「動く鎧」 (Ugoku Yoroi)
Which of these episodes was not like the others? The third ep of Dungeon Meshi (an important one in terms of the story) was a pretty radical departure for this adaptation. Without a shadow of a doubt it was the most “Trigger” so far. And as such I suspect it’s going to prove somewhat divisive. Well-known animator Kanno Ichigo was in charge of this one, and it definitely played like an auteur piece. That’s something I’m theoretically in favor of, and Kanno’s talent is evident in the body of work on his C.V. (mostly at Trigger, but also a fair bit at Bones).
But I gotta say, it didn’t really work for me. I’m a fan of highly stylized animation and art broadly speaking, and there’s no denying this was that – or that it was well-animated. But the look was such a radical departure from the manga’s art that it never stopped being a distraction for me. This technique of putting the “house style” ahead of the content has always tended to rub me the wrong way (most especially with Shaft). I’ve never been a big fan of Trigger at its most Trigger – it usually worked when Gainax did it but Trigger has never been able to capture the same dynamic.
But then, I could see a case that the style in terms of movement and framing more closely tracked with the manga’s look than the more conventionally beautiful first two episodes. Moving past that (and if I’m honest I’m hoping the series does just that) this was a very Laios-heavy ep after two giving a lot of spotlight to the other members of the party. And to be frank, Laios being a total freak is pretty much an essential plot element in Dungeon Meshi. His quirks drive an awful lot of the story, and this plotline is a template for a lot of what we’ll be seeing as the series progresses.
It certainly isn’t your average joe who looks at a suit of armor and says “I want to eat that”. At the time Laios had no idea whatsoever of what those “living armor” really were. Even Senshi, who seems game to try just about any-, well, game – is supremely dubious when Laios asks him how he’d cook a suit of armor. Even the leather bindings would be a tough cut. Laios, Chilchuck, and Marcille have encountered these suits before – and in fact, Laios all the way back to when he was a novice adventurer with Falin. But none of them have ever seen them as aggressive as they are here.
Laios does reveal here that in addition to a freak, he’s also a pretty good strategist. And his plan does get him past the row of living armor by using the others as bait, but another, more powerful suit awaits him inside. Laios seemingly suspects all along that things aren’t as Marcille assumes, which is a magic user controlling the suits. But his close combat experience beings to connect the dots in his head, and he eventually realizes that these suits are living creatures after all. Small, mollusk-like monsters forming colonies inside the suits, providing it with “muscles” with which to move.
And that, of course, means they’re theoretically edible. Which Laios is way too obsessed with while the others are still fighting for their lives. Shellfish are something Senshi can cope with, and apart from the steamed head (moldy) his dishes seem to turn out pretty well. Laios gets a new sword out of the deal (after the last armor broke his, already missing its guard), but an unexpected and uninvited passenger to boot – a development he hides from his comrades.
It should be pretty clear by now that Dungeon Meshi is a series obsessed with details. There’s nothing random in its mythology – you can tell a lot of thought went into making sure all the details of this world and its rules were laid out long before they were ever needed for the page. It goes beyond food – the taxonomy and physiology of monsters are explored in great detail, and confirm to laws of biology which are not so different from our own as one might expect (and indeed the same might be said of Senshi’s recipes).