Reviewby Carlo Santos,
DVD Set Part 3
Toriko is a legendary Gourmet Hunter, exploring strange lands and fighting off dangerous beasts as he seeks out rare food ingredients. His latest adventure has taken him to the continent of Ice Hell in search of Century Soup—a miraculous mix of ingredients, frozen in ice, that only melts once in a hundred years! The evil Gourmet Corp. has also sent out one of their own, Vice-Chef Tommyrod, whose army of bugs will make a meal out of Toriko unless he defeats Tommyrod in battle. Meanwhile, Toriko's comrade Komatsu heads out alone to find the Century Soup within the caverns of Ice Hell—but could the Gourmet Corp. be a step ahead of him? All of Toriko's allies must come to his aid if he is to survive this frozen adventure ... including a masked mystic whose powers could mean the difference between life and death.
How big is Toriko's Century Soup arc? Big enough that it actually began two episodes ago in the previous DVD set, takes up all 12 episodes of this one, and still has some loose ends waiting to be tied up in the next. But size is not the same thing as quality (despite what Toriko himself may try to tell you), and this adventure goes through a serious slump in the early going. Fortunately, some surprise events and new story angles save it in the second half, and it seems Toriko may be starting to look beyond the usual adventuring-fighting-eating formula. With so much creative energy going into the wild beasts and crazy cuisine, isn't it about time the plot itself also started branching out?
Before that branching-out can happen, though, the series plunges right into the very worst clichés of the shonen fighting genre. It starts out innocently enough, with Torko befriending some fellow adventurers who have interesting stories to tell. But Toriko and his allies are soon roped into one-on-one battles against Tommyrod and his goons, which is never a good sign. Each combatant has to spend three minutes explaining how his technique works (possibly with a flashback), then for the rest of the episode, he powers up a single move and executes it. Yes, this is the dreaded "one fight takes five weeks" pacing popularized by Dragon Ball Z, and even the astounding abilities of Toriko, Tommyrod and others cannot erase the fact that this brute-force battle takes forever. In fact, over half the episodes in this set involve the showdown with Tommyrod and company—which is great for those who enjoy intense, drawn-out battles, but will have fans who prefer more variety trying to fight off boredom.
Boredom is finally averted in the latter half of this arc, when an unexpected fighter steps in and takes the Toriko-Tommyrod battle in a new direction. After slogging through all those clichés, this fight redeems itself with an unconventional finish—one that kaiju enthusiasts will love. The storyline also returns to a speedier pace, focusing on other characters and non-combat-related topics (like the surprising truth about Century Soup). Komatsu finally gets his moment in the spotlight, showing a depth of emotion that is rare in this happy-go-lucky series, and culinary mentor Granny Setsu makes a brief but memorable appearance. Finally, the last two episodes of this set show the most promise: Toriko and company travel to an entirely different country, which means that the world-building kicks into overdrive once more with new faces and new discoveries. Meanwhile, Komatsu embarks on a cooking quest that steers the series away from fighting and back towards the joy of food.
Once again, animation is hit-or-miss throughout these episodes. The extended battle has its dazzling moments—Tommyrod's final flurry of punches against Toriko; the mysterious intruder launching into a series of acrobatic moves—but also many moments of cheap, second-rate work. Some characters and their attacks are simply static images floating across the screen, and something as potentially beautiful as a rapidly-growing tree is reduced to an awkward sequence of still frames. What's even more frustrating is that this all takes place in a setting where the background artists don't have to try very hard: it's the same the rocky, bluish-grey ice cavern for about eight straight episodes. Fortunately, the change of scenery in the last two episodes shows what the series is truly capable of, with the bright colors, fanciful beasts, and outlandish foods that are Toriko's trademark. In the end, striking character and creature designs remain the show's greatest strength—but putting them into motion is still a struggle.
With the big fight being as clichéd as it is, perhaps it's no surprise that guitar-shredding instrumental rock shows up as the background music of choice this time. It isn't always that way, though; the most climactic scenes still get the orchestral treatment that they deserve. Even Komatsu's big moment, which has nothing to do with battle, has an inspiring brass melody to set the mood. Meanwhile, the theme songs remain as energetic as ever, maintaining the show's positive vibe even when the plot takes a serious turn.
Relentless energy is also the name of the game when it comes to the English dub. As expected, the script calls for loud declarations of fighting spirit and lots of amped-up screaming, which the actors are only too happy to provide. Principal players like Ian Sinclair (Toriko) and Greg Ayres (Tommyrod) step so completely into their characters that they often sound just as convincing as the original Japanese. Terrible puns are also part of the script, and while the translation doesn't always work out, there are definitely some world-class groaners in there. The two commentary tracks in this set—one per disc—also continue in the same mode as previous commentaries, with casual conversation (mostly about food) among the dub's cast members and recording crew.
Ironically, food discussion is one thing that's missing throughout much of Toriko's third DVD set. With so many episodes dedicated to a plodding, blow-by-blow battle, this show falls right into the trap that has claimed many other shonen action series. However, it eventually manages to escape the trap when new characters and plot points emerge. The quest for Century Soup takes a surprise turn, supporting cast members prove to be more than just passing sidekicks, and a voyage to a brand-new locale opens up the potential for more discoveries. Bright colors and larger-than-life visuals also continue to entertain, even though the animation quality can't always keep up. Toriko hits some low points in this arc, but at least it ends with the hope for better things to come.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : C
Art : B
Music : C+
+ Some new plot developments, supporting character action, and a change of scenery invigorate the second half of this story arc.
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