By Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.
It’s been a while since I did a full review of Toriko, but this is a good volume to talk about, as it’s less fight and more food oriented. After finishing off the cliffhanger from last volume (and getting to meet several of the side-villains face to face), Toriko reunites with Komatsu and goes to Gourmet Town, the #1 town to get fantastic food. While there they meet up with a legendary chef, the elderly but insanely strong and intelligent (as with most elderly manga women) Setsuno, who gives the two of them a taste of a legendary soup. A soup that is still incomplete, and needs one more ingredient. This leads to the cliffhanger of this volume, as both Toriko and Komatsu must journey to “Ice Hell” to find said ingredient…
In general, successful Jump series seem to fall into a pattern of “fighting + friendship + X”, where X is a variable. Plus ninjas, plus pirates, plus mangaka, plus Nisioisin… that type of thing. Here it’s food, and while much of Toriko is sitting back and watching insanely strong men battle each other, the food is not just an added extra to make the story palatable. First of all, even with the occasional ‘reader suggestion’ thrown in, the different types and varieties of food show off the author’s prodigious imagination. But food also controls the plot and the main characters. They live for it. A lot of the scenes in this volume will be familiar to fans of Oishinbo or similar titles – the initial reaction of happiness, followed by a description of what they just ate, possibly delineating the ingredients used. This is Jump foodie manga.
This volume also has several strong scenes between Toriko and Komatsu, including Setsuna, reminiscing on her own partnership with Jiro (who she was also romantically involved with), noting what good partners Toriko and Komatsu make. Now, I don’t think that any Jump title currently running is written primarily for the magazine’s growing BL audience. No, not even Reborn. But certainly a lot of what attracted the BL fandom in the first place is here – men in close friendships, with lots of bonding and fights and befriending former enemies. Komatsu is in many ways the perfect uke, and he’s surrounded by strong partners – not just Toriko, but also Coco and Sunny from previous volumes – all of whom initially see him as rather pathetic but then grow to treasure him as Komatsu’s true talents in food preparation are revealed. There’s also a dearth of women in this story – Rin has been around, and she has a crush on Toriko, but he completely ignores it. So while this isn’t a BL story, it does have everything that drew BL fans to Jump in the first place, and does not go out of its way to disappoint them.
I’m impressed by the world building going on here. A lot of titles like this give off a feeling that the author is making stuff up from week to week, but several of the plot points here seem to be well planned. Komatsu’s naivete is useful in this regard, as Toriko can explain various things to him, but there’s a casualness to it that doesn’t make it seem like exposition. I particularly liked the references to the Colonel sending a duplicate to Ice Hell rather than himself – it’s made mysterious while also being obvious for the reader.
Toriko is great fun, and looks to be starting another big arc. Hopefully it will continue to balance its big fights and male bonding with more delicious food. Recommended for Jump fans.