Can't say I've ever wanted to kick ass and consume mass quantities at the same time. Watching TORIKO inspires me to do just that; but then it winds up being just as messy, chaotic and hilarious as that cramp-inducing double-task probably would be.
The show has one of the most truly unique settings- - a vision of Earth in a so-called “Gourmet Age”, where giant, unbelievable beasts roam the land and harbor miraculous food products in their every cut and giblet. These rare animals are pursued by Gourmet Hunters who seek out only the most delectable (and dangerous) ones. And these already-crazy hunts get tied up in crazier plots involving gene manipulation, deep-sea spelunking and even a Colosseum where world leaders bet on rare animal fights.
Our blue-haired lead Toriko is one of the Four Kings, an elite group of muscle men who possess unbelievable powers provided by “Gourmet Genes”. Early on, he's joined by Komatsu, a tiny man who works to be a famous cook. Toriko brings home the bacon, and Komatsu cooks it - - so they have something like the perfect platonic, domestic partnership.
(And with the amount of times Toriko says “Bro” in the dub, the crew really wants you to think, “Hey bro, this Hulk Hogan-looking guy is relatable, dude!”)
The show's equal parts Animal Planet adventure and shonen martial arts, so it sounds like it should be an over-the-top, insane, cool anime, right? Well... maybe only just a pinch.
See, TORIKO is mercilessly earnest about what it’s presenting. It wants you to laugh, of course, but then it wants you to immediately get super serious about its stakes. It's an uncomfortable balance between comedy and drama that DRAGON BALL was able to pull off pretty flawlessly. This, though? Well... let's just say it struggles blending those flavors together.
Pacing is also a big issue. Occasionally, the storytelling is swift and breathless. Most of the fights are quite exciting and fun. The animation is amazing near all the time. But then it plods for no reason - - other than allowing characters to rattle through all the exposition, perhaps - - and certain moments seem just plain lazily-directed. I found myself asking more than a few times how a character arrived where they were, or wondering if I missed something.
And when it comes to cliffhangers? The show's approach to hooking you for the next episode basically boils down to it saying, “Hey, come back because... I don’t know... come back to see what happens next!”
Any time the show strays from the simple, core concept of Toriko venturing out in big crazy world and searching for exotic meats, it starts to lose its way. This is especially evident in the Colosseum arc, where everything - - including the powers and plot points - - seems randomly generated.
Toriko himself is a great and intriguing protagonist (played with over-the-top aplomb by Ian Sinclair), but other characters like Mansom, the Lois Lane-esque reporter, and even Komatsu seem totally disposable. Really, Komatsu's only there to play the Krillin role of being constantly scared by everything and look up to Goku... *ahem*... I mean Toriko, all the time.
Actually, it really is relevant to bring up the Z-Fighters here. The box cover wants you to believe - - needs you to believe - - that because this is from Toei Animation, it's guaranteed to be the same kind of shonen powerhouse as a DBZ or ONE PIECE. To the contrary, it's TORIKO’s blind adherence to tired tropes that ultimately weakens its powerful originality.
If I could take the ingredients of TORIKO out of the "Over 200 Episode Shonen" food processor and parse them down into a 26 Episode, two season slow cooker, I would. This is only Part 1, of course, so the jury would still be out for the long watch... but... I still feel kind of full, already.
For all it’s talk about taste, food, and proper ingredients, TORIKO is an oddly bland dish. And to extend the metaphor even further, it's really like a pizza joint offering pies with purportedly novel flavors that are ultimately empty and fattening. I’d only ever go back when they add something new to the menu.
Sam Weller is a writer and actor who's scribed for shows like FIRST EDITION, GEEK THERAPY, and most recently BATGIRL: SPOILED. He also really likes anime. To know what is going to happen next, follow@cravesam