Reviewby Carlo Santos,
Toriko is a mighty Gourmet Hunter, exploring the world in search of delicious foods and vanquishing any creatures that stand in his way. But gourmet hunting isn't all about brute strength—a little divine luck also helps, which is why Toriko and his comrade Komatsu are paying their respects at the great Gourmet Shrine. Eventually, Toriko gets his next big assignment: he must capture an incredible fish called the Shining Gourami! However, the journey involves passing through a waterfall so massive that the sheet of water is one kilometer thick. Toriko enlists the help of fellow Gourmet Hunter Sunny, whose prehensile hair and newly-acquired pet snake should come in handy. A legendary swordsman has taught Sunny some new skills—but will it be enough to withstand the very forces of nature?
What else can musclebound hero Toriko do to assert his dominance over the gourmet universe? He's already slain beasts that defy the laws of biology. He's already sampled foods that modern-day chefs and gourmands can barely imagine. He's even defeated scheming, superpowered villains—the one absolute requirement of every shonen action manga. If ferocious creatures are just a meal waiting to happen, and bloodthirsty fighters serve as mere sparring practice, then what else is left for Toriko to accomplish?
Well, how about battling an entire geological feature?
That's what this volume is about—and it's a fantastic idea. The column of water known as Death Falls is practically a character unto itself, tossing all sorts of ridiculous challenges at Toriko and Sunny (along with Komatsu, who's just clinging on for the ride). One moment a giant shark comes flying out of the rapids; later it's the sheer water pressure that threatens to crush them; and then—in the book's most jaw-dropping moment—an entire mountain comes rumbling downstream, wiping out anything its path. Who'd have thought that an inanimate object could prove to be such a worthy opponent?
Fortunately, the Gourmet Hunters come up with some creative counterattacks of their own. Toriko finds new ways to wield his fists, while Sunny's super-strong hair morphs into handy tools like a fishing net and a raft, and his mega-sized pet snake Quinn steals the show with her carnivorous antics. The story gets even more fascinating when Sunny recounts how he recently trained his hair-manipulating skills. It's a familiar "student learns from legendary sage" tale, but the "Don't think, feel!" message is backed up by legitimate facts about how top athletes and fighters transform learned techniques into instinct. So while the moves in Toriko may be physically impossible, the basics are grounded in real life—thus creating a world that looks absurd on the outside, but has a sound internal logic.
Not every chapter is so well-scripted, though. The early part of this volume drags its way through some one-and-done adventures, where Toriko and Komatsu seek out a particular food (or, in the very first chapter, a shrine) and basically get what they came for, sometimes with a hokey punchline. These chapters don't even contribute to the long-running story arcs: there's hardly any mention of the Gourmet Corp., the mysterious "Nitro" beast, or the search for the "God Ingredient." Thank goodness for the waterfall quest, or else Toriko would be stuck doing small-fry assignments forever.
As always, the vivid artwork complements the over-the-top storytelling. One of Toriko's most effective techniques is to take something familiar and exaggerate it: a shrine gate the size of the St. Louis Arch, a snake large enough to be a mythical serpent, and moving bodies of water that could engulf an entire continent. The idea of such things is daunting enough; seeing them fully illustrated is a marvel to behold. Yet the artwork also takes care of little details: dozens of swirling currents within the waterfall, or the veins bristling in Toriko's arm as he powers up his "spiked punch." Then there's the element of action—displays of speed and strength that add vitality to the sheer size of everything. Some areas could use improvement, though: the panels are often limited to tightly packed rectangles, a result of trying to tell the story in serialized 18-page units. These tight layouts also mean that some of the more chaotic scenes are simply too overloaded with detail, whether it be flying debris or simple shading.
Surprisingly, the dialogue in this volume goes beyond what one would expect from the grunting-and-battling genre. Wherever he goes, Toriko provides lots of running commentary, discussing how the Gourmet Shrine operates or explaining the dangers of Death Falls. The descriptions of the heroes' abilities are equally thorough: Toriko calculates the power of his spiked punch even in the heat of battle, and Sunny gladly talks about his training experiences. These conversations do run the danger of rambling too much, but the direct writing style and occasional touch of humor keep them enjoyable. Meanwhile, sound effects are also found in almost every panel, with English lettering taking the place of the original Japanese text. The change in style is obvious, but it doesn't interfere with the main visuals.
Although Toriko is still very much about eating, fighting, and exploring, it breaks new ground in Volume 17—a giant waterfall emerges as Toriko's next great foe, dominating the storyline for six chapters. If nothing else, it's a welcome departure from the usual overgrown creatures that make up the Toriko bestiary. However, the earlier chapters are a letdown: who wants to deal with cheesy little one-shot adventures when there's something far greater up ahead? The terrifying grandeur of Death Falls, the firepower of Toriko's fists, the strange contortions of Sunny's hair, and the extravagant artwork are the selling points of this volume. So don't worry too much about the weak beginning—this one is definitely worth it by the end.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B
+ A deadly waterfall makes for a unique adversary, while outrageous fighting abilities and bold artwork pop out of every scene.
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