It’s time to look at one of the more recent Shonen Jump titles. Toriko got pretty big in its prime and arguably became known as one of Shonen Jump’s top 3 ongoing titles. It even got to play a role in a crossover episode featuring Luffy and Goku as well. The series has a fairly unique premise and I like the focus on food. That being said, the premise is also what ends up hurting it quite a lot as there is a considerable amount of animal violence and the series took a long while to actually get any traction going. I wouldn’t call this one a success although it had one of the best Shonen Jump climaxes of all time. At least it ended with a bang!
The story follows Toriko, a legendary Gourmet hunter. He is known as one of the very best and has taken down just about every animal out there. Gourmet Hunters hunt down food but a lot of that food comes from animals of course. Alternately, they find things like rare honey in volcanoes and underwater foods. It’s a rough job. Komatsu is a local cook and he wants to be the greatest cook in the world. When Toriko offers to take him around as a cooking partner, Komatsu leaps at the chance. The two of them go on many adventures and bond by the end. They’ll have to deal with significant gourmet threats though like Midora, Aliens, and Starjun. Whatever happens though, they’re ready for it!
Lets get this out of the way. One of the huge problems with Toriko is the nonstop action violence. It’s a series about hunting animals after all so you can bet that the series does this constantly. A positive score was out of the question right away from this, but at least the series played its cards right to at least get itself a spot at the middle of the rankings. That will have to do I suppose. The animal stuff is such a downer though.
It’s a shame because the series ends on such a high note. The last arc is essentially just nonstop fights involving all of the big characters of the series. The 8 Kings, Midora, Toriko, Starjun, Jiro, The Nitro, etc. Everyone gets a piece of the pie and here is where the 40-50 volumes of hyping up the characters all paid off. It was everything that I could want in a climax and it could possibly be the best one for a Shonen. It may not have necessarily been my favorite cast, but it was just so ambitious and it was almost half a year of nonstop epicness. The main series that could rival this one would be Reborn! as that also had a really epic climax.
Unlike Reborn! Toriko wasn’t consistent up until that part though. A lot of the arcs actually weren’t that great. We had a whole arc about trying to steal someone’s balls after all. I mean that literally by the way and the series reveled in weird plots like that. The humor can also be gross as part of the plot was that they had to…well I’m not even going to go there. Just remember that the hunters will eat anything. One of the big plot points of the series is that eating rare foods makes the main characters stronger. Their hair sticks up and they get on edge while yelling a lot. These people take their food seriously and practically explode every time as we’ll have whole pages of them barely being able to stay conscious from the pure joy of it all. It’s all so extreme that you have to wonder how they’d react to a good slice of pizza. The main characters also have demons inside of them which like food and take control sometimes. Toriko’s even turn real at times and show up to help. It’s fairly meta, but the author never actually finishes this plot up. I guess it’s up to the fans to pick up the pieces.
The Century Soup arc was probably the first time where the villains finally popped up and it felt like a plot was brewing. That one was handled well. I also enjoyed the 4 vs 4 Beasts arc as Toriko and friends fought some giant monsters that were actually all part of the same monster. Of course, the stronger heroes could have ended those arc in an instant if they wanted too, but I suppose they just wanted to see how Toriko would handle it.
By the end of the series, I like how the author tried to cram in as many feats as possible. I feel like he was making it as exaggerated as possible on purpose just to try and show up the other titles. Characters surviving millions of years going by in an instant, breaking planets and going massively FTL? These feats basically start to throw them ahead of DBZ with ease, but it all feels too easy. It also invites a lot of plot hax by the end though with the inclusion of Neo who can eat anything and Food Luck.
Food Luck is basically a plot button that allows any character to survive any situation because they were destined too. Food Luck can nullify attacks and nullify attacks which makes it very handy to use and it has no limits. It can run out, but that just depends on how lucky you are. I could have done without this part to be honest.
The series is pretty good about not having much fanservice. It’s pretty much nonexistent for the most part. Even when we get some tired tropes like Toriko getting turned into a girl, it’s not played up too much. This is good since the series already has more than enough problems at its plate (See what I did there?) without adding any more. Take away the animal violence and this would be an easy 8. Take away a lot of the gross humor and it could jump up to a 9. It has enough positives and epic scenes to pull it off, but to be a 9 you certainly can’t have a bunch of negatives either.
