ANIME & MANGA - Review
11:00 - 7th April 2013, by Amanda Young

Toriko Vol 1.

The age of the gourmand is upon us, and the entire planet is seemingly obsessed with consuming ever more outlandish and rare delicacies. But most of these are no easy task to round up, and it falls to 'gourmet hunters' to bring back the most dangerous and hard to find plants and animals. Toriko is one such hunter, and these are his adventures...

Are you ready for a world of super-manly hyperbole? Because that's what Toriko provides in spades - huge, masculine spades, the size of Texas. True to the hyper-exaggerated world of gourmet manga series (see Iron Wok Jan as a case in point), Toriko weaves a tall tale where haute cuisine meets the limits of Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro's imagination - and this guy really seems to have no confines when it comes to exaggeration. Unlike the aforementioned Iron Wok Jan, which merely flirts with fiction on occasion, Toriko is unafraid to make up the entirety of its culinary expertise, preferring to create brand new, and blatantly ridiculous, creatures and vegetables rather than rely on ones that actually exist. And the emphasis here is on the gathering of the raw materials, rather than turning them into exceptional dishes. All this boils down to a manga about food - which isn't actually about food at all. If you enjoyed Iron Wok Jan or Oishinbo because of their depictions of real-life cuisine, you're going to find Toriko a bit of a tall tale to swallow. But if you like over the top, ridiculously exaggerated shonen stories, this one is definitely for you.

Our hero here is a seemingly invincible hard man - a guy so manly that as soon as he picks up a normal bottle of whiskey, it appears miniscule in his enormous mitts, and a man who drinks the whole bottle in one giant gulp, after first slicing off the bottom of the glass container to open it, of course. Toriko's jaw is firm, his eyebrows are burly, and his muscles strain underneath his clothes. He doesn't smoke cigars - he smokes tree branches. Even his 15-kilo dumps are of record-breaking proportions... That's right - there's a touch of toilet humour here too, jostling for space amongst the super-manly exploits. And more than a little whimsy, as well, as it's revealed partway through the book that Toriko lives in a house constructed of sweets and other edibles.

The trouble with such a patently imaginary world as this is that there are no rules, or those that exist are completely arbitrary. The wacky nature of the plot throws up improbable event after improbable event, and the solutions to each problem are just as much a figment of the imagination as the problem was to start with. Knowing that just seems to take the tension out of any situation - unlike more real-world based dramas, where the solution has to rely on rules and logic, the reader has no chance of trying to guess what will happen or wondering how the hero will get himself out of his current situation, and for us that just seems to kill the fun.

In this first volume, Toriko has two major missions to complete - the first is to capture a gararagator, which has been assigned a capture level of five (that's super hard to take down, for those who don't live in gourmet la-la land). Of course, it's child's play for Toriko, and it's not long before he's facing down a troll kong, with a capture level of nine! Woah! And, there's not just one... there are a whole tribe of them!! How on earth will Toriko ever make it to the rainbow fruit tree?!!

If you can keep up with this level of constant excitable exaggeration, there's no doubt this will be a complete blast for you, but if you like your entertainment to be subtle, intelligent and logically constructed, we're sure you won't get past the first chapter.

Visually, Toriko is a solid shonen title with no hints of femininity whatsoever. Everything is drawn with a heavy hand, and emphasis is on the grotesque. Toriko in particular can transform from a cheerful-looking muscle-head into a ghastly, nightmarish ghoul when closing in on his enemy, and his formidable power is easily represented by this intimidating alter-ego. The beasts Toriko comes up against drip with menace and no small amount of saliva, and everything is thickly drawn in the most manliest of styles.

All in all, Toriko is a light-hearted adventure romp with a neat, culinary twist, rather than an adventurous culinary exploration series. If you want a new take on the shonen genre, this could just be the title you're looking for.

TORIKO © 2008 by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro
All rights reserved.
First published in Japan in 2008 by SHUEISHA Inc., Tokyo.
English translation rights arranged by SHUEISHA Inc.

An interesting blend of action, hyperbole and gourmet treats makes for a satisfying read!
SCORE: 3/5
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