5 out of 5
Kabru’s storyline pays off: a good chunk of volume 8 is given over to the character trying to navigate to a reasonable conclusion to the elves getting involved with the dungeon. While I’d previously had trouble with how densely packed Kui’s background exposition had been – with Kabru standing in as the main source of that, counterpoint to Laios’ shoulder-shrug progression – it’s now “earned” the time we spend on this part of the story. From a top-down perspective, this was a smart approach, as manga (and comics) often just allot backstory to one issue or chapter, out of the blue; I do think the way the lore in DiD has stuffed into short bursts could’ve been smoothed out, but at the same time, the drip-feed of info has made it feel like an integral part to the story instead of random, and I guess being consistently exposed to it has helped it to subconsciously sink in, as all of the emotion and momentum of that part of the story really landed perfectly in this volume.
And Kui buffers it well, leading into it with a humorous bit of physicality swaps due to mushroom circles – like Laios suddenly being a dwarf; Chilchuk a tallman; etc. As we’ve seen throughout the series, instead of treating this as a lark, Ryoko fully commits to it, and adds it to the catalogue of experience and knowledge the team gains, while absolutely staying true to each of their personalities.
When we circle back around to Laios, after the midsection with Kabru and the elves, the synergy is amazing: the former’s casual travels take on new import when juxtaposed with things we’ve just witnessed and learned. Again, though, this is done without sacrificing the core feeling of the strip, as the team pursues a “bicorn” and mixes all the cooking goodness, humor, and character work that has been the backbone of DiD the whole way through.