The good folks at FUNimation bring the latest over-the-top humorous fighting anime series to region one with the release of Toriko Part One. In the save vein as One Piece, this show features bizarre creatures, lots of action, and some solid laughs. It's easy to see why it's a hit in
As the narrator reminds viewers at the beginning of every episode, "the world is in the Gourmet Age! An age in which people quest for yet unknown culinary delights." People in this world really appreciate what they eat, and vast fortunes can be spent on rare ingredients. To feed the world's insatiable demand for new tastes and textures a new profession has sprung up: the Gourmet Hunters. These are strong and tough fighters who are willing to risk their necks traveling to the farthest reaches of the globe to bring back tasty eats.
One of the strongest and most famous Gourmet Hunters is Toriko, one of the Four Heavenly Kings, a title reserved for the best of the best. Along with his massive muscles (and an equally massive appetite) Toriko has a very acute sense of smell that allows him to track just about anything.
In the first episode a young accomplished chef, Komatsu, has been requested by the IGO (International Gourmet Organization - apparently the government) to obtain and cook a Gararagator. The cook hires Toriko to get the animal and the two set off for the swamps of the Baron Archipelago. There they face many strange and deadly animals, but finally manage to kill (and eat) the giant lizard.
During their first adventure Komatsu confesses that his dream is to become a master chef and Toriko relates his quest: To create and eat the ultimate full-course meal. The two become pals and their skills supplement each other, with the hunky Gourmet Hunter taking out rare creatures and the chef preparing them.
The series soon picks up some other interesting characters.
Another of the Kings is Sunny, an effeminate man who is obsessed with looking good. He has thousands of super strong hair fibers that are prehensile. Each one is capable of lifting 500 pounds and he uses them as his main weapon.
There's also Rin, Sunny's younger sister who has a crush on Toriko and Tina, a reporter who follows Toriko around to get the latest scoop on what he's hunting.
The show is high on action, and short on plot. The main conflict in this first collection is for Toriko to thwart the Gourmet Corp, the evil counterpart to the IGO from obtaining valuable food with their Gourmet Telexistence Robots, or GT Robos for short. These robots are formidable, and able to take out monsterous creatures and most Gourmet Hunters without any trouble at all.
This show is definitely influenced by One Piece. There are a lot of wacky creatures and a good amount of humor (including a lot of jokes that work surprisingly well.) The characters are lovable too, and they really drive the show.
The main flaw is that there's not a lot of plot, at least in this first set. It comes across as just a series of 'get that monster' stories, even though some hunts go on for several episodes. What's here is entertaining enough, but I do get the feeling that it will grow stale quickly.
This show might also offend some viewers. At its foundation this is a show about hunting, killing, and eating rare animals. They do take time to mention that Toriko never kills anything that he's not planning on eating, but the fact of the matter is that he's searching out these creatures because there are so few of them in existence. They also have Roman Coliseum type battles between differing species where rich people come to wager on the outcome. The show make some weak excuse about the IGO using the data to come up with ratings for every animal, but the fact that they cloned an extinct species so that it could battle in an arena will rub some (justifiably) the wrong way.
The first 13 episodes of the series come on two DVDs stored in a single-width case.
Viewers have the option of watching the show in the original stereo Japanese with (optional) English subtitles or with a DD 5.1 English dub. I screened this in the original language, but I watched an episode in English too. Both tracks were very good, and though I preferred the Japanese language audio the English dub was very good. Then fight scenes in particular were more forceful on the dub track, which isn't surprising since that's the only option where the rear speakers and subwoofer are active. Fans watching either dub should be pleased.
The 1.78:1 image was pretty good. There were some minor aliasing issues, but nothing significant. The colors were strong and the lines were tight.
The set included a commentary track on the first and ninth episodes by the English staff. I'm not a huge fan of English anime commentary tracks, so I won't comment on it. There's also a clean opening and closing as well as some trailers for other FUNimation shows.
A fun set of shows filled with likeable characters. It's not as creative or exciting as One Piece, but the humor largely works. If you're a fan of wacky anime, check this one out. Recommended.