Gourmet Hunter Toriko!
What would happen if you crossed Junichiro Tanizaki’s The Gourmet Club with Ishiro Honda’s kaiju flick All Monsters Attack, and then bound them together as a Shonen Jump comic? Well, you might not exactly get “Toriko” but you would get something pretty close.
In the future Gourmet Era, when the quest for exotic flavors is the primary drive of people everywhere, and when the rich and powerful will spare no expense to bring the rarest and most delectable treats to their plate. Of course, most of these exotic tastes come in the form of giant monsters such as the Baron Tiger (capture level 3) or the massive Swamp Snake (capture level 5) who have no intention of winding up on anyone’s plate.
Each monster-type is assigned a capture level, starting with capture level 1 which is defined as an animal so large it would require ten professional hunters armed with shotguns. When a five-star hotel sets their sites on a 300-year old Garara Gator (capture level eight) they can only rely on one man to bring it in, Gourmet Hunter Toriko! Accompanying Toriko is the meek Komatsu, a chef at a 5-star hotel who wants to study with Toriko and get to know ingredients in their natural form, instead of as pre-packaged ingredients delivered to his hotel. Together they go off in search of not only the Garara Gator, but also the mythical Rainbow Fruit, said to be the single most delicious desert on the planet.
“Toriko” combines two of Japan’s obsessions; gourmet dinning and monsters. This is the country after all, where simply being able to eat a whole lot can make you a nation-wide celebrity (I’m looking at you Gal Sone!) and a country that has spent sixty years being cinematically destroyed by a giant lizard of their own making. You have to admit that at least once in your life you wondered what Godzilla would taste like.
Toriko himself is a superhuman monster with an appetite that outstrips any of his prey. Of course, even though Toriko consumes more food and drink than a fully-booked restaurant, he is a massively muscled fighter. (Because whereas watching a fit, healthy person eat a shocking amount of food is good fun, watching a fat person eat all that food just makes you feel bad, right?). Toriko lives his life in search of the ingredients for his perfect meal. Although his fees are large for hunting down the dangerous delicacies demanded by the hotel, his true purpose is to sample every rare flavor on Earth until he decides his dinner. Komatsu suspects that Toriko might be something more than human when he unveils his true aspect when engaging in battle.
Like most series in Viz’s Shonen Jump line, “Toriko” is good fun, but not too deep. The art is dynamic and vibrant, and the monster battles are great. I love the scene when Toriko unveils mankinds greatest weapons, a knife and fork, and shows that humans have always demonstrated their dominance over other animals by eating them.
My only real disappointment with “Toriko” is that there is far more monster fighting than cooking going on. I love cooking myself, but unfortunately author Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro doesn’t seem like he knows the ins and outs of the gourmet world as much as he knows how to draw cool four-armed apes who vomit on you as a way of attacking. (There is a scene that made me laugh where Toriko is polishing off a bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon, which while being a fine mid-level bourbon is hardly something on the same level as all of Toriko’s other ingredients. In Japan, however, Maker’s Mark is considered a top brand.)
I would personally prefer a greater balance between the cooking and the monster-bashing, with Komatsu being able to show off his skills as a chef with the various ingredients, ut that is probably just me. “Toriko” is definitely an action comic with a cooking theme rather than a cooking comic with a monster theme.
There are some hints in this first issue of more to come, such as the “Four Heavenly Kings” and a promise of an undersea adventure for Toriko and Komatsu. I had lot of fun with “Toriko” and I am looking forward to the next issue!