Continuing the search for Mellow Cola from Volume 15, Toriko, Komatsu and Zebra are still within the depth of the Gourmet Pyramid at the beginning of Volume 16. We learn quite a few things about Zebra’s agreement to help Toriko and Komatsu as well as learning just a teensy little bit about the strange creature Toriko encountered in Vegetable Sky (and why the GT robots look just like it). The action and plot move swiftly and there are no dull moments across the volume.
Volume 17 is a return to classic form, with Toriko and Komatsu spending a lot of the book chasing down ingredients and having adventures. Most notable among these ingredients are the Surprise Apples, a fruit with a creepily human face that improves in flavour if it is surprised or scared before being eaten. Cue a group of Gourmet hunters waving their hands and shouting at apples that they will then devour while they still have a look of terror on their faces. This storyline is both more disturbing and much funnier than it sounds.
Sunny makes an appearance with a new partner and the whole team is challenged in new ways when it’s time to conquer Death Falls, the largest waterfall in the human world in search of Shining Gourami. This experience tests the results of Toriko’s and Komatsu’s individual training and demonstrates that Sunny hasn’t been sitting idle either, boasting some impressive new power to match Toriko’s enhanced gourmet cells. Komatsu is the star of this arc though, demonstrating an uncanny ability once more to track and prepare food with remarkable insight.
Volumes 18 and 19 are where the dials really go up to eleven on this series. After touching off the classic formula of Toriko and Komatsu hunting rare ingredients and enjoying the fruits of their labours, Volume 18 then veers into more high pressure storytelling as Toriko, Komatsu and Coco travel to the Jidar Kingdom to track down the elusive Meteor Garlic. However, being the leading nation in gourmet crime, Jidar is not about to play fair. All evidence points to some Meteor Garlic being found in Gourmet Casino, the ingredient gambling establishment the size of a fairly prominent city. Here Coco’s fortune-telling skilling and superb eyesight are invaluable, but to earn the Meteor Garlic, Toriko and friends are going to have to play some truly high-stakes games. Match, the Gourmet –Yakuza member from Ice Hell makes a return and allies himself with the quest for the supreme garlic bulb.
When the games take a dark turn, the team is pitted against the casino’s owner, Livebearer and their very minds are used as collateral. The game is a high stakes card game based on what appears to be luck but it turns out to be more of an amalgamation of chance, chess and Russian roulette. This arc continues throughout Volume 19 and gives Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji a run for its money in the ‘high-tension gambling manga’ department. Volumes 18 and 19, in particular the Meteor Garlic arc, may well be Toriko at its absolute finest.
After Volume 19, it’s back to business as usual with Toriko and Komatsu training hard and preparing themselves for the Gourmet World by hunting down more of Ichiryuu’s list of ingredients. The pacing for these stories shifts a lot, with some tales set in a single day that might take a couple of chapters, while days or months might be casually mentioned to pass during a chapter. The pacing for the arcs is great, being told with patience and detail, but the hurried timescale within those arcs can be a little jarring. It’s awkward to spend ten pages on a few minutes’ worth of action, only to be told in two lines that three months passed between this page and the next one.
Ichiryuu makes an appearance early in the volume and treats us to a glimpse at some more higher-ups of the Bishokukai (Gourmet Corp), as well as demonstrating his own immense power.
Volumes 16-20 deliver some of Toriko’s finest arcs and show us what this series is really capable of. Having hinted at the growing threat of Gourmet Corp since the early chapters, the focus seems to be moving away from the and the God ingredient just a little bit too much for this late in the game. It might be time to move past the scavenger hunting premise the series started with, but if it maintains the quality it has so far, this manga won’t go far wrong.
Toriko Volumes 16-20 and a little bit more are available now from Viz Media in the UK and Ireland.
Plot development: 8
Character development: 8
85%- “Now we’re talking!”
Toriko Volumes 16-20 give us a wide range of story types, with something for every fan. Volumes 17-19 are where most of the action lies, but there’s plenty of humour and heart in each and every bite.