featured characters straight (what their roles are; where they are in the scene) can be a bit of a struggle, and it’s not helped by how quickly Kui moves things along. The conclusion with the Magician is also a little confusing, in a way where it’s not clear if it’s a translation issue, or if there’s just more to learn at a later point in the tale, or perhaps I’m just not remembering some context from previous books. Either way, there were a few sequences I had to read a few times, and I’m still not positive I’ve gathered all the necessary details. On the flip side, the book is not painful to spend this extra time with – it’s a joy to soak up the art, and generally joyful vibe of the story, which yet again leaves us looking forward to the next volume.