Despite having read Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, Fairy Tail, and other big name manga series, there was always one title I wanted to try but never got around to (besides Dragon Ball): Toriko, one of the bigger name series currently running in Shonen Jump at this moment. I’ve heard people say this is on par with a lot of the big name series and a lot of people praising it for how much fun it is. With a recent sale at Viz, I decided it was time to finally jump in and see what the heck all the praise was about. Is it good?
Toriko Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
Written and drawn by: Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro
Translation by: Christine Dashiell
Adaptation by: Hope Donovan
It is the Gourmet Era, where humanity has become totally obsessed and fascinated by exotic and wild flavors of all kinds. Food is in like it never has been before and people explore the brand new frontiers of taste and flavor. In this world, there are different kinds of familiar, but also new and excitingly tasty plants and animals of all shapes, sizes, and tastes. The best food though is stuff that is hardest to get/hunt and when it comes down to that, you need to hire a Gourmet Hunter. The best in the business when it comes to that is Toriko, one of the seemingly strongest people around, and an expert in all things gourmet. This is his story and his wild adventure, tracking down exotic foods and creating his dream full-course meal.
For a first volume, I found myself enjoying Toriko. There were plenty of things to like about it: its setup, the fun main character, this unique and interesting world, and more. Sure, there were some problems here and there not surprisingly, but it didn’t really matter. The good outweigh the bad here and I found myself wanting to read more when it was all said and done.
The story, though, is probably the weakest part of the first volume. Outside of Toriko’s desire to create this amazing full-course meal made from only the greatest ingredients and foods out there, the book doesn’t seem to have a real focus or direction at this point. It’s just kind of wandering around a bit, following Toriko taking some jobs for people, and the ending doesn’t even seem to allude to anything really big on the horizon outside of introducing a new character to the cast. That said, it’s understandable and not that big of an issue. It’s still early on and the book is setting things up with its characters and world, like most shonen manga like this, so it’s excusable at this point.
Somewhere, Laura from The Wicked + The Divine is muttering to herself, “Show-off”.
Where this manga really shines though is with the world-building and, at least for me, it makes you want to see and learn more about this universe. While some parts are similar to our own world (like the city where this group called the International Gourmet Organization operates out of), the locales the characters visit and strange creatures that inhabit this area are intriguing, unique, and are a fun take on already existing animals. They really feel fleshed out from just the small bits of information we learn about them. The concept that cooking and anything gourmet related is huge is pretty nifty and offers plenty of potential for some outlandish and crazy antics and situations. Heck, the cooking and the food shown are pretty neat as well with the way the writer describes everything in vivid detail. It really makes you understand why everything is such a big deal or why this food is so mouthwatering.
Character-wise, there are only two real important members of this story: Toriko and Komatsu. There are some recurring characters, but no one else but these two are of any importance in this first volume. Toriko is a very confident and strong character, someone who seems to be at the top of the game when it comes to Gourmet Hunting. His skills and strength are impressive; despite his appearance and front, he’s pretty smart and knows his limitations when it comes to the hunt. He has his own code he works and lives by when it comes to animals, and has his own goals and dreams (creating the ultimate full-course meal). You don’t get much of his backstory here and he has a sort of mystery to him, but that’s fine. You learn enough about the character to really like him and want to follow along on his adventure.
Komatsu is the more clichéd of the two, but still alright. He’s a hotel chef who dreams of being a First-Rank Chef, someone who cooks and creates some of the finest dishes and meals from the best ingredients the world has to offer. He’s also kind of a weakling that follows Toriko, wanting to learn from him and grow with his skills. You’ve seen these kinds of traits in other manga series in the past, so he’s probably not the most engaging or particularly unique character we can have here. However, he’s still pretty likeable and offers some potential for growth in the future in his cooking (we honestly don’t even see that much of his cooking skills in action in this volume). I’m sure he gets better as time goes on, since there are over 30 volumes in the series now, but I can only really judge the character on his initial showing here.
Well now I’m just hungry.
Overall, despite the light story, the writing is very solid. The pacing is nice and the manga does a good job at building things up, like with the initial hunt for Garara Gator. The story structure and transitions between scenes are all fine, with no real obvious issues or problems to it. The characterization is decent, but like I said, there’s not a whole lot of other characters besides the main two. As such, it’s hard to gauge how strong the character writing would be with other people besides the leads. The dialogue is decent and the humor is nice, leading to some really fun bits and gags here (like Toriko’s introduction) Overall, I would say the writing comes out pretty strong.
Lastly, there is the artwork and it looks pretty good as well. The characters, at least so far, are all distinct and unique looking from one another. The layouts are put together well, making everything easy to follow and read. The detailing put into the settings, food, and creatures are nice. Speaking of which, the strongest parts of the artwork are the food and creatures. A lot of these creatures look interesting/memorable in their own ways, while the food looks amazing. The amount of detail put it, the way people savor the meals they eat, how the food is prepared and how it looks as it is cooked is awesome. It’s hard to put into words how good this all looks and I’m eager to see more.
Toriko Vol. 1 is a really entertaining and enjoyable start for this series. As a newcomer to this series experiencing it for the first time, I found the writing and world-building to be very good, the main character was a lot of fun, and the artwork looked great overall. I’m not sure how the quality holds as the series progresses from here on out, but I can definitely recommend checking out the first volume of the series for sure.
Toriko is available from Viz Media. Toriko is still ongoing in Japan and new translated chapters for the series come out almost every week in Weekly Shonen Jump. There was an anime adaption of the series, which has ended, that has been licensed and released by Funimation. At the time of this review, Viz Media is holding a Toriko sale where you can get the first five, to ten, to even fifteen volumes for 70% percent off digitally. If you have ever had an interested in trying this series, now is the time.