Lets talk about the characters. There are quite a lot of important ones so this section is going to be very long. Toriko is the main character and he’s a fairly good one although he can be annoying at times. It’s a little hard to hold the fact that he’s a hunter against him and he makes sure to eat whatever he hunts….but it does make it hard to like the guy. He also prioritizes eating over everything which can be extreme. At one point the world is literally being destroyed around him, but he doesn’t care since he’s going to have a feast. He takes the most annoying traits from Goku and Luffy and places them together. Granted, he does have a lot of hype moments as well and can be serious when necessary. He’s the kind of charismatic guy that would be easy to be friends with, but would be a lot harder to be with long term. He does put everyone in danger constantly. Going on a journey with him like Komatsu did for several years would be way too stressful. As it stands, he’s not the best main character. He’s good enough where he doesn’t hold the series back, but just isn’t downright great. By the way, Toriko’s powers are effectively that he’s really strong. He can use his muscles for incredible punches and even turns them into projectiles. It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.
Komatsu is the main sidekick and unfortunately I can’t really say that he is a likable character. He is very annoying at all times. He can’t fight, but he has a lot of food luck so he can survive just about anything. His knife is so sharp that it can cut foods so well that they are ready centuries ahead of when they’re supposed too. He gets a lot of hype for sure, but it’s like having Usopp as a main character. It just doesn’t work and to be honest, I prefer Usopp. I dunno, Komatsu isn’t very funny and he’s certainly not all that useful. It’s good that Toriko and friends have a cook of course, but they’re cool with eating things raw so they probably would have survived anyway. I was actually waiting for Komatsu to get a super form or something, but it never happened. Ah well, that’s the way it goes I suppose.
Sunny is another one of the 4 Kings along with Toriko. His hair is his special ability as it can turn into a fairly unbreakable barrier or be used as a very versatile attack. His hairs can move at incredible speeds after all so they are difficult to properly evade or block. Add to that the fact that he has monster strength and speed like every other character and you have a tough contender. I’d consider him to be the 2nd most dangerous member in the group. He’s a decent character. His gimmick about not liking ugly things and avoiding them isn’t half bad. It’s one that I can get behind at any rate and I wouldn’t say that it’s overplayed.
Zebra gets a lot of hype and is supposed to be the strongest of the 4 Kings. I dunno, for some reason I just couldn’t buy into it. It was hard to ever really consider Zebra as a threat either since Toriko always appeared to be even stronger than him. His sound abilities are nice though as Zebra can make barriers with them or let his voice travel across large areas to help others out. It has a lot of versatile applications to the ability to be sure. He’s not a bad character, but he just ends up lagging behind the others.
Coco is the final member and he is arguably the weakest. He makes up for this with his useful poison abilities that get around the whole strength angle. After all, it doesn’t matter how strong or weak you are against him. If you’re in range of his poison you’ll be dropping dead very quickly. It’s a very handy ability and it surprisingly continues to work even towards the end of the series. Naturally it can’t do anything against the 8 Beasts or any of the final bosses, but it serves Coco well in just about all of his fights. He’s a nice enough guy.
Rin is the main heroine, but she surprisingly doesn’t appear much at all. You know that she is the main heroine based on the ending and she is always going after Toriko, but she rarely ever contributes to the plot. I don’t even know why the author added her at all. Maybe just to have some kind of romance just to tick off the box. Regardless she has to be one of the most bland heroines out there and I was not a fan.
Ichiryu was a great character and ended up being one of the best in the series. He’s also one of the strongest characters without a doubt as he was able to hold his own against opponents like Midora without even using his spirit animal. In this universe that’s essentially like going into a battle without any weapons or special abilities. His physical abilities and stats were insanely off the charts. His Minority World ability is what makes him even more dangerous as it reverses anything. This allows him to fly by reversing gravity and he can make a full recovery from any injury by reversing it. Moreover, he can reverse the injury over to his opponent and this ability has absolutely no limits. Ichiryu can reverse anything, life, a battle’s outcome, etc. He only ends up losing because he fights someone who also has Minority World so it’s a battle of who can reverse at the last possible instant. The series got pretty high tier for sure and again it’s worth mentioning that Ichiryu fought without his monster the whole time and never ended up getting serious. He’s a pretty stand up guy even if he didn’t take the stakes seriously enough.
Starjun is another one of the big villains of the series. Gradually he becomes more of a rival though and he works as one a lot better than Zebra. He is actually a threat for a while. Naturally he starts to get surpassed once he stops being a full villain, but that always seems to happen. His flame abilities are good and beyond that his physical abilities are on par with Toriko. He’s a pretty solid character and is probably the second best villain. I’m glad he got to have a final with of his own as many of the supporting characters weren’t so lucky. Starjun earned his.
Grinpatch is a bloodsucking villain who is pretty strong. One good hit from his straw and you’ll be missing a fatal amount of blood. It’s a very unique weapon since I can’t think of anyone else who uses straws. That being said, it’s a little tough to take the power seriously. Grinpatch is super tough so underestimate him at your own peril, but he wasn’t exactly my favorite villain. Especially since his ability was usually used for animal violence scenes.
Tommyrod is one of the first big villains to show up in Toriko. He attacks using a lot of bugs and sort of is a bug as well. It made for a very intense fight between him and Toriko and he later fought Sunny as well I believe. I don’t care much for his powers since using insects means that some will always be injured in the process. His personality is fine though and he’s an interesting villain. He’s certainly lethal and quite memorable. I also liked his design and the super forms that came with him. The series was always particularly strong in the villains department.
The Nitro started off as a one time villain monster, but gradually we learned of a secret Illuminati version of them. There are 8 and they essentially want to roast the planet. Given the heavy influence on food in this series it was definitely a fitting plan. Most of them never ended up getting much in the way of personality and it’s one of those cases where the anime would need to flesh them out a bit more. That being said, they made for really good villains. I liked the designs and these guys were immensely powerful. It was just their bad luck that they had to go up against Jiro. They may have had a good shot against Toriko, fighting all 8 of them probably would have been too much for him.
Midora is my favorite character in the whole series. He’s just awesome and the character kept on getting cooler and cooler as the series went on. He’s one of the big villains, but he never really gets to fight Toriko. That part was interesting as the two just don’t cross paths much. He ends up holding a larger group against the Nitro monsters and turns his attention to them. He definitely has the saddest origin story from the cast. While he is a villain, he’s not being evil just to get a good meal like Acacia or doing it just to rile everyone up like Joie. It’s all about getting people to appreciate good food and if they won’t do so willingly, he’ll have to destroy them. His ability is also very similar to Bass.exe’s which is an extra bonus. He can copy any ability after seeing it or being hit by it. He is virtually invincible and really cannot be defeated. Of course nothing is absolute in a series like Toriko. Midora just stole the show and it’s amazing how much character development he got. You could argue that he was the main cast at the end of the series instead of Toriko. He got fight after fight after fight.
Chiyo was one of the big villains in Toriko before the final arcs. She may be an old lady, but she can certainly fight. She had an epic battle with Setsuno and she is certainly very aggressive. Her fighting style reovlves around continuous attacks and simply overpowering her opponents. She’s incredibly powerful and a very cool enemy. Setsuno is essentially her heroic counterpart. The two of them are extremely similar, but Setsuno has the slight edge in combat. Who would have thought that two old ladies would give us such amazing fights. A third old timer is Chin Chinchin who can’t quite compete with the other two, but he never goes down without a fight. His battle with Chiyo was definitely very emotional even if you probably could guess the outcome from the beginning.
Froese didn’t get to appear much as she died prior to the series beginning, but her legacy plays a huge role throughout the series. Her death was a sad one and it set quite a few characters off on their paths. She believed that once everyone had a good meal, all war and strife would end. The problem is that some didn’t appreciate her cooking and Midora made it his mission to strike them all down. Her body wouldn’t be able to rest either as she ended up being possessed by Joie. Joie is one of the major villains in the series and she is incredibly powerful. She has a significant amount of food luck and also has a jar that can capture virtually any opponent. She is skilled at using mind games to aid her position as well. Her design was good and she always had a lot of confidence. Joie is definitely a fun villain and is certainly one of the most sinister ones in the whole series. Of course, provoking the characters who can ruin planets and solar systems with ease probably wasn’t a good idea in the end.
Tengu Brunch isn’t a major character, but he got a surprising amount of screen time at the end so I figured he was worth mentioning. He has some thunder abilities. He never really gets to use them in combat, but it’s still useful I guess. I dunno why this character was created to be honest. Takimaru is a nice character. He’s a young Gourmet Knight who does his best to gain more experience and become a useful part of the organization. He’s pretty genuine and also knows how to fight. The guy never became one of my favorite characters or anything, but I didn’t mind him.
Match was a gangster of sorts and he keeps to himself. He really just cares about protecting his friends and colleagues and isn’t the kind of guy who goes out of his way to save the world. I actually liked him a lot, but I can see why he was written out of the series by the end. There just wasn’t any way he could compete with all of these ultra powerful characters who kept popping up by the end. It’s just something that inevitably happens after a while when you’re only human. Still, he did a good job while his power level was still high enough to make a difference.
Melk is very skilled at repairing weapons. She gets a fairly small role, but was influential in helping Komatsu. We also got to see Melk The First who is incredibly strong, but not too smart and got lost for a very long time. The fact that he can also whisper is a little strange. The two were fun characters though so it would have been nice if they could have actually gotten to fight a little. I suppose it just wasn’t to be this time though, but the fact that they were memorable already puts them above a lot of other characters.
Teppei was one of the stronger heroes until he got brainwashed. Then he attempted to destroy Komatsu and invited Toriko’s wrath. His abilities are quite impressive as he can stun characters with a single hit and even held his own against Toriko. I didn’t care for a certain twist he got about the whole mind control thing though. Perhaps it would make some more sense next time I read it, but the plan seemed extremely risky and not all that smart. He made for a much better villain than a hero I’ll admit though. He was a good threat.
Lets talk about the 8 Kings. These are the animals who rule the world at the moment and their abilities are incredibly overpowered. They get so much hype that they don’t get a serious fight until the very end of the series. Whenever Toriko challenges one, he typically loses in one hit. It’s definitely pretty humbling for him. The Monkey King gets the largest role from all of the Kings as he gets a whole arc to himself. He can throw rocks around the planet in a second and has a lot of crazy physical feats like that. He doesn’t need any special abilities because of this as he overwhelms all opponents with his pure power. He even has a true form which makes him even stronger.
The Horse King is another big one and her power is so great that she developed a special ability out of it. Just by breathing she can generate a whole ecosystem. If she breaths in, then all the oxygen is sucked out of the area and everyone dies in an instant. By breathing out she can rip people in half as she even ripped Toriko in two and can blow the planet up as well. It’s fun how comically overpowered these guys are. There’s also the Dragon King who can harness extra dimensions into one energy blast which can destroy multiple planets in a single shot and still have enough momentum to keep on going. The blast is instantaneous so it is virtually impossible to dodge. The Wolf King can uses its senses to find out everything about you from it and can also mess with your soul. Aside from that its strength and speed are uncanny as per usual.
The Bird King can use shadows to trap you in them next to a fake sun so you boil to death. Beyond that it is also crazy strong. The Snake King is so large that it covers the entire planet yet it is also faster than the speed of light. It can destroy you before your mind knows it is destroyed. This is one of the more overpowered opponents once again. The Deer King may be the strongest of the 8 Kings. It can activate a back channel when its opponent is near. It’s larger than an island so the range is pretty good. It can then speed time up so that millions of years pass by every second for its opponent which means that unless you are totally immortal you’ll die instantly. Even if you are immortal you’ll be weakened from not having eaten or drank anything in that time. It is immune to its effect of course and will attack in the meantime. Finally, we have the Whale King. This one is supposed to be the strongest and I suppose it does have a good ability. Anything near it dies instantly. It’s an automatic ability and one that has no counter. Of course, the multi planet buster laser from the dragon king was able to take him on so I guess striking from afar is your best bet. Still, get anywhere near the huge Moon sized whale and you’re doomed!
Acacia is essentially the final boss of the series and he gets a lot of hype. He taught Jiro, Midora, Ichiryu, and the others after all. One common theme of the series is that the older you are the stronger you’ll be. Toriko and friends are actually quite young so they start the series at the bottom. Then you have guys like Setsuno and Chinchin and higher up are Ichiryu, Jiro, and Midora. Then at the top is Acacia. The series goes out of its way to make the guy as unlikable as possible as he’s extremely mean and gives negative twist after twist. He definitely got a lot of hate at that point and it’s hard to be a fan of this guy. He’s definitely a very powerful figure and has some great battles, but I can’t really say that I like the guy. There were a ton of twists back and forth, but ultimately he was just a little too far gone for me. He had some cool super forms though.
