Delicious in Dungeon vol. 3 – Ryoko Kui

4 out of 5

Ryoku Kui continues to play with some interesting world-building asides, sliding them in so subtly as to be comical or amusing, but dotting Delicious in Dungeon’s universe with more and more details. It’s a storytelling style that reminds me of Usagi Yojimbo to a degree, keeping a semi-isolated journey forefront – here, proceeding deeper into the dungeon – while small beats add up to a large whole, thrumming thing overall. The difference, though, is I still can’t really get a sense of if those things matter; Usagi’s world is based on reality, and so it has that in-built sense of very basic stakes: we live; we lead our lives; we die. DiD mixes in RPG fantasy rules, but since we started directly in the dungeon – and we learn people can’t really die in the dungeon, just get separated from their bodies, essentially – those basic stakes are hard to define. In its place, Kui is really working their own magic in terms of fleshing out the ecosystem of the dungeon, with our adventurers learning their place within that ecosystem, tackling kraken and Fish-monsters and realizing how the population of monsters relies on human invaders from above. Mixed in with the cooking specifics, the lack of grounding I’m noting is easy to ignore, since the characters and subject matter are charming, inventive – all of the ways Kui keeps bringing even water-based sprites back to the food focus! – and, in the heat of tense battles, quite thrilling. It seems some tighter, more complex scenes might elude Ryoko, currently, such as a chapter dealing with tentacles, in which the action doesn’t quite flow, but the artistry overall is fantastic at setting up spaces and getting across our growingly 3-dimensional cast’s reactions. Marcille gets a bit more background here, which is much appreciated, and one of their party members who’d quit when they’d pledged to rescue Falin – Namari – shows up again. To this latter point, Kui again helps to confirm that there’s more going on here than happy-go-lucky food porn, though, as Namari’s arc takes a different direction than the more predictable one, meaning I do have faith that continued reading will eventually populate DiD’s world with the kind of relative “realism” I’m seeking.