April 23, 2012
Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro – Viz – 2011 – 19+ volumes
I don’t know, guys. Every volume I read of this makes me like it more and more. I still can’t see that the story is really headed anywhere, but I really appreciate all the extreme, over-the-top detail that goes into the story. More importantly, it’s paced really, really well. That’s something that I can appreciate in a shounen manga. Especially a Shounen Jump manga.
In the volumes I’ve read of this series so far (which, admittedly, is only 6-8 or something), the story does not linger overlong on whatever story it’s presenting. Toriko’s hunting chapters might take up half a volume, then the other half is spent setting up the next hunt. The hunts might actually take up a full volume, but so far, they seem to be split between two half-volumes, which is the perfect length. In what I’ve read, there’s nothing terribly special about the actual fighting. Toriko simply clobbers his opponents, so there’s no need to linger over-long on this. The magic is in the fact that he’s fighting gigantic manly platypus/zebra hybrids with buff muscular legs that spit acid or whatever. Ideas like that keep coming, and that’s why this series is awesome, but each one only goes so far. It seems like Shimabukuro recognizes this limitation, and rolls with it. This is a skill I dearly wish more shounen mangaka possessed.
I also like that he seems to take throwaway ideas from his readers. There’s a lot of crazy one-offs in the dialogue, events and creatures that the characters are constantly alluding to and not shown, and Shimabukuro seems to take these throwaway ideas from his readers, with each credited in the margins. They don’t affect the story, but it still must be neat to have that chance of your name appearing in the comic.
The story here is about Toriko and Komatsu go to Gourmet City, where they stroll around and admire all the crazy on display (such as vending machines that cost $1,000 and dispense the equivalent meal). Then they meet up with an acquaintance of Toriko’s, who winds up being one of the best chefs in the world. Apparently you have to book a meal at her restaurant 10 years in advance, and she only opens when she feels like it. She serves both Toriko and Komatsu a dish called Century Soup, then lets them in on a secret: Century Soup occurs in nature, and hers is imperfect. She asks them to go get the original, appearing for the first time in 100 years.
And this sets up the story for the next hunt, where Toriko and Komatsu head to an arctic region to retrieve Century Soup from the “gourmet’s freezer,” an ice column used by cooks of the distant past (before freezers were invented). The ice column periodically melts due to gases being released by the ocean, and Toriko and all the other Gourmet Hunters in the world are trying to be the first ones to the column in order to lay hands on the Century Soup.
I’m not really doing justice to why I like it so much, though. As I said, it’s not really the story, which doesn’t really try to go above and beyond the minimum requirements. The charm is on the crazy that drips off every page. Absolutely everything in the world of Toriko, including Toriko himself (especially Toriko himself) is EXTREME in the truest sense of the word. It’s funny, though the series itself doesn’t pause over-long on any of it. It’s all very off-handed, which is why it’s difficult to convey in a review like this. It’s awesome, though, and I’d say it’s worth a look if you’re into the kind of super-macho, over-the-top but funny stuff you might find in… actually, I don’t even know what to compare this to. Toriko’s its own thing. It’s worth taking a look, but I still don’t know if I’m in for the long haul yet. It’s more amusing than it is engrossing.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.