The Iron Chefs are known for their masterful cooking of a variety of special ingredients. Sometimes, Chairman Kaga tosses the everyday at them, such as almonds, Kit Kat bars, or watermelon. Most of the more-interesting battles consist of unique items such as Swiss chard, gooseberries, and duck tongue.
In the Gourmet Age, they’d have such delicacies as gararagator, almond cabbage, five-tailed eagles, and more oddities. Gourmet Hunters, such as Toriko, track down these delicacies, traditionally over-sized and extra dangerous. It takes a certain set of skills to acquire them, and with Toriko’s special attacks of “Fork” and “Knife”, he can easily fell beasts of Capture Level 8.
This all sounds Greek, doesn’t it? More accurately, it’s Japanese.
Toriko is a story that premiered in 2008 in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump, an incredibly influential comic book anthology published in Japan. It’s the home of such internationally-known series as Dragonball, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Bleach, currently airing weekly on Adult Swim’s Toonami. If an American kid goes to the comic book store every Wednesday and walks home with a stack of Marvel and DC comic books, a Japanese kid (or adult that grew up with the title) comes home with Weekly Shonen Jump.
In America, a monthly equivalent of the title ran for the better part of a decade in print as Shonen Jump, and earlier this year, the magazine transitioned to an online publication, Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha.
Toriko can be found in this Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, and due to the success of the comic book (or “manga”, as is the Japanese word), an animated series is currently being produced. While it has not been dubbed into English, FUNimation has acquired the series and has a subtitled version streaming on Hulu.
In Toriko’s self-titled world, the culture is obsessed with quality food. Thankfully, the world is suited for the culinary: springs shoot forth not water but soft drinks, juices, and the like, and impossibly large animals with the most savory of meats roam the countryside. It takes a special class of Gourmet Hunter to take down some of these future foodstuffs; as all the animals are rated with a “Capture Level” that increases with difficulty, it’s best to leave them to the masters. A Capture Level 1 beast might take ten hunters, Capture Level 5 might require a tank, and so forth.
Tasked in acquiring a food for a very special meal, top chef Komatsu (from Hotel Gourmet, part of the International Gourmet Organization) hires Toriko to track down a gararagator; this immense beast, effectively a mutated alligator, is only spoken of in rumors and myths.
When found, it’s measured as a Capture Level of 8.
It is also easily defeated by Toriko.
Toriko, an incredibly world-renown hunter, is actually one of the Four Heavenly Kings, a mysterious (as of the first episode, at least) group of powerful beings. In his fight with the gararagator, he uses a special combo attack, “Knife and Fork”, in which his hands effectively become a knife and fork, stabbing and slicing (the essence, if not the flesh) of the beast.
The pair make quick work of the gararagator, with the fight lasting only a few minutes; the adventure to the elusive beasts’ hide out forming fine time for Toriko and Komatsu to educate viewers about the world. The pair show off how they’ll work well together in the final minutes; with the beast being fine eaten as is by Toriko, Komatsu cooks it on a hot stone to sear in the juices.
The show seems to take much of it’s inspiration from Dragonball Z; it’s set in a world close enough to Earth that the viewer can relate, but fantastical enough that they can get away with dinosaur-sized alligators amongst other things. It’d be boring if the hero just had a gun to shoot with (although there is precedence set up in the world for such), so using over-the-top martial arts is more entertaining. Toriko himself seems to echo the hero of Dragonball Z, Goku, in his predominately-orange attire, casual and nice attitude, and his gluttonous nature. He’s a main character that you’re supposed to like. Komatsu plays the straight man/sounding board for the lead, and while traditionally falling into the shy support character role, it’s one that’s needed to balance out Toriko himself.
What’s nice is that the first episode seems to set up the plot of the series succinctly. We can tell that Toriko and Komatsu will be tracking down ingredients. We know Toriko’s motivation (to create the ultimate full course menu).
We even can guess some of the standard lines and happenings in each episode; Toriko prepares for a fight as he would for a meal, yelling “Itadakimasu!”, has a slogan for justifying his large amount of food eaten (“never let food go to waste!”), and as with the genre, will likely acquire new friends and skills as he tracks down more monsters.
It’s entertaining, it’s funny, and food lovers will have a good laugh at the meals, especially when giant crayfish cod, snake frogs, and 20-fold rice balls are all the norm in this world.
Definitely check it out (since it’s free on Hulu), but you may want to bring some snacks with you: you will definitely be hungry by the end.