If you’ve already worked your way through Toriko: Part Three, you know that Toriko’s chef pal Komatsu has at last succeeded in recreating Century Soup, and decades earlier than anyone had anticipated! Given that Century Soup represented perhaps the single rarest dish found in the Human World– one that only ever manifested naturally in the middle of a frozen wasteland– to have had the characters devise a recipe for the dish so soon suggests that proceedings might quickly turn stale. After all, to search for another ingredient in the Human World after such a tremendous achievement would indeed suggest significant backtracking. That means there’s only one direction for the series to go 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 are headed (much later though… after a hell of a lot of training).
Thus recognizing and factoring in the need for such forward progression shows just how intelligently the series’ source manga 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 tastes. That in and of itself is an incredible feat! What’s more, even 50 episodes in to the series, all major narrative turns are motivated by the characters’ goals. Even though Shimabukuro really had no choice but to start his characters training for a journey into the Gourmet World, it’s 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 actioners (typified by Dragon Ball Z, I suppose), in which the heroes’ growth is most often purely reactionary, responding only to the latest, external threat.
FUNimation Entertainment’s DVD release of Toriko: Part Four collects episodes 39-50, putting us a little under halfway through the existing episodes of this ongoing anime. Special features on the release include episode commentaries, a video feast with the English-language cast of Toriko, textless openings and closings, and trailers. On the version I have on hand, though, I should note that there was a subtitle authoring error on episode 47 in which translations of onscreen Japanese text appear even though there is in fact no writing present in the scene whatsoever.