Anime Reporter goes back to the origins of Toriko, looking at the first five volumes (43 chapters) of the Shonen Jump manga series created by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro.
Toriko takes place in a world firmly established in the Gourmet Age, a time when exquisite tastes and rare ingredients are valued well above all else. The world is split into two parts, the Human World, not unlike our own modern society, but overflowing with restaurants and markets devoted to fine delicacies. The Gourmet World is composed of expansive wilderness, inhospitable to most humans. The title character, Toriko, is a gourmet hunter, meaning that he’s not afraid to go to the most dangerous terrains and tackle the biggest beasties out there. And what beasties there are! From troll-kongs to devil pythons, the world is covered in bizarre and magnificent creatures, many of whom have developed an assortment of ways to kill entire platoons of soldiers in order to protect their own, more flavoursome, body parts. Gargantuan predators and docile delicacies abound and people are willing to pay Toriko fortunes to retrieve these tantalising treats.
Volume 1 starts off with Komatsu, a young and timid chef in a five-star restaurant. Komatsu accompanies Toriko on one of his jobs to retrieve a particularly nasty croc, a garara gator, a fiercesome behemoth that Komatsu has never seen up close before. Komatsu comes to serve as the reader’s guide through the world of Toriko, learning about the amazing things gourmet hunters experience as we do. Komatsu, used to the Gourmet Age as seen from his kitchen, is constantly caught off guard by the splendour and danger of the wide, wild world.
Toriko is well able to keep Komatsu safe, boasting incredible strength and resistance. Coming off somewhere between a muscular looking Luffy and blue-mullet boasting young Goku, Toriko loves to fight and, more than anything, to eat. Like many gourmet hunters, Toriko is on a quest to assemble his ideal meal by sampling all the rare foods that the world has to offer. Toriko’s endless appetite, a common attribute of many shonen characters, is actually a highly relevant part of the plot. His appetite is a large part of the driving force behind his journeys, with money being much less of a priority. The other significant factor behind his travels is his love of fighting, often characterised by the image of a giant, terrifying demon. Toriko is one of the four ‘Heavenly Kings’ a group of powerful warriors renowned and feared throughout the world.
Volume 2 of the series introduces Coco, another of the Heavenly Kings, with superb senses that allow him to make accurate predictions as well as attack with stunning accuracy. He also specialises in toxins, being immune to a great deal and even able to generate some nasty concoctions from his own body. Coco has retired from the gourmet hunter business but isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty either, assisting Toriko on quests with require a more subtle approach than Toriko’s brute strength.
With the world and setting nicely established, Volumes 3 to 5 deal with Toriko’s and Komatsu’s visit to Biotope 1, a huge island installation for the breeding of new, delicious species and all sorts of gourmet research and development. Toriko has been asked to hunt down and bring in a regal mammoth, a creature the size of a small mountain with exceptionally valuable meat. What makes this mission different is that Gourmet Corp, an international and illegal organisation which seeks to obtain power above all else, has designs on the mammoth too. Toriko, Komatsu as well as new supporting cast members Rin and Sunny.
Rin is a resident at Biotope 1 who uses her knowledge of pheromones to tranquilise or manipulate some of the beasts on the island and who also seems to have powerful affection for our leading man. Sunny is a powerful and shallow character, entirely concerned with beauty and boasting a rather interesting set of abilities. The fiends of Gourmet Corp have an edge though, boasting a few robotic sentinels to surpass even the Heavenly Kings.
Present throughout the series is a wonderful flow of characterisation and humour. The humour is clear not only from the characters and any jokes contained within the plot, but it’s also clear that the story was written with a bit of a smile when you see Toriko happily munching on bacon leaves or once you first encounter a butt bug. The series sets itself up with an expansive mythology to borrow from and does an excellent job of reconciling sci-fi with the idea of a world obsessed with food. Toriko feels not so far away from titles like One Piece and Naruto in terms of characters and settings and is well worth picking up for anyone who hasn’t come across it yet.
Toriko Volumes 1-5, and well beyond, are available from Viz Media. For more information, check out the Viz Media website, the Shonen Jump Toriko page and of course, stay with us here at Anime Reporter for more updates on Toriko and much more!
World Building: 9
82% –“Appetising!”Toriko volumes 1-5 are a fun and light introduction to an addictive new world, with hints at a darker and much more expansive plot lurking just around the corner. Dynamite stuff!