Toriko Collection 1 Review (DVD)

Straight from the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump comes Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro's TORIKO, a series whose premise is so ridiculous, that it really shouldn't be as enjoyable as it is. 

We enter the "Gourmet Age". A time and place where chefs are heroes and "Gourmet Hunters" battle giant, monstrous creatures purely to create their ultimate menu. If this sounds like a mash-up of Masterchef and Dragon Ball, it's because that's pretty much what it is but frankly, it's far fetched enough that it actually works.

There are many a shonen manga mainstay in Toriko and that's to be expected considering where this series was given life. In fact, reading Bakuman has given me a certain amount of insight into the world of shonen jump and the kind of "battle manga" fare that often leaps from its pages. Whether or not manga about manga (so meta!) is accurate or not is a discussion for another day but one thing is for certain, Toriko ticks many of the battle manga boxes.To begin with, we are introduced to two classic manga archetypes - the increasingly powerful, socially oblivious, none too bright hero (Toriko) and the hapless, pure hearted and lovable tag along (Komatsu). Toriko could very well be replaced with any successful shonen manga character, such as Luffy, Naruto or Goku, and no one would even realise. That said, Toriko is still a very enjoyable character whose innocent infatuation with all things culinary is nothing short of infectious. If the series is a mash-up of Masterchef and Dragon Ball, then the main character, Toriko, is a Hollywood action movie version of Jamie Oliver.

The story itself very much follows a "monster of the week" formula wherein Toriko and Komatsu go from place to place, fighting and then devouring an odd creature or two. Add to this an overarching quest for Toriko's ultimate menu and you've basically got a formulaic manga/anime series which is thankfully salvaged from wallowing in the doldrums by a silly, yet very fun story line. The constant surprise of odd beasts and strange foodstuffs (Magma consomme anyone?) keeps the series light hearted. The English voice over also does a great job of keeping things light and placing its tongue firmly in cheek. The narrators voice over is strikingly similar to that heard during Iron Chef, a nice touch considering the series' story line and focus on the satirical.

The series main let down is one that is shared by so many similar series, including One Piece, Bleach and Naruto - animation quality. While this is a complaint, it's a completely understandable one. Many of these series run for hundreds upon hundreds of episodes and, in Japan at least, are shown on free to air TV but not exactly great money earners in the home entertainment realm. In short, these types of series have a tendency to act as a supporting, promotional tool for the manga and merchandise sales without actually generating a great deal of income itself. Regardless, the animation has a tendency to not only reuse great chunks of scenes from the last episode in the form of a recap, but the battle sequences often appear somewhat static with action poses held for lengthy amounts of time. That said, Toei Animation have done a rather good job of replicating the aesthetic of the source material and while not a masterpiece, Toriko still shines when it matters most and manages to be a whole lot of fun. 

Toriko Collection 1 is the perfect opportunity to start collecting a shonen anime release before it gets to volume 20 like One Piece. All aboard the gourmet express!

Toriko Collection 1, episodes 1-13, is available on DVD now from Madman. Toriko Collection 2 is available from the 19th of June and available for pre-order. 


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