The Big Picture

  • Delicious in Dungeon
    defies expectations by combining fantasy adventure with culinary elements for a unique and refreshing viewing experience.
  • The characters in the series are brilliantly designed, with each bringing a unique and entertaining portrayal of familiar fantasy archetypes.
  • The show’s worldbuilding is detailed and cohesive, offering a logical and engaging exploration of a magical world filled with monsters and culinary delights.

Crafting excellent television is akin to creating excellent meals. The genre of the show is the type of cuisine following a culture and tradition built from community connections. Its characters are the ingredients, ranging from simple to complex in flavor and combined to elevate and enhance. Both can tell a story; both can be divisive; both can be exceptional. As with the fusion of different cuisines, the combination of different genres in a television series can be hit-or-miss with audiences. But when a show hits that sweet spot, balancing the ingredients and honoring the cuisine to create something new and fresh, there’s nothing quite like it. And it’s certainly true that there’s nothing quite like Netflix’s new show, Delicious in Dungeon.

No show achieves its ambitious concept as effectively and creatively as Delicious in Dungeon. Also known as Dungeon Meshi (literally ‘dungeon meal’), the series is an adaptation of the hit manga by Ryōko Kui and was animated by Studio Trigger. Part fantasy adventure, part cooking show, the series is a daring combination of two types of entertainment so distinct that it feels like their flavors should clash. And yet, not only does it fulfill all its promises of magical adventure, but Delicious in Dungeon contains a surprisingly detailed culinary element in its story that makes the show distinct from anything else on television. Containing style and substance, the series is meticulously crafted with unifying themes, endearing characters, and a truly stunning art style that is so thoroughly enjoyable that audiences are going to keep on craving another bite.

Delicious in Dungeon TV Series Poster

‘Delicious in Dungeon’ Keeps the Fantasy Genre Fresh

Delicious in Dungeon has the bones of a traditional fantasy adventure, chock-full of all the knights, mages, and monsters any Lord of the Rings or Dungeons & Dragons fan could ask for. But it’s where the series expands on the genre, subverting expectations and introducing fresh new ingredients to a classic story, that the series truly leaves a lasting impression. Set in a world where magic and monsters exist, dungeon exploration is a potentially lucrative profession for courageous or reckless adventurers. Though the magical underground world is dangerous and full of monsters, the promise of treasure, wealth, and even an entire kingdom are enough to beckon folks into its dark underbelly. After they are defeated by a red dragon, the human adventurer, Laios (voiced by Kentarō Kumagai), and his adventuring party delve back into the dungeon to rescue his sister, Fallin (Saori Hayami), before she’s digested by the mythical creature.

However, lacking funds and resources, the party is forced to enter the dungeon without the necessary rations to reach the deeper levels. This would be an insurmountable problem were it not for Laios’s ingenious idea to eat the monsters they slay for food. Unlike adventurers seeking fame or fortune, Laios became an explorer because of his deep love and fascination with monsters. But Laios’ encyclopedic knowledge of monsters doesn’t exactly translate into culinary skill, which is where Senshi takes center stage. A mysterious yet unerringly friendly dwarf, Senshi (Hiroshi Naka) had been living in the dungeon for several years and developed a keen understanding of how to survive in a dangerous environment. Senshi joins the party to help rescue Fallin, becoming the resident chef who teaches Laios and his friends how to survive in the dungeon and make delicious meals from the unlikeliest ingredients.

The Characters are Brilliantly Designed and Memorable

However, two adventurers alone do not a party make, and the rest of the characters in Delicious in Dungeon are equally entertaining as the eccentric monster-eating dwarf and human. There is Marcille (Sayaka Senbongi), the brilliantly talented and studious elven mage. Chilchuck (Asuna Tomari), the half-foot picklock who expertly leads the party through the winding routes and traps of the dungeon. And Fallin, the friendly and powerful mage whose kindhearted nature motivates her party to rescue her at all costs. Though each character is based on a fantasy archetype, they each add something new to the table, adding complexity to ideas audiences are already familiar with. Marcille feels youthful and lively, unlike the more classic interpretation of stuffy and stoic elves. Though Chilchuck looks like a spritely youth himself, he’s actually middle-aged for his species and holds plenty of secrets in his small stature. And when Chilchuck does finally share his past, it’s one of the most shocking and hilarious moments in the entire series.

Each character in Delicious in Dungeon is a masterclass in direct and effective storytelling from Ryōko Kui, with character design and interactions so meticulously crafted that there’s no wasted moment. Marcille’s hairstyle changes every episode, showing her meticulous personality and because hair is an integral component of the world’s magic. Even though Chilchuck is the smallest of the party, he still removes his extra clothes when disarming traps so that he triggers even fewer sensors. The monsters, too, are creatively designed, drawing inspiration from folklore, mythology, and even regional cryptids but with additional features unique to this series.

‘Delicious in Dungeon’s Worldbuilding is Detailed and Exhaustive

Senshi cooking a basilisk over a spit like a chicken while Marcille and Chilchuck look on in horror in 'Delicious in Dungeon'
Image via Studio Trigger

Even with the already impressive character design and writing, the most impressive aspect of Delicious in Dungeon is arguably its comprehensive worldbuilding. Unlike other fantasy stories, which substitute logic for mystique and intrigue, there’s a cohesive logic that permeates the show. The monsters Laios so gleefully obsesses over are still living things with complex biologies and instinctive behaviors that can be researched and understood. The monsters are integral parts of the dungeon’s ecosystem, with a legitimate food web that can be tracked from the algae at the bottom of the pond all the way up to an enormous kraken.

This attention to detail translates to the cooking as well. Senshi breaks down the preparation of every dish into simple, digestible steps that genuinely feel like an engaging cooking show. Each episode features at least one brand-new dish that is an adventurous combination of monster ingredients and classic foods, some more startling than others. A basilisk, a monster that is part rooster and part snake, can be cooked on a spit like a roast chicken. A pumpkin with a human-like face on it can be turned into a soup. At the end of the day, a man-eating plant is still a plant, and its fruit can be turned into a delicious tart.

But like a good dish, plating is everything, and Delicious in Dungeon’s animation is so crisp and beautiful that even the most insane monster meal genuinely looks appetizing. The animation is defined by its clean line work, simple yet vibrant color blocking, and that exhaustive forethought that makes every detail an irreplaceable addition. But don’t let the simple art style lull you into a false sense of security because the series can get surprisingly vicious in a snap moment— reflective of the genuine dangers and threats in the sprawling dungeon. The action can get intense, featuring some truly stunning animation in visceral and dynamic combat sequences. Studio Trigger was cooking with gas when they animated this series, and the sizzle reel of Dungeon Meshi highlights is exceptional, even compared to the biggest shōnen anime. Even with the availability of healing and revival magic, some of the deaths and injuries in the show are startlingly brutal but remain cohesive within the reality of the show.

‘Delicious in Dungeon’ is Funny, Heartwarming, and Action-Packed

Laios faces down a living armor despite having a broken sword in 'Delicious in Dungeon'
Image via Studio Trigger

For all the wildness and whimsy that the series has, Delicious in Dungeon is utterly unafraid to get serious when it needs to be. Underneath all the jokes and humor, the series explores some notably profound and complex ideas, as the external politics of different nations and the internal politics of party relationships are all integral to the overarching plot. The series tackles questions about greed, power, and the volatility of relationships. Though this all seems like it should be too much, the series blends them together in such a way that the contrast of different concepts only enhances the final product. The key to this is the simple ethos that Senshi shares with the group early on: take care of one’s self by eating right, sleeping well, and exercising, because that’s all it takes to become better than you were before. Few shows can truly boast about achieving something new and exciting in their genre, but Delicious in Dungeon deserves Michelin Star-level praise for its daring choice to combine even the boldest ingredients into one dish, and the series is only getting started.

Delicious in Dungeon is streaming now on Netflix in the U.S.

Watch on Netflix

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