By this point, if you’ve been following our coverage of FUNimation’s Toriko releases, you’ve no doubt given the series the five or six episodes of viewing that’s required to really get into it, as I recommended in my review of Collection One. If that’s the case, you’re no doubt curious about whether or not the search for the Century Soup begun in the previous collection is worth continuing. After all, Collection One aggravatingly concluded not with a cliffhanger, but simply smack dab in the middle of the storyline. No pomp. No circumstance. It ends without warning and not necessarily in a way that might leave you wanting more as a result. Thus, one might easily walk away from Toriko after Collection One feeling cheated rather than enticed to move forward.
And if that was precisely how you reacted to the conclusion of Collection One, buck up! I’m here to assure you that the Century Soup storyline as continued in Collection Two (which collects episodes 27-50) is well worth following through on. When the set opens, Toriko, Komatsu and their newfound companions are of course in search of Century Soup on Ice Hell. In the process, they cross paths with three members of the Gourmet Corp. who have their eyes on Century Soup for their own nefarious purposes. The series of impressive battles that follow will surely satisfy your thirst for action, and I was glad to find that all the new characters in this saga prove themselves worthy additions to the Toriko team.
Following the Century Soup saga, to have Toriko and gang simply search for another ingredient in the Human World would constitute some serious backtracking. After all, acquiring Century Soup would mark the zenith of Human World culinary achievement. So there’s really only one direction for the series to go after that if it’s to remain as exciting and action-packed as ever, and that’s out into the Gourmet World! And that’s precisely where Toriko and Komatsu head in the latter half of this collection (much later though, I should add… after a hell of a lot of training).
Recognizing the need for such forward progression shows just how intelligently the series’ source author, Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro, structured Toriko. And for all its faults (and FilmMonthly’s Ruben Rosario surely found many to highlight), Toriko is never dull. Hell, extended passages of episodes are devoted to characters tasting new and exotic foods, and then describing the taste sensations of the dish; yet they always find new and interesting ways to explain the flavor profiles. That in and of itself is an incredible feat!
What I find so much more impressive, though, is that 50 episodes in to the series, all major narrative turns are still motivated by the characters’ goals. Granted, Shimabukuro really had no choice but to start his characters training for a journey into the Gourmet World if he wanted to narrative to progress at all. However, it’s ultimately Toriko’s desire to experience the most obscure culinary delights and seek out the God ingredient, not narrative convenience, that motivates this development. As such, Toriko offers a refreshingly character-driven narrative when compared to other such shonen series (typified by Dragon Ball Z, I suppose), in which the heroes’ personal growth is most often purely reactionary as they respond to the latest, external threat by training for that fight. Thus, I find myself a wholehearted proponent of a series I once categorically refused to watch based on its premise alone. Of course, if someone had explained it to me as Dragon Ball Z meets Chopped, I may have responded differently!
FUNimation Entertainment’s DVD release of Toriko: Collection Two collects episodes 27-50, putting us a little under halfway through the existing episodes of this ongoing series. Special features on the release include episode commentaries, a video feast with the English-language cast of Toriko, textless openings and closings, and trailers.