First Look: Dungeon Meshi

First Glance: Dungeon Meshi

Alternative title: Delicious in Dungeon
Manga Adaptation by Studio Trigger
Streaming on Netflix

Premise

After a party member is devoured by a red dragon, Laios and his adventurer crew must delve the dungeon once more and rescue her before it’s too late. Running low on time, supplies, and manpower, the party resorts to hunting and eating the various creatures that inhabit the dungeon. What the rest of the party doesn’t know is that Laios is an absolute monster freak and relishes the chance to dine on the fantasy bestiary. Accompanied by beleaguered mage Marcille, professional rogue Chilchuck, and experienced monster chef Senshi, they embark on a daring culinary tour.

Iro’s verdict: Full Course

The Delicious in Dungeon / Dungeon Meshi manga was a reliable favorite for a few years, and the only thing an anime adaptation has to do is not fuck it up; thankfully, GLORIO-favorite studio Trigger is on the case. It’s a fair bit different from their usual wheelhouse, helmed by a new director and more workmanlike in presentation, but I’m fine with that as it’s likely to be a longer-term project. It isn’t without some of their touches, though: a well-timed digital zoom in the first episode stands out as a synergistic collision of comedy that could only happen with Trigger, and I hope to see more bits like that as we go on.

Gee’s verdict: Appetizing

I don’t believe it is any exaggeration to say Ryoko Kui is one of the greatest manga writers of our generation. But for years, most of us who had followed the immaculately crafted manga had simply accepted that Dungeon Meshi would remain an underrated classic for the manga readers to quietly enshrine in the canon of the medium. Then Trigger gets hired to do an animated commercial to commemorate the release of a new volume, the rest is history.

Dungeon Meshi’s first episode is a reminder of Kui’s quiet strengths as an author as well as Trigger’s subtler capabilities as a studio. Dungeon Meshi isn’t an Imaishi-fueled action showstopper, it’s a warm and naturalistic story about a group of fantasy adventurers caught in increasingly dire circumstances, and the genial humor that arises from their increasingly absurd actions. As an example, Dungeon Meshi expertly weaves into the story the relative triviality of death in the eponymous dungeon, not by tired exposition but organic sounding dialogue. The elf mage Marcille has just seen a fellow party member perish in the maw of the red dragon and is more concerned with what to get for lunch than her closest friend’s well being. I’ve noticed less observant reviewers have chafed against this seeming tonal dissonance, but to them I would say trust Kui. There’s a reason her name holds the weight it does amongst manga readers. There is a reason Golden Kamuy took 2nd place to Dungeon Meshi every year the two manga were judged against each other. If even the titan that is Golden Kamuy couldn’t unseat Dungeon Meshi, do you really think that’s a coincidence?

As for the manga itself, Trigger imbues Dungeon Meshi with a naturalistic roundness that fits the tone of the story and its characters. The characters gesticulate theatrically without quite going off the rails in the way one might expect from the studio. It’s obvious the animators have treated the source material with the attention it deserves. And Trigger as always, reminds us why they are the uncontested masters of comedic timing. They’ve once again leveraged their ability to cut corners into one of their core strengths. I truly hope by the end of the anime, we see a character tween onto camera in the way only Trigger can manage. Dungeon Meshi isn’t here to blow the doors down, in fact it wouldn’t surprise me if your average (read: dumb as rocks) anime fan misses out due to the lack of obvious spectacle. It’s here to serve you a story, exemplary in its execution, confident in its appeal, and like a wizard, ready to bring the house down precisely when it means to.

dungeon food quality

Peter’s verdict: A side dish

As far as I can tell, this anime’s entire thing is:
Step 1) Find some monsters in the dungeon
Step 2) The elf is grossed out by the idea of eating them, among other reactions
Step 3) Cook the monsters into a meal
Step 4) Taste test
Step 5) Repeat

Is there going to be any real meat to this show, or is it just going to be a side of quirks that we’ll forget about by next season.

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