Guts! Gatsu Gatsu! Guts Gatsu!!!!!!!!!!! OK, me typing the lyrics of Toriko‘s theme song while screaming them in my office is probably not the same as you reading them. In fact, some of you may have not even read Toriko, although it has been out in the American market for a bit. If you haven’t, it’s time for a change of pace, and reader, you need to dive into this world of food and fighting. Some wonder how in such a short time Toriko has become one of the big three manga in Shonen Jump (heck it is even getting a cross-over with One Piece and Dragon Ball Z on TV this summer!). The answer is simple: it’s good. Yes, there is a bit of wackiness, and yes, there is some very bloody violence, but everything about this manga is a throw back to an older Japan, a bubble-economy Japan before the pop. It’s a manga where the sky is the limit, the over indulgence in food is encouraged, the bad guys don’t go unpunished, and it’s a-OK to be a strong man or woman. Volumes 13 and 14 of Toriko continue to rock its creative story-arc, packing away the punches and twists, while not losing sight of its goal.
Volume 13 moves pretty fast at mach-speed through its gourmet battling pages. We pick up with Toriko and Komatsu in Vegtable Sky where they finally find the Ozone Grass! Ozone Grass, however, turns out to be very tricky in the way you have to open it, and it takes numerous attempts before they figure it out. If things couldn’t get weirder, a strange creature that resembles a GT-Robot shows up for a snack, but quickly disappears, adding mystery to the place. After all these adventures, Toriko decides it’s finally time Komatsu officially becomes his partner (it is a high honor for an esteemed Gourmet Hunter like Toriko to finally pick a Chef for his foods), and they have a happy lunch. After traveling back to the Human World, Toriko realizes his strength, and it doesn’t take him long to venture off on his own into the Gourmet World, which is incredibly deadly and encompasses 70% of the planet. Even given Toriko’s high rank, he has never been there before as it is so incredibly deadly. As he gets there, he doesn’t last long before everything from plants to animals kick the crap out of him! He returns to the Human World and decides to train more, so he and Komatsu head off to Melk Mountain, where Komatsu can get a new knife and Toriko can find the food called Melk Stardust.
Right into volume 14 our journey continues as Toriko and Komatsu come face-to-face with Melk the Cutler, the man whom the mountain is named after, and who makes the sharpest and best blades on the planet! It quickly turns out to be that Melk is not actually Melk, but his child and apprentice, Melk II, who is running the shop. The real Melk went off on a journey to find a whet-stone a few years back! Melk II cannot make Komatsu a new knife with so many other commissions in front of this request. Toriko makes the deal of deals, and if he finds Melk and brings back a whet-stone for Melk II to use, Melk II will move Komatsu’s knife up to the top priority. As crazy as it sounds, it is agreed to, and Toriko journeys off far below, as Komatsu keeps Melk II company and learns a few more secrets. Throughout these caves, Toriko deals with monsters and challenges, finally finding the real Melk, and a most unexpected truth.
Toriko is great because by this point in the series it knows very much what kind of manga it is – part food, part comedy, part fighting, and all blended together very well. The other thing the title has going for it is that it is really accessible to new readers. You can jump in at any point and quickly get an idea of what is going on. Of course like any long-running story, it’s better if you know the ins and outs from volume one so you don’t miss the little joys, but overall anyone can just jump in at any volume and read. Perhaps it is the easy entry point combined with its heart of “the sky is the limit” sensibility that has really helped this manga just explode.
There is not much else one can say except to pick this series up, volumes 13 and 14 being wonderful reads, available in digital and print from Viz.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.