Watch enough good anime and you start to ask more from it as a medium, and then the malaise sets in. If it doesn't look as good as Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, sound like Nodame Cantabile, and touch you like La Maison en Petit Cubes, then there's no point in watching it whatsoever. Sound familiar? Let me offer you a re-calibrating balm: Toriko. If you don't find this one-shot animation funny, walk away from cartoons and don't come back until you've found your sense of humor.
Toriko plays out like the bastard child of Fist of the North Star and Iron Chef. Instead of fighting his way across a war-torn landscape looking for his brother, Toriko--the eponymous hero--follows his gut to the tastiest food in the land armed only with his fists and insatiable appetite. The one episode special follows him and the skittish hotel head cook, Komatsu, in pursuit of a single ingredient: a Galara Croc. The story proceeds on a ramrod-straight course that sees the mighty gourmet-warrior overcome several minor dangers before coming face-to-face with his quarry for a climactic showdown. At no point does the meager plot take time to reflect on the nature of friendship, the sin of gluttony, or the morality of consuming endangered species of animals as delicacies. Such reflection is weak-kneed dawdling that doesn't matter to the likes of Toriko. Instead, the anime turns up the camp and barrels forward at every possible opportunity.
The whole thing works because unlike, say, MD Geist or Black Lion, Toriko remains fully aware of itself. Not in a tongue-in-cheek manner, though. The special earns its laughs by piling on increasingly 'hardcore' and macho imagery and situations, cognizant that the situation passed ridiculous somewhere during the opening credits. For an anime that starts with a man drinking "Maker's Merc" straight from the bottle, the only logical to conclusion is two brothers-in-arms scarfing croc steaks by the light of a campfire.
As straightforward as the story, the character and monster designs come from the "standard anime imagery" bag. Toriko and Tom--the boat captain who gives the two main characters a lift to Baron Island--use the same muscle-bound, triangular appearance, whereas the wet-blanket Komatsu has more rounded features. The wildlife bristles with claws, teeth, and reptilian eyes, sufficient enough to make the creatures menacing and alien, but hardly original. Nor is the motion all that impressive, as the action sequences mainly feature static images and speed lines for MAXIMUM DRAMATIC EFFECT. Which, of course, can only be achieved through flawlessly composed stills. Any "movement" would mar the perfect visage of the gourmet, poised to strike against a foe, or show weakness in the face of puny dangers. Consequently, the most striking visuals occur when the show presents Toriko's increasingly more terrible battle aura as a series of monstrous visages overlaid on his body, culminating in his epic "FORK AND KNIFE" attack (which, of course, overlays a fork over his left hand and a knife over his right).
Of the aural component, the voice acting leaves the most to be desired. Toriko's macho shouts and solemn pronouncements fit perfectly with the character, while adding little nuance or dimension. Sadly, Komatsu's portrayal also fits perfectly with his personality, but his weak-kneed whines get old quickly and become more of an annoyance than genuine comic relief by the second half of the special (like the show needs any other source of humor apart from the protagonist being awesome). In contrast the music, while not sticking to any one tradition, matches the atmosphere and content well. Sadly, the lack of a high quality, campy opener or closer to the anime means that the score evaporates from memory almost as soon as you turn off your media player.
Development is for sissies, and Toriko proves it. Of the three characters in this special, two--Tom and Toriko--have achieved such levels of masculine perfection that any change in them could only be for the worse. In fact, the work speaks almost entirely for itself on this subject. Toriko can punch a crocodile in the face. IN THE FACE. Anyone who wants more out of an anime character is taking him or herself too seriously.
Much like a shot of your favorite fire-water, Toriko will put hair on your chest and improve your mood. Relentlessly funny and more muscle-bound than any two guys at your local gym, this palette cleanser is about as subtle as a brick to the head and only about half as pretty. BUT don't let that deter you. Even if he walks in jaded and critical, a healthy fan should emerge refreshed, laughing, and ready to catch his own food with his bare hands.
The manly Toriko is an avid food lover who’s able to catch any delicious morsel with ease. Thus, when Komatsu, the head chef of Hotel Gourmet, approaches him with the job of finding a rare Galara Crocodile, Toriko springs into action! The two make their way to the Baron Islands in search of their tasty prey, but what they find there is more than they bargained for! Who will be eaten, the duo or their dinner?
These days I load up on comedy, slice-of-life, and horror shows, but I'll watch almost anything that sports a good voice cast, an interesting story, or looks particularly pretty. I tend to relate anime I review to other shows I've seen, because that's just how my mind works. Whether my warped view on a particular show totally misses the mark or you believe I've hit the nail on the head, I'd love to hear from you and welcome feedback and intelligent discussion of just how wrong I might be.