This is the Gourmet Age, where the world’s manliest heroes quest for yet undiscovered culinary delights.
What They Say:
Welcome to the Gourmet Age, a time when the world is full of deliciously deadly ingredients that the wealthiest appetites in existence can’t wait to devour. But only a mighty masticating mercenary like Toriko can track down the rarest animals on the planet and put them on a plate! This gluttonous gourmet hunter is one of the four Legendary Kings, superhuman warriors born to battle the likes of Troll Kongs, Gararagators, and Devil Pythons! Accompanied by his loyal Battle Wolf and the promising young chef Komatsu, Toriko will circle the globe in search of the mouth-wateringly lethal ingredients that will one day make up his Full Course Menu of Life! The more ferocious the beast – the bigger the feast, but never forget the code of a true gourmet hunter: You gotta eat what you defeat!
The audio presentation here is pretty standard as we get the Japanese language track in 2.0 stereo and a 5.1 English language track. For the purpose of this review, I watched the first episode in Japanese and the rest with the English Dub. The audio mix is perfectly serviceable with no noticeable dropouts or distortions. The actual English dub does however leave something to be desired. The dub is perfectly acceptable for this type of fun-loving kids’ action show but the script reversioning is where I had some issues. I know Toriko isn’t serious business but FUNimation ramping up the level of puns and “wink wink nudge nudge’ jokes is extremely distracting and quite frankly, not funny 90% of the time. One benefit is that most of the worst violations were given to the absolute worst character ever; the anime only character of Tina. She is annoying in Japanese and even worse in English; but at least you have a reason to hate her in English. The majority of the performances are actually pretty enjoyable as the show moves along. With the cast being relative unknowns, a huge change for FUNimation who tends to rely on a standard group of voice actors, we get a dub that is fresh but still feels like a FUNi dub. Unfortunately the actors only start coming into their roles as the set reaches its conclusion. Before that point, Ian Sinclair as Toriko just sounds like he’s doing his best Chris Sabat impression and Josh Grelle as Komatsu is doing his best Sonny Strait impersonation. As the voices begin to evolve and the actors become more comfortable, everything just starts to feel more natural and deserved. Unfortunately it also has its share of downright terrible performances, Brian Mathis as Chief Mansom, paired along with pitch perfect performances like Aaron Roberts as Sunny. I look forward to how future episodes will be, but the jokes have got to go; or at least be toned down to match the Japanese language version.
The video presentation is surprisingly good for a standard definition release. Through my Blu-ray player, the 480p/i video was upscaled to a crisp 1080i video that averaged at 8-9 MBps. This provided an extremely smooth visual presentation that did not present any anomalies that I was able to catch. The interlacing video did provide some motion smoothing in some scenes that give a feeling of bad camerawork but these are the same experiences I had with the simulcast at 720p so they are nowhere close to being a “problem” and should be expected with interlaced video.
The packaging is a standard DVD case with an O-sleeve that simply copies the artwork from the DVD sleeve. There are absolutely no surprises here as the artwork shows the main character set of Toriko, Komatsu, and Terry with a couple of the main enemies in the background. The use of color and layout definitely gives the case and “blend in” feeling. There’s nothing here that jumps and demands your attention. Even the logo is very bland and just meshes with the other artwork. The two included discs are stored within the clear keep case in a perfectly standard manner. The DVD insert is double sided with the inside simply reusing the artwork from the cover on a larger scale and providing the on-disc episode listing. I’d say I’m disappointed with the package quality because of it extreme blandness, but this is a budget release where the main draw is the show itself, not to be mistaken for a collector’s edition release.
Just like the packaging, the menus for the two discs are perfectly serviceable static images that re-use the DVD artwork. The same “everything is red” color scheme from the DVD case is present which continue to make to overall presentation seem extremely lower tier. Even the musical choice running in the background does its best to not let the series stand out. Sure this is a long running shonen series that gets a lot of comparisons to One Piece in certain aspects, but that doesn’t mean you should choose the one piece of background music that is most similar to One Piece’s DVD release music. It feels really lazy and almost as if the only way to get this show to sell would be to have it be like all the rest.
The extras are very standard as the set comes with the clean versions of the opening and ending animation. There is also a pair of commentary track by the English staff for episode 1 and 9. I’m not a particular fan of the English staff commentaries (on any release) and there’s nothing really here in the way of extras to add any real ‘oomph’.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the ongoing Shonen Jump manga by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro, Toriko is a still running anime currently at 87 episodes. This first collection set by FUNimation collects the first 13 episodes and covers enough material to fully entrench the viewer into the series. Toriko takes places in a fantasy land where everything revolves around food. There a millions of different plants and animals that make up the land’s “ingredients,” which are all highly sought after by the denizens of the world. Since some of the ingredients are extremely dangerous animals/monsters that even armies cannot defeat, specialists called Gourmet Hunters are used to capture these ingredients.
The shows starts off without any hesitation as the world’s setup and the basic concepts are provided via voice-over narration. Once the narration ends, we are introduced to our heroes, the Gourmet Hunter Toriko and Chef Komatsu. As we meet Toriko, he is quietly fishing with a thick metal rod used as a fishing pole with a gigantic fly type creature as bait. While Komatsu introduces himself, Toriko catches a massive 100+ ft long fish that has crab arms. The fish then gets caught by a passing giant Hawk that’s even bigger than the fish!! Toriko then simply muscles both creatures, takes them both out, and commences to cook and eat them. This setup tells you basically everything you need to understand about this show but yet the execution of the first episode is not a true description of what the show is capable of doing.
The first disc of this set moves through three very short story arcs. The first two arcs are simple one episode excursions that have a strong “monster-of-the-week” feel to them. Toriko get recruited to hunt a special ingredient, Komatsu ends up being there with him, giant, ridiculous monster fights ensue, and a feast enjoying the bounty wraps up the episode. These episodes are quite fun in and of themselves, but the apparent pattern would have grown extremely tiresome rather quickly. The third included arc really starts to show how the series can handle itself with a little more wiggle room. This arc involves hunting the rare Puