Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Double Review ~ Delicious in Dungeon #1 and Nekogahara #2

Check it out Here!

This is the strangest thing you'll read all year.

Adventurer Laios and his party venture into a dungeon and get wiped out by the dragon at the bottom. His sister is swallowed by the beast, but not before casting a spell to send Laios and the res of the party back to the surface. Despite her sacrifice, she still lives, but there's a time limit until she is digested. Now without money and supplies, Laios and his companions have to make it back through the dungeon in order to save his sister.

So far so good you might be saying. What's weird about this?

Well, in order to save on supplies, Laios comes up with a scheme to cook the monsters. You see, he's been absolutely fascinated with what monsters taste like for years. Now he has an excuse to cook everything in sight.

And he does.

As can be guessed, Delicious in Dungeon is a comedy and parody of Dungeons & Dragons. Laios is the leader who leads with his stomach before his head, Marcille is the wizard elf who finds monsters repulsive, Chilchuck is a halfling thief that has a thing about teamplay and goes along to get along, and Senshi is the new recruit Dwarf who has lived off of cooking monsters for years. It's this foursome that fight and puzzle their way through the dungeon while dealing with some bizarre situations and sources of food.

Normally I'm not such a fan of Dungeons & Dragons inspired stories for many reasons, but Delicious in Dungeon manages to pull off a sense of dark humor without malice and goofy characterizations without being grating. It's a unique series not like anything out there. Where else are you going to read about the intricacies of cooking living armor or find out the right place to stab and kill a slime? I was a bit skeptical when I picked it up, but those fears quickly melted away by the end of the second chapter.

It's lighthearted and charming, despite the subject of the humor, with great characters that don't grate on you. There's a tendency for a lot of modern parodies with dark humor to turn the characters into obnoxious hateful jerks who constantly point out how detestable the source material is. Here each character has a skill set and a personality that meshes well with every character that never bothers to berate the source material. The set up is played straight and the story is all the better for it. It's refreshing to read something dark without it being nihilistic.

And, to be fair, it's not entirely dark. The world is a just and moral place, not painted as pointless or drab, and none of the characters have ill intent. It's the situations and reactions that arise from it that can edge toward being dark, and that's how it should be.

As a whole, however, this is a great fantasy manga. It's never not entertaining. If you've been looking for a fun fantasy comedy then this is for you.


Check it out Here!

Nekogahara: Stray Cat Samurai volume 2 is a step up from the first volume, which I also enjoyed a good deal.

Volume 1 was a lot of set up showing how Norachiyo was not a hero and was closer to being a villain. He encountered many situations where it looked as if he had the upper hand only to rub it in as crassly as possible. It was funny, but it would get old eventually. Did the second volume continue in this direction?

Thankfully, no.

Volume 2 continues showing that he is not to be looked up to, however it goes beyond that. Most of this volume is centered around two separate events occurring at the same time. One of them is incredibly intense with a conclusion that really hits the mark. This volume also fleshes out the other characters that tried to kill Norachiyo in volume 1 and how they might need to put aside their grudges to fight a deadlier enemy. Basically, everything here is about pushing the story forward and making sure it doesn't fall into a very easy rut. And it was close to perfect.

Not beating around the bush, this volume was excellent. It was hilarious with a particularly funny naked gag, the action was even more detailed with some phenomenal double pages, the characters are more well rounded, the art is even better than volume 1, and the old school pulp comic feel survives unscathed. Everything here is a step up.

Norachiyo's struggle is revealed to be one of guilt and failure. The parallels in volume 1 of his relationship with his master to being like a father, or God, is carried over. Humans are treated as possible divine creatures, and despite him having killed one, it doesn't erase the pain of how he lost his own and cannot live without him. Norachiyo is disgusting, but following the more hedonistic take in volume 1, his behavior is treated as self-destructive and a dead end for him. In fact, the volume ends with an encounter that has him tilting between self-awareness and growing madness.

I'm still not entirely sure where the story is going, but after tentatively endorsing volume 1 despite not being certain of Takei's direction, volume 2 is a lot easier to recommend. It continues with the themes that most resonated in the first, while dialing back the immoral elements or showing them for what they really are. For a bloody 1980s-style action comic, it shows a level of depth that most audiences don't associate with pulp. But it is well in line with what the pulps aspired to be with a strong moral core. It does aim for higher things in surprising ways.

Hiroyuki Takei was an assistant to Nobuhiro Watsuki, the creator of Rurouni Kenshin, and this is the first work he's made where you could see the connection. In fact, this is shaping up to be his best work to date.

If you're a fan of old manga and anime, you need to give this series a shot. You won't be disappointed. This series is a surprising treat.

Highly recommended.

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