Once again we are given another fist-pounding, food-hunting adventure in the wacky and weird world of what is quickly becoming the next huge Shonen title from Japan, in both East and West, in volume 9 of Toriko.
In this latest volume, Toriko, along with Komatsu, Takimaru, Match, and his gang, are traveling across Ice Hell continent in search of the Century Soup, a frozen soup that only melts once every 100 years for a brief period before refreezing. Not only do various monsters of the arctic-like wasteland stand in their way, but hot on their trails are members of the rival Gourmet Corp. The adventure is fast-paced, and before we know it, the two groups square off in deadly battle as the soup is discovered, with Toriko taking the lead against Tommyrod and his/her army of bugs.
Like most collections of Toriko, this volume has a bit of everything. Shimabukuro continues to cook up (no pun intended) a masterfully bizarre yet entertaining manga, it’s shear combination of oddness helping it both lock in the Shonen crowd as well as break out of that demographic to entertain other groups of readers. Toriko has begun to rotate a mix of monster-hunting with Dragon Ball-esque fighting, however, it surpasses any Dragon Ball with the fact that all of the characters border on the slightly odd to deeply freaky with their numerous off-the-wall powers and frequently bizarre character designs. The combination of these crazed plots and characters that Shimabukuro writes, along with his smooth art style, creates something of a kinetic, off-kilter Shonen adventure manga that never goes into the realm of MOMA-esque strangeness, but still stands out leaps and bounds from everything else in Shonen Jump Alpha currently (although the latest One Piece story-arc is getting pretty weird with its giant babies, talking heads, and the like, but that’s a different review).
Shimabukuro also goes beyond the action-comedy genre in several spots; an example is the new villain Tommyrod, introduced in this volume. Tommyrod’s strange fighting power is to regurgitate a seemingly endless army of various living insects to do his/her bidding (I say his/her because there is no clear way to tell this character’s gender). To make it more terrifying, not only do we get plenty of panels of different bugs being coughed up, but then the bugs attack with the method of boring into their enemy and eating them from the inside. This character alone propels the manga into an almost J-Horror realm, as well as gives us a villain that freaks us out so much we just want Toriko to win and kill the damn thing!
Aside from the horror-aspect, Shimabukuro also supplies us with a total heart warming moment for our heroes when we find out their reasons for searching for the soup. Match and his gang grew up in a poor city outside of the Gourmet’s reach, and so he wants the soup to feed to all the poor kids in the city, for as one of his helpers says, “Poverty is the ultimate evil. Children are simply victims of it. They do nothing to deserve their suffering.” Takimaru wants it to make a lot of money so he can buy a legendary cure-all medicine that can get rid of any disease to save someone he loves. Toriko…well, he says he just wants to eat it, but we always know there is more than meets the eye for him.
Volume 9 is more proof why Toriko recently has moved into Shonen Jump’s big three titles (replacing Bleach, which is ending soon anyways). There is no better time to get into this oddly hip series, available in both physical and digital form from Viz.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.