Toriko’s immediate appeal lies with its unique combination of dramatic action with exquisite culinary taste. If Dragon Ball Z and Yuto Tsukuda’s Food Wars! were to mate, Toriko would be its bouncy, oft-hungry offspring. During the “Gourmet Age,” the powerful Toriko thrives in a Earth-like world where the very soil he treads on is edible. Trees bear delectable exotic fruits, caves drip butter, and the gigantic beasts that roam the land, sea, and air are made up of tantalizing and flavorful meats. As a gourmet hunter, Toriko travels the world in search of ingredients to create the perfect meal—the noble pursuit of any gourmet hunter worth their salt. Toriko uses his brute strength and culinary intelligence in his quest to create an unforgettable, life-affirming feast, one consisting of seven courses, from appetizer to dessert.
The premise is, to be fair, quite cheesy. Toriko and the like-minded souls who follow him on his journeys treat food and its preparation very seriously. Battles against ferocious monsters are epic in fashion and style, as our hero uses his inner power to increase his physical prowess and perform special moves with fists that, in the heat of combat, resemble forks and knives. Toriko is produced by the same studio that worked on Dragon Ball Z and the influence shows in every grandiose action set piece. Much like Goku, Toriko has an unquenchable lust for food that often draws him into battles neither he nor his friends expect. Although his brute strength is enough to win the day, many of the creatures Toriko encounters require finesse and a little bit of ingenuity to defeat, traits that his friends have in abundance to make up for their physical weaknesses. Outside of these large-scale battles, the series has a wondrous spirit of adventure. It’s nice to see an action-oriented series like this spend its downtime delighting in the wonders of its own creation.
Too often, Toriko falls into the pit that sometimes made Dragon Ball Z a chore to watch. Battles against particularly strong beasts and notable human antagonists have a tendency to stretch beyond a single episode, and like Dragon Ball Z, there are only so many over-the-top battle sequences one can stomach before they get stale, especially when Toriko uses the same combat techniques for nearly every battle. The most captivating element of the monster battles are the designs of the creatures themselves. The show offers a grand bestiary of fantastical beasts and offers a degree of creativity that far exceeds the Jurassic wildlife of Akira Toryiama’s series.
Though set on an entirely different world filled with people with wildly diverse aspirations, there is little to stylistically separate Toriko from other larger-than-life, action-focused anime. Given my love for Tsukuda’s Food Wars!, this show’s focus on food is a fun distraction from the fierce, kinetic combat. The seriousness with which the characters carry themselves is a bit much to stomach at first, but before long, Toriko’s quest to create the perfect meal easily ensnares the audience.
Toriko, Parts 1-4
directed by Akifumi Zako, Hidehito Ueda
1275 minutes, Number of Discs: 8, DVD
Company Age Rating: 14+
Related to: Toriko by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro