Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Deep in the mysterious pyramid, Toriko, Komatsu, and Zebra continue their quest for Mellow Cola, said to be the ultimate soft drink. But the cola resides in a most unusual place, and all of their skills will be required not only to secure it, but also to defend it and themselves from the vicious lizard men who seem to live in the pyramid as well. Upon returning home, they learn that there may be more to these lizards than they had initially thought. What do lizards have to do with the ultimate full course meal, anyway?
Teeth. They're a useful thing to have – they help you chew your food (of tantamount importance in the world of Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro's Toriko), serve as a weapon, and help dentists make money. They can also provide some interesting opportunities for manga artists looking to add a creepiness to their character designs or just to set their monsters apart from the rest, and this is a chance Shimabukuro seizes. By volume sixteen we know that Zebra, the man with the weaponized vocal cords, has a gash in his face that exposes his molars, but that doesn't make it any less gruesome to look at, not because there's gore involved, but rather by virtue of the fact that the rest of his face and body is normal within the realm of a male Toriko character. Shimabukuro also manages to keep the shock value alive by not always showing that side of Zebra's face, so that each time he does reveal his injury, readers are taken aback anew. In a series where the plot is based around the basic formula of “catch weird thing, kill weird thing, cook and eat weird thing,” Shimabukuro needs to strive for things that still surprise us, and this fits the bill nicely. So do the unusual dentitions of two of the major monsters in this volume, with the big pink lizard man from the cover making the largest impression.
Teeth aside, this volume of the epically manly gourmet saga focuses on resolving the Mellow Cola plot. Deep in the ancient ruins, Toriko, Zebra, and Komatsu uncover various beasts of a wide variety of flavor. Toriko notices that not all monsters of the same species taste the same, but it is Komatsu who saves the culinary day when he discovers an old cookbook on a lectern. With this he is not only able to solve Toriko's question of taste, but also to provide instruction on how to procure the naturally occuring Mellow Cola. While this is not the first time Komatsu has been so useful in actually getting the food Toriko is after, it is a notable partnership between brawn and brains.
Unfortunately the method by which Toriko and Zebra are pretty cruel, solidifying this series as Manga Least Likely to be Approved by PETA. The violence required to get the cola doesn't kill, but it is very harsh and fairly excessive. Even if this series has a target audience of young boys, there are plenty of animal-loving little boys who would find this particular plot point to be too much. The absurdity of the situation works to help readers to reconcile what Toriko and Zebra are doing, but in some ways this really does cross a line.
The Mellow Cola plotline resolves a little more than halfway through the book, bringing our hungry heroes to feast at Komatsu's restaurant and to learn of their next quest, although it is unclear how much Zebra will participate in it. It seems that the lizard creature that they fought in the pyramid is part of a more complex issue than anyone had anticipated, one that may have grave consequences for a variety of worlds and people, particularly Komatsu. This is an interesting twist to lead into the next volume and looks to offer some variation from the plot cycle mentioned earlier.
A good portion of this book relies on action scenes. While the conversation between Toriko and Zebra can occasionally make them sound like video game characters, for the most part the fights are exciting. There are more bulging muscles and popping veins than anything else, and if movements are obscured by speed lines and sound effects, the adrenaline factor is very much present, keeping things moving along at a good clip. As with most Toriko volumes, this is a book to gulped down rather than savored.
Despite some uncomfortable pages spent getting the cola from its source, Toriko's sixteenth volume delivers more of the madcap, caffeinated, crazy gourmet action that the series does so well. With some good artistic flourishes and a slightly different role for Komatsu than usual, this is manly foodie fun, just as it was intended to be.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Neat dentition adds to the creepiness of the monsters (and Zebra), as fast-paced and ridiculous as ever.
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