Neo is the monster inside of Acacia and his whole purpose is to eat. His very existence is only there to consume things. Think Galactus but on a larger scale. He plans to eat all of reality and gets stronger with each thing that he eats. He is virtually unstoppable and takes on an onslaught of attacks from the 8 Kings. Neo isn’t made to be sympathetic or anything which is certainly good since I wouldn’t be able to buy it. Sadly his scenes almost always involve animal violence. I would have preferred for Acacia to have just been the main villain so we wouldn’t need Neo, but the latter ended up being the real threat. It also involves the Nitro’s real mission that also doesn’t stop them from being villains. Murder billions to save trillions. I dunno, at that point you’re still murdering so many people that it becomes moot.
Jiro is one of the strongest characters of the series and a good ally to have. From the big 3 he is my least favorite, but that’s more of a compliment to Ichiryu and Midora then it is a slight against him. Jiro gets a lot of hype and delivers on it with his great fight against the Nitro. He also puts up a good fight against Acacia and Neo. His “knocking” ability is essentially like Ki in DBZ or Haki in One Piece. He can punch something which “knocks” it out of existence or knocks it into place. It effectively paralyzes opponents and is almost impossible to recover from. His true form is also very intense.
Zongeh is the comic relief character of the series, but he didn’t work very well. King from One Punch Man and Hercule from DBZ are two examples of characters who actually served their roles quite nicely. The problem with Zongeh is that he is never funny and also never contributes to the plot. The other two characters actually have their moments and help out when possible. This guy’s just wasting pages whenever he appears and I don’t think the author used him very well.
Terry, Kiss, Quinn are monsters that the main characters use. Terry is the only one who ever gets personality though. Toriko bonds with him near the beginning of the series and Terry really grows by the end and got to be very powerful. I like him a lot and he’s definitely one of the best characters in the series, but I was also sad to see him since the villains naturally go after him quite a bit. Terry is destined to grow up as one of the strongest animals so that is definitely nice, but I’m glad we didn’t get to have too many fights with him. That would have been a little brutal to watch. Terry really is awesome though and I have to say that the name is actually amazing.
I do enjoy Toriko’s art. It feels like Dragon Ball Z a lot of the time. The fights are really intense and the character designs are simple, but effective. It’s always easy to understand everything on the page in an instant and that’s a real credit to the series. I’d consider the art to be very high tier and it helped make the climax that much more exciting. It affects the whole series.
I should warn you that the manga can be incredibly violent though. Throughout the series it is a lot more intense than the average Shonen and gets to Hunter X Hunter levels with people getting ripped apart constantly. The characters are also cannibals for the most part so the final battles involve eating each other. Especially since Neo is the big villain and that’s his whole thing. He eats quite a few characters by the time it’s all over. Tommyrod’s fight with Toriko is certainly brutal and basically any fight with Midora. After all, one of Midora’s big attacks is that he stabs you repeatedly with his tongue. This can also lead to some rather gross characters like Neo. He gets more and more deranged as he fights and just looks like a lot of bumps. While the characters are always bleeding and being filled with holes, the simplistic style of the manga helps it not get too graphic. It’s definitely a full step over something like Bleach, but I definitely wouldn’t say we’re at the point of something like Berserk yet. The anime did a real good job of toning this down considerably while still keeping the fights epic so that’s another alternative for you. If they did the same for the animal violence then I have a feeling I’ll certainly like that version more. Of course, that’d be a review for another day if I ever start that show. So just bear this in mind, the series is pretty intense and that helps it complete its image as a retro Shonen. From the character developments to the fight scenes, it’s like a return to the more brutal days of Shonen Jump.
Overall, Toriko was a fun manga although it ended up shooting itself in the foot far too often. In the end, a manga about hunting animals is never going to go very far. They should have played up the natural ingredients part and have the heroes just go after foods like Jello and such. That would have been a lot safer. The series inevitably started going after animals less as the plot began and humanoids appeared anyway. The series should have just accelerated the early stuff. After all, when the series got intense, boy did it go all the way. It’s one of the most hype titles I have ever read. It’s really exhilarating. Despite that, I can’t really recommend it all that much. You’ll be better off with just about any other Shonen Jump title. This one’s just pretty weak and as a whole it wasn’t constructed as well as most of the others. I do appreciate the author’s attention to detail though and how he planned everything out. It was very ambitious and there were certainly a lot of concepts thrown around. Ultimately, it just couldn’t pull enough of them off.