Slavery has been a common trope in fantasy since, basically, forever. But when Rising of the Shield Hero came out, the public reception showed that you can no longer use it as a theme without getting massive backlash. Well, the creator of Dungeon of Black Company, published in English by Seven Seas, did not give a crap, because slavery is the driving theme of this manga.
Black Company stars Kinji Minomiya, a corrupt man who has extorted his way to becoming the richest NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) person in the world. However, his perfect life is cut short when a portal opens up in one of his many apartments and sucks him into a fantasy world, where he is forced to slave away in a mine for the Raiza’ha Corporation (run by a super smexy demonness). After learning how he can capitalize on rare minerals found in a much deeper and more dangerous part of the mines, he- along with his lizardman friend, Wanibe, and a cute dragon-girl named Rim- start their own outfit called Dungeon Black Company and try to overthrow the Raiza’ha Corporation that runs this world.
Well, technically that was a spoiler, because he doesn’t form it until after the end of volume 1. But look, is it really a spoiler when the title of the manga is the name of a group that the main character forms during the story?
Anyhow, this is one of those fantasy worlds where there are typical fantasy creatures, but they live in a 21st Century-esque civilization. The world itself really isn’t that interesting, but at least the author takes the time to define the rules for how the mining operations work.
What makes Black Company stand out is its portrayal of slavery, a.k.a. big business. Things get done by hard work, and by making people that aren’t you do that hard work. Black Company definitely wants to test your morality as a (presumably) good-natured human individual. It’s basically Shield Hero without all the JRPG stuff and focused entirely on the slavery and business themes. Even when the story takes a big tonal shift in volume 3, the heart and soul of Black Company remains the same.
As for the characters, we have another instance of the scummy isekai protagonist in Kinji. He’s someone who manages to become filthy rich in our world, even though he’s a NEET, which makes him pretty conniving. Even though he’s against the practices in Raiza’ha, he’s just as willing to enslave and brainwash people (or giant worker ants) without hesitation. While Rim seems to be just a fanservice character (and a damn cute one at that), she is actually a foil to Kinji, because he ends up having to spend a lot of money on feeding her, and if he can’t feed her, she’ll eat him. Wanibe is kind of a third wheel in all of this, so he isn’t too interesting of a character.
The art, drawing-wise, is pretty darn good. The girls are cute, and the characters are very expressive. The only problem is that this manga has the most jarring use of gray tone I have ever seen. I don’t know if it’s the managaka or the publisher, but the texture used in these toners looks… how do you describe it?… like it’s trying to hypnotize you. It seems to have gotten less jarring after volume 2, but that might just be me getting used to it.
Current Verdict: 8/10
Dungeon of Black Company is a fun, controversial comedy. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys guilty pleasure manga such as Kakegurui, Prison School, and Magical Girl Apocalypse. Let’s just hope this never gets an anime (scratch that; I’d love to see how people would react to an anime of this).