Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Now that Komatsu has found the secret ingredient needed to complete Century Soup, taste buds are rejoicing and Toriko has a third dish on his full course menu. Now he is off in search of the world's tastiest vegetables, those which grow in the stratosphere garden known as Vegetable Sky. With his trusty chef as backup, Toriko heads up the beanstalk and into a world of incredible tastiness...after he's rebuilt his candy house and had a little show down with the president of IGO, of course.
The ultimate manly man of the food world has returned, with his muscles bulging and his appetite whetted for ever tastier fare. This twelfth volume of Toriko's gourmet adventures isn't the most consecutive in the series to date, but it does provide plenty of action and exotic eats, both of which are part of what makes Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro's tale so entertaining. We begin with Komatsu's completion of Century Soup, a recipe that was feared out of reach because of the machinations of Gourmet Corp. The missing ingredient is...well, let's just say that if Mysterious Girlfriend X grossed you out, you wouldn't want to get near this soup no matter how many auroras it spawned. (In a nice visual gesture, the so-called “aurora” that appears above the bowls of soup bears a striking resemblance to ribbon candy.) Toriko is undeterred, of course, and the soup is quickly added to his full course menu, making Komatsu's day. It doesn't hurt that the soup makes his fortunes look significantly brighter – the restaurant he works for gains an extra star for his efforts.
The soup story is dragged out a bit, possibly because Shimabukuro thinks that the goofy grins it puts on the faces of those who drink it is funnier than it is. As it stands, the gag really goes on too long, even taking part in Toriko's return to his candy house...which appears to be missing. Either Hansel and Gretel have been lurking around, or candy was not the best building material, but in any event, Toriko calls up the architect who made it and convinces him that Century Soup will make the effort of building him a new candy palace totally worthwhile. What follows is like every child's dream – Toriko's new house is a fantastic feast of magical candies that you can eat, sit on, eat, and live in. Notice the repetition of that one verb – perhaps the series needs a proverb about candy houses. On the whole this chapter is entertaining and amusing, and if our rational selves ponder the advisability of sleeping on cotton candy, the descriptions of Toriko and his excited friends as they tour the creation are infectious.
By this point we are halfway through the book and have still not reached the promised veggie storyline indicated on the back cover. While the volume has been fun, this lag is a bit irritating, and Toriko's fight with the president of IGO, which does lead to Vegetable Sky, feels like an unwanted delay on Toriko's epic foodie journey. It does, however, allow Shimabukuro to show off one of his chief shounen talents – the miraculous ability of men to become more muscular when their shirts are off. Much of this volume has Toriko flaunting his bulging manly muscles, and when he and “Gramps” have their showdown, we see that the old fellow's obviously kept in shape as well. This kind of over-the-top scene is reminiscent of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and achieves the same sort of “put hair on your chest” sensibility while never taking itself too seriously. It's still a roadblock on the trail to Vegetable Sky, but visually, it has its moments.
One of the highlights of this series has consistently been the strange and amazing foods that Toriko encounters. Often attributed to readers, this volume has no shortage of interesting monsters and plants, from the pudding mushrooms to the drill birds. As Toriko and Komatsu begin their climb, Komatsu's reactions to the creatures provide a nice counterpoint to Toriko's more blasé attitude. The meat-based foodstuffs are somewhat disturbingly roasted whole – at one point we see a pig-beast on a spit with a chunk missing from it's flank – but the veggies are luscious, and if the descriptions of their tastes are somewhat overblown, they still do look awfully good.
Now that Toriko has found the heavenly garden of goodies, there is a sense that the story may take a more consecutive approach in the next volume. The jumble of locations and mini-plots in this one do drag it down as a whole, although a couple of the shorter stories are quite fun. The bromance between Komatsu and Toriko is kind of charming, the food looks yummy, and the action is, if not nonstop, at least exciting. So grab your fork and knife (or fists) and prepare for another round of ridiculous antics with our muscled friend. You may never see vegetables the same way again.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B
+ Consistently fun story, vegetables and monsters look great. Komatsu and Toriko's friendship feels genuine.