We've seen a resurgence of Dungeons & Dragons in pop culture the past few years, with Stranger Things bringing the iconic fantasy tabletop RPG back into public consciousness in a big way. Where recent adaptations like Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves focused on the comedy and the fun chaos of the game, and Baldur's Gate 3 excelled at portraying the "everything goes" aspect of the game through its epic fantasy tale, there is one essential element of Dungeons & Dragons that is often forgotten in media portrayals: the actual dungeoning.
This is mostly because the game itself has moved away from survival and into heroic adventuring, with more attention given to storytelling and cool abilities than how to track your food supplies. This is where Studio Trigger's Delicious in Dungeon comes in. Based on Ryōko Kui's manga of the same name, the new Netflix anime is all about trying to survive in a dangerous dungeon full of deadly monsters.
Delicious in Dungeon follows a group of adventurers trying to make their fortune by exploring a massive dungeon. Our adventuring party barely escaped the claws of a deadly red dragon by the heroic sacrifice of the mage Falin, who teleports the party to safety while being devoured by the dragon. Now, her brother and party leader, Laios, wants to return to the dungeon and rescue her.
What makes this a unique anime is its focus on the logistics of adventuring. Because the party is in a hurry, they have no time to get cash or supplies for their journey, so their best solution is to live off what they can find in the dungeon — meaning they need to eat whatever monsters they find. Delicious in Dungeon takes a page out of the older versions of the tabletop RPG by forcing the characters to consider more than just what cool moves they'll do during combat; now they have to factor in the cost of weapons, repairs, and recruitment fees for more team members so they can fight stronger monsters.
It may sound dull to watch a fantasy show that is all about the grittiest parts of survival, but it is what makes Delicious in Dungeon fascinating, and also rather funny. The fight scenes — of which there are plenty — are thrilling and dynamic, and there is an actual sense of danger to them. That being said, the true fear is not from being slayed by carnivorous plants or basilisks, but from starvation, cold, and exhaustion. This raises the stakes of the show, as the adventurers are very cautious about when to expose themselves to danger, rather than jump head-first into a colossal enemy. The result is a show with a darkly comedic tone as the characters are often preoccupied with things that would be menial in any other story.
Likewise, Delicious in Dungeon has some exquisite worldbuilding, even in its first two episodes. Though we haven't seen much of it, we understand that this is a meticulously crafted world where everything just makes sense and has an explanation. Like Dune, this anime approaches worldbuilding from a biological and ecological standpoint. There are dozens of different biomes in the dungeon, and they feel like lived-in places, with their own lore and their own ecology. Because of the focus on food, the anime details the biology of each creature, not just in terms of cooking them, but how they survive in their biome, how they are informed by their ecosystem, and how they impact the larger world of the dungeon in turn.
But most importantly of all, the food looks absolutely delicious. This is still a comedy anime, with most of the jokes veering between slapstick gags about how disgusting it may initially seem to eat a slime, or darker jokes about the dangerous, and at times horrifying, reality of living in a fantasy world. Ironically, the food is the one thing that the anime takes seriously, with the recipes presented in a detailed enough way to be replicated at home — if you are in the market for cooking fantasy creatures.