[Editor’s note: Your regular columnist is a bit preoccupied this week, so fellow CA.net writer Drew McCabe is filling her shoes today. Thanks Drew!]
The sixth volume of Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro’s Toriko proves once again it is perhaps one of the strangest yet entertaining manga being released here. Published as part of Viz’s Shonen Jump line, this volume wraps up the story arc of Toriko and his gang in their pursuit of the nearly mystical Mammoth jewel meat. For those who need the catch-up, Toriko is a gourmet hunter who is employed by IGO to hunt down rare foods to delight taste buds from the most dangerous locations on Earth. Using the gourmet cells in his body (which only the top gourmet hunters have) he can utilize such abilities as super strength to capture his target, take out competition, and usually eat part of the rare food for himself (‘Cause why else would he do it?).
In the sixth volume everybody is kung fu fighting. IGO has sent out their top gourmet hunters to race against rival corporation Gourmet Corp’s GT-Robots to capture the Mammoth jewel meat. Terry the battle wolf, followed by Coco, battle one GT-Robot outside the mammoth, while Sunny battles another inside the kaiju-sized Mammoth, and of course Toriko and the rest of the group take on the strongest of the strong GT-Robot deep inside the beast near the core of the jewel meat. Like the numerous titles in Shonen Jump before it like Yu-Yu Hakusho or Bleach, Toriko started out in its first volume with a quirky fresh plot, but has slowly begun to develop clearly into a fighting manga. Unlike Bleach, which would eventually would become the endless duel like Dragon Ball, Toriko has both unique characters with cool powers and short enough battles to not suffer the curse of the three-volume fight (yet, knock on wood). While Toriko himself has more the traditional Ken-like (from Fist Of The North Star) impossible strength against impossible odds feel to him (and sometimes look), the other fighters are cool and stand out on their own. Coco unleashes poisons from his body and uses them to his advantage in combat. Sunny in his vain mannerisms beats the crap out of his opponents as his hair comes to life in a variety of ways. Terry is just a bad ass monster-wolf that is a lot of fun.
Shimabukuro’s fight scenes are great. I love his page layouts and flow. Very few times do the battles look confusing for a block or two, keeping the action clear. He also has mastered the “great reveal” in fight scenes, where we find out one the fighters has done something on purpose to lock in and win the battle after we think they are going to lose. As much as it’s great to just see someone beat the snot out the other guy, like in Tough, Shimabukuro knows his traditional Shonen Jump audience and how they eat stuff like that up, and so packs plenty of moments like that into the manga. His storytelling is also notable. Although it clearly has turned into a fighting manga, as I mentioned, Shimabukuro still mixes in the food aspect as much as possible, still giving different types of monsters and things to eat, and in this volume the back story on the gourmet cells in IGO’s Gourmet Hunters and where they came from. The editors in Japan can push him to turn it into a fighting manga since that’s what key readers like out of that genre and the magazine it runs in (Weekly Shōnen Jump), but it feels like Shimabukuro is still keeping his eye on his original concept and not letting it stray too far. By doing these two things, Shimabukuro gives us the best of two worlds: a great fighting manga that knows and still embraces its roots as an odd-ball adventure manga.
Toriko is a great series. If you’re looking for an weirdly fun book or a fighting manga with a bizarre take, this is the story for you to read. Volume 6 is out on stands soon, so check it out.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.