Toriko at it’s most basic level is a story about food, and amazingly Shimabukuro Mitsutoshi is able to take such a concept and turn it into a successful shounen series (which is remarkable). The story follows the Bishokuya (Gourmet Hunter) and one of the Four Heavenly Kings, Toriko and his partner Chef Komatsu on their adventure and quest of acquiring rare ingredients and animals. Toriko’s dream is to find the most precious foods in the world and to create the ultimate dinner course. Komatsu travels with Toriko to improve his culinary skills by getting closer to the ingredients he uses for his cooking and to find rare ingredients.
Toriko is a great and fun series, and though it may not have the epic starts that series like Bleach (Soul Society arc), Naruto (Zabuza and Haku arc) or One Piece (Arlong Park arc) had, it has consistently good writing and it makes an effort to build on itself. And like all good stories, the more it expands, the better it gets. The way the Mellow Cola Arc was handled was amazing and it helped a lot to deepen the world of Toriko including the Gourmet World (we finally get to learn more about those creatures and ZEBRA!!!!! – he is such a badass and his character introduction was just epic).
One of the great things about Toriko beyond the good story is the way it utilises the environment and climate in its story. If you read One Piece, you understand how the environment and climate plays a big part in the Strawhats adventures, but Toriko takes it even further and to an extent makes it one of the main characters of the story. Beyond battling enemies, Toriko and Co. have to battle/survive/endure the environments and climate – at times it handles this even better than One Piece. One of the weak points though is the characters, there are only really two main characters (Toriko and Komatsu) but there are also the recurring and arc characters – the characters aren’t as lovable as ones in other shounen titles in my opinion.
That weakness is also what I thought I would be seeing in the anime before I watched it, but imagine my surprise when I learned that there was an original anime character added to the main cast – the female newscaster, Tina. Well as of chapter 145 when she made a cameo appearance, she is now official to the manga canon.
Tina is awesome, she adds a lot of colour, hilarity and energy to the character cast. While reading the manga, I couldn’t help but think that the Toriko was lacking in the character department when compared to other shounen titles. The cast of characters in Toriko aren’t as lovable as in some other shounen titles, and the interactions between characters in Toriko aren’t as humourous. Tina’s character goes a long way to bridging that gap and adding more diversity and flavour. I personally love the way Tina speaks – speaking as if she were describing things in the context of food. The fact that Nana Mizuki voices Tina’s character makes her even more awesome. Nana Mizuki does an amazing job capturing the different sides of Tina when she is on and off camera (her cheerful and humble side as well as her determined and strict side) and Tina’s love for food which at times distracts her from her job as a reporter =P.
I really got to hand it to Toei Animation, they done a magnificent job adding Tina in to the character cast and maintaining the flow of Toriko. Tina plays a big part in the episodes and the way she is worked in to give her character meaning and purpose yet keeping the content relatively consistent with manga is incredible. Tina’s character probably wouldn’t work very well in the manga, but in the anime she is amazing. The Gourmet News section of the episodes is fresh and enjoyable and the way she follows Toriko to get news scoops about rare ingredients is entertaining and adds something new to the anime. Komatsu was my favourite Toriko character before, but now it’s Tina =D.
The rate at which the manga is being adapted is quite surprising, after 18 episodes, 55 chapters of the manga have already been adapted. Episodes 2 and 3 were quite rushed in my opinion and were handled better in the manga, but it was better to conclude those stories in one episode than letting it carry over two or more episodes. I wonder if Toei Animation will start to adapt the manga chapters at a slowly rate now that the Toriko anime has become established. Well whatever happens, it does seem like Toriko will enter a filler season soon, probably after the BB Corn arc, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out.
Shueisha have been promoting Toriko like crazy – making the first Toriko anime episode a crossover episode with One Piece (which was pretty good I might add), having a 3D Toriko movie a double feature with the 3D One Piece movie, having a One Piece X Toriko manga chapter, including Toriko in the 9am-10am timeslot with One Piece, and the many colour pages Toriko got early on in it’s run. Shueisha were probably expecting better results, but the actual results are still good; the Toriko volume sales have been rising even if slowly and the TV ranking are okay. It’s obvious that Shueisha want to make Toriko their new hit title and out of the current new titles in Weekly Shounen Jump, Toriko is the best choice of the manga to push forward. Like One Piece, Naruto, or Bleach, the world in Toriko is vast and there is a lot of potential there to be explored and developed on, which Toriko has been doing very well so far. Toriko may not be one of the major titles of Weekly Shounen Jump now, but it will be in the future.