While searching for the tastiest foods imaginable, Gourmet Hunter Toriko and his bottomless stomach travel around the world facing every beast in his way. In a savage world ruled by the pursuit of the most delicious foods, it's either eat or be eaten! While searching for the tastiest foods imaginable, Gourmet Hunter Toriko travels the world with his bottomless stomach, facing every beast in his way.
Gourmet Hunter Toriko! This is the great era of gourmet food! And only Toriko can hunt down the ferocious ingredients that supply the world's best restaurants. As a gourmet hunter, Toriko tracks and defeats the tastiest and most dangerous animals with his bare hands. But has he met his match with an eight-legged alligator the size of a tank?
Welcome to Masterchef: Ultimate Hunter Edition
I don't thank Daryl Surat enough to the stuff he's dragged me into. Things like Baoh, M.D. Geist ( a title I had forgotten about but he dredged it up with one of his podcasts), Odin and others. Now, they are all anime. He does recommend manga but I've never gone out of my way to follow up on them. Until now. He described a crazy manga where the main hero is a gourmet hunter, that is, a person who hunts down fantastical creatures to use as ingredients and flavours for rich restaurant goers to eat. The idea alone sounds crazy but imagine this image (I can't show any images due to VIZ not getting back to me):
It's of a man with a giant fishing poll made of steel with high tensile wire with a boat sized bug as bait. Other than close ups of the characters, this is the sanest image you will read.
This is the world of Toriko. In this world, the rich and the richer pay crazy sums of money to eat the finest of foods. And by foods I mean, giant monsters. Alligators the size of rockets, mutant crayfish the size of lorries (trucks) and the largest fruits you've ever seen. So into this, is Hotel Gourmet (a member of International Gourmet Organisation) a gourmet company who hunt, grow or buy their client's food, cook it for them and then serve it to the client. Hotel Gourmet chef Komatsu, a relatively new chef, is assigned to collect a Garara Gator from Toriko. And so the fun begins.
The artwork is amazing. When we are not battling some hyper-detailed monster in some far flung swamp, then the stillness of the "camera" allows us to take in great environments. The places Toriko and Komatsu find themselves in are amazing. You feel when they're hunting the Garara gator that you should play the In The Jungle theme cue from the Raiders of the Lost Ark OST (buy it or find it online). The jungle is dense and dangerous but Toriko says the killer animals are fleeing from the gator. I need to stress that some of the creatures fleeing could kill you in an instant. You know what? Just buy a John Williams score from the 1980's that Spielberg directed the film it's from and play it while you read the manga. Can't go wrong with that in my book. This could not be mistaken for a Shojo title. Only the most ultra manly of words, deeds and actions go on here. It's like Go Nagai came back from a wildlife tour of Kenya and said "Hey, I've a fantastic idea!"
Shimabukuro spends his time world building, character mining and giving us the occasional out and out laugh. When Toriko and Komatsu board a boat owned and operated by Toriko's mate, Tom, the owner can tell that Toriko has lost weight! Part of the fun of the title is the zany, INCREDIBLY LOUD ways that Gourmet Hunters announce their attacks on their prey. If you are thinking that this is Naruto or FOTN on Safari, then you're not far off. But if anything could override even this, it would be the fact the creator is having a whale of a time. The wattage given off from the series could be bottled and sold and we'd solve the energy crisis. The cast have a 1970's/80's indestructibility to them. Put simply, the hunters in this series do things no other men can do, see things that no other men can see (yes, I got my 80's reference fill for the day). Toriko fights a series of enormous killer monkeys (yes, you read that right) who are protecting a fruit tree. A fruit that, naturally, the frequenters of Hotel Gourmet just happen to want. So Toriko brings his A-game to the fight (note: Toriko always brings his A-game to every fight). Komatsu is a good foil to Toriko as he just wants to live long enough to cook all the things that Toriko hunts. As for the man himself, he's a character with hidden depths but be warned: this is a shonen main character. What I consider a hidden depth, you might think it would be shallow one. Don't say I didn't tell ya!
In many ways, the shonen genre here, in the English speaking parts of the world, has become a lot like the Western frontier genre of John Ford or Sergio Leone. At one point in the west, they were the dominant genre but as time has gone on, audiences have embraced more diverse ideas and concepts. When a Western is made people go see it and talk about and give it a lot of fanfare as the Western has not been a box office draw since the late 1950's or early 1960's. So has the Shonen genre. There are titles like One Piece and Naruto which qualify as Shonen titles by virtue of their story arch, compositional structure and character development tree. But you can't look at them and something like Fist of the North Star and say they are exactly the same tone. Into that, Toriko injects the element of the absurd into FOTNS and delivers a shonen fighting manga infused with a surrealist humour.
All in all, I love this series and can't wait to see where it goes from here. I've got volume 2 and hopefully will pick up more as I can. It comes with my recommendation and even if you're not a fan of the whole shonen fighting thing, the humour, zaniness of seeing a grown man shouting "FORK!" and "KNIFE!" while punching a large creature and all round crazy factor will see you all through.