Manga-ka: Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: August 2012
Synopsis: “Toriko’s fight with Gourmet Corp has left him without an arm. While Komatsu continues the quest for Century Soup, Toriko journeys to Life, the country of healing, where getting some R&R turns into a bigger battle than anyone imagined. He’ll have to eat his way to full health!”
The ice-cave chapters of Toriko come to an end in this eleventh volume but not before another cascade of crazy monsters gnashing, drooling and smashing through their way through our heroes (and our new weren’t-hereoes-before-but-now-are-pretty-close too). The massive spire containing the Millennium Soup is collapsing and everyone is pretty messed up, but at least before all is momentarily said and done we get to see one particularly nasty baddy get his just desserts. Then it’s onward to helpings and healing!
The absolutely bizarre creatures that inhabitant this world are so entertaining. First it was just huge, scary, somewhat grotesque versions of animals we have here (and believe me there’s no shortage of those still) but now they’ve begun merging with objects to make even stranger beings. They’re all convenient plot devices too, different handy tools that readers submit and the creator uses when needed. Characters are hurt? Well, good thing you can capture bugs shaped like needles full of medicine, or feed them to giant plants that somehow eat injuries. Stuff like this makes the series require more suspended belief than almost any other I’ve read. It’s all just ‘too’ convenient – and yet… I kind of really love that about Toriko. Nothing holds the creator back, so we get to see all the strange and silly creatures that really frame how completely crazy this world is.
Maybe it’s because of how crazy everything and everyone is that my favourite part of the series is still Komatsu. He’s such a cute character and stands out a lot as a short, powerless average-build human whose dream it is to cook the best food in the world, not hunt it down and rip it apart with his bare hands. The friendship he shares with Toriko is also really sweet and still reminds me a lot of Goku and Kuririn from Dragonball, which was a winning element of that series for me as well. The two share some dramatic scenes upon just barely surviving what the last volume put them though, and then surprisingly go along their separate ways. In another trend that harks nostalgically back to Dragonball, the two each embark on their own personal quests and training with the promise to meet up again once they’re accomplished. The book revels in their friendship with an assortment of fun chapter pin-ups of them together.
Another character I find myself liking, though for far less explicable reasons, is Sunny. He’s one of the four Gourmet Kings and immediately recognizable by his flowing locks of hair, awkwardly long eyelashes and flamboyantly intense obsession about his appearance. He just amuses me a lot. Though absent from their past mission, he returns here when Toriko meets him in the country of healing, which also serves as a place of beautification.
This new little group – consisting of Toriko, Sunny, the food reviver, Teppei, and a gourmet mafia member, Match – all meet with Teppei’s master. He’s an equally large, gruff and loud man who is a Master of reviving both sources of food and human beings. The last part of the book is dedicated to him helping Toriko through a long, very painful and of course entirely impossible healing process for the hunter’s missing arm. Elsewhere, Komatsu is hard at work trying to create his own Millennium Soup.
Watching Komatsu work at making the soup gives me a feeling similar to reading a good sports’ manga – watching effort flourish the sweetest of fruit (or in this case the clearest of soups). It’s the feeling that keeps you reading and excited for even the smallest accomplishments. Meanwhile, Toriko and the other muscle-bound food hunters make sure there’s no shortage of action. Even when it wavers like this eleventh volume, there’s more than enough weird stuff to keep you going page to page. I spend half the time reading Toriko wondering what the hell I’m reading and the other half just being glad I am.
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Book purchased from Strange Adventures