Toriko 11

April 21, 2013

Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro – Viz – 2012 – 23+ volumes

Oh man. This series. As I said last volume, it did something rather casually that I couldn’t see it easily taking back. I wasn’t sure how it was going to continue with (or without, rather) this thing. It was either just going to cheerfully pretend this was always the case, or come up with some ridiculous replacement thing.

The second half of the volume was about that. It was just as over-the-top, complicated, intense, and ridiculous as I was hoping. I needed that after the lengthy arctic adventures. I like this series for its ability to (so far) stay fresh, and we’d been dwelling in snow, on the same creatures and characters, for too long. We get a city of healing, medicine that is so good it raises the dead, and all sorts of new and interesting characters. And if that isn’t to your liking, there’s a parallel plot about Komatsu trying to re-create the Century Soup that’s a lot of fun.

The first half is the finish of the battle with Tommyrod, which has all sorts of shounen battle manga traps laying around that Toriko stumbles into. Mysteriously more powerful characters coming from nowhere, power escalation when it seems like everything will be fine, thieves out to steal the century soup, and a way out when it looks like all hope is lost. Again, I wasn’t that into this story, and it went on too long, so I was more than happy to bid it farewell here.

I like this series a lot, but admittedly, it’s just like a sillier, faster-paced and less focused version of a typical shounen manga. The thing that gets tiresome for me is when the tired ideas are repeated over and over again, or when they dwell too long on the same story. Not so the case with Toriko, as it is prone to throwing out a thousand good ideas and leaving them in the dust in order to come up with more. It’s not the best there is, and probably not for everybody, but it is a lot of fun.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Toriko 10

October 26, 2012

Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro – Viz – 2012 – 21+ volumes

This book suddenly has some awesome lines. “Final attack?! More like FUTILE attack!” Or “What I still haven’t done… IS HAMMER THE FINAL NAIL IN YOUR COFFIN!” These are all lines from Bogie Woods, who has 4,000 bones. That’s just how Toriko rolls.

Later, a man resists extreme cold by sweating antifreeze. In the second set of battles, it’s revealed that the bad guy has armor made out of a very rare sea turtle, said to have a shell made out of the toughest material on Earth. But the good guy has a sword MADE FROM THE FANG OF THE MONSTER THAT EATS THOSE TURTLES. Yes.

This eventually ties back into Toriko’s fight with Tommyrod, who spews thousands of insects that Toriko incinerates in the air with his shivering.

I periodically have to stop, because I still have trouble wrapping my brain around just how manly and nonsensically awesome this series is. Pretty much everything about it. I’m not even really reviewing it here. The fight scenes in this volume aren’t really going anywhere, except to prolong the storyline about the soup they’re after (boo! that was one of the things I liked about this series, that it didn’t linger over-long on plot). They’re just awesome and unbelievable, and that’s exactly what I like about this series.

Actually, the fight between Toriko and Tommyrod escalates to ridiculous levels. They actually do something that, in theory, can’t be taken back. Except I know that this series will just blow it off and move on like it’s nothing. I can’t figure out if it’ll be by undoing it, or just pretending it doesn’t matter, though.

At any rate. Just… wow. I love this series hard. It’s almost complete manly nonsense, but sometimes that’s exactly what you want to read. I need to catch up.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Toriko 9

May 31, 2012

Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro – Viz – 2012 – 19+ volumes

This series. So, at one point in this volume, Komatsu adopts a cute baby penguin creature, with the others warning him that its terrifying parents were looking for it. Later, the grown penguin monsters crash a fight with an insane villain at the worst possible time. The villain turns around and kills them by releasing centipedes from his mouth that thread their way through the chest of one repeatedly, and blow up the brain of the other.

This is just something that happens. That has nothing to do with the plot or characters, really. I mean, it shows that the villain is a bad guy, but you knew that when he had scary faces looking out of his mouth. This was just… I don’t know, a bonus. And then we moved on to something else.

Lots more trekking across the ice continent in this volume, with much less progress than I would have suspected. We learn about the various reasons the members of Toriko’s party have for wanting the Century Soup, and of course all of them are selfless. There’s also Zongeh’s party, who are just running around lost until they accidentally find what they’re looking for. Then there’s a mystery guy who… sort of looks like Toriko? He’s a little funny, but his purpose has not yet been revealed. Also introduced is Tommyrod, one of the Vice-Chefs of the Gourmet Corps (I am amused by the fact I had to double-check just now to make sure he was a chef and not a chief). He’s fairly evil, and commits several evil acts on the ice continent before he begins fighting Toriko.

There’s also a lot of details included about the ice continent, which is another part of what makes this series great. The extreme animals, like Ice Dragons and Ice Lampreys and crazy killer buffalo, are still fairly charming, though I have to admit that the ice area doesn’t seem to lend itself well to the random strangeness we’ve seen in the other volumes. That’s made up for with the over-the-top violence, as I described in the first paragraph. There are a couple more entertaining examples of it (another choice moment is when we see an x-ray view of one of the characters dislocating the back of a buffalo), but that was the most gratuitous one.

Again, the ice area doesn’t lend itself well to the charming strangeness of the series, and that’s one of my favorite parts. Still, it’s an interesting change of pace, and I was still fairly entertained with the eccentricities in this volume. I’m guessing the next volume will be the battle with Tommyrod and the getting of the Gourmet Soup, since this series seems to be quite good at not drawing out things unnecessarily. I am looking forward to what happens next, so I’m going to keep reading for now.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Toriko 8

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.

Toriko 7

April 3, 2012

Motsutoshi Shimabukuro – Viz – 2012 – 18+ volumes

I don’t know. I just have a weakness for over-the-top series like this. It’s just so intentionally manly. He tears at things with his bare hands. He has a dog that beats things up. I mean, this makes his quest for the perfect type of popcorn look like something only the most seasoned warriors can do. And to be fair, it is. But still, it’s popcorn.

Sadly, the quest for the perfect popcorn comes as a result of the fact that Terry, his wolf, can’t eat anything that appears on the continent where Toriko lives. Terry is a wild beast, and needs wild fare to subsist. So they go to the Wool Continent, which has the Gourmet food that Terry needs to live. But the catch is, on the Wool continent, even the plants beat you up. After lengthy dialogues about where Terry pees, there’s a strange and manly fight with a tree that Toriko makes Terry fight for himself. It makes men out of both of them.

Hilariously, Toriko carries around some sort of plant that has leaves that wilt in response to the power level of Toriko’s opponent. 1-3 leaves fall off when they run across most of the man eaters in this forest, but when Toriko gets angry, I think all the leaves fall off. Because he’s that strong, you see. Of course, that might be in response to the plant he and Terry fight too, but I’m pretty sure it wilted when Toriko powered up for a second.

Anyway, they find an enormous ear of corn, suitable for popping. Not even Toriko’s knife hand can properly saw this off. Of course, the only place that’s appropriate for popping enormous kernels of corn is a volcano.

So they do that. They roast an enormous kernel of corn, from the top of a forest of man-eating plants, one that Toriko sawed off with his hand, over a volcano.

That’s why this series is awesome. I haven’t even read that many volumes of it, but I’m sorry for that oversight now.

There’s some fighting with a new opponent or something too, which is what Shounen Jump series do. But I’m in it for the manly hijinx. And Toriko has that aplenty. I’m not sure, exactly, how long the ridiculousness will be fresh for me, but at the moment, I couldn’t be happier with it. These volumes make me laugh, and it’s clear that the artist is in on the joke. I love it. It’s sad that I cannot enjoy food manga unless it’s something like this or Iron Wok Jan, but it’s true. There needs to be blood shed from the cook in order for it to be manly enough for my taste.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Toriko 6

August 20, 2011

Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro – Viz – 2011 – 15+ volumes

I have a hard time believing this ran in Shounen Jump. It reads a lot like a “do whatever manly thing you feel” Shounen Champion series. Actually, it reads a lot like the love child of Iron Wok Jan (a Champion series) and Saint Seiya (a Jump series whose current incarnation runs in Champion). The only thing that it’s missing, something integral to every Shounen Champion series, is an element of poor taste. There’s no mean-spirited protagonist, no slapping women around, no penises drawn into the background, no serving people their own pet dogs, no messily exploding heads, no panties, nothing like that.

But it has everything else. Nonsensical manliness to the X-TREME. I like Iron Wok Jan better, because I’m a terrible person who thinks poor taste is hilarious, but Toriko definitely has potential.

It’s set in an alternate world, with manly animals that are hunted by manly men. The manliest of these manly hunters is Toriko, but he’s followed by “Four Kings.” In this volume, two of the Four Kings fight off shaggy birdmen who are unstoppable in the Saint Seiya sense. Toriko is literally in the digestive system of an enormous mammoth, searching for something called Jewel Meat.

I liked the fights for the same reason I like the fights in Saint Seiya. Much time is spent by the birdmen berating the heroes, telling them how strong they are and how the heroes can never hope to defeat them. Then the heroes use their ultimate technique. Then it’s revealed the birdmen are even stronger than they were letting on. Luckily, the heroes were only bluffing about the last attack being their ultimate technique, so they get to attack again. Repeat for 160 pages.

It’s better than it sounds, because in order to do this and not put the reader to sleep, you have to be awesome and over-the-top. Toriko pulls this off. Not only because the heroes seem to bask in their manliness, but also because they seem to use powers that have little to do with cooking. One of them has a poison body, for some reason. Hilariously, his poison is strong enough to kill a robot. One of them has “sensors” in all his hair that make it come to life and attack things. His final attack is also worth seeing. Toriko transforms, which seems way less awesome to me, but the fight that happens when both parties stumble onto the Jewel Meat overrode any concerns I had about this. Also, the fact that many of the fights are between half-naked buff dudes.

Granted, there’s not a whole lot of “meat” to this series, despite the fact that a lot of what they’re doing is hunting and consuming raw meat. And the insanity is more contained than I would like, which is likely a product of the fact it ran in Shounen Jump. But it’s exactly the sort of entertaining nonsense I like to read. I would totally read it from the beginning. It’s definitely not for everybody, though.

I also love that it is a “cooking manga,” but the covers never seem to reflect this. Possibly because not a whole lot of cooking happens. But it’s definitely about food culture. In its way.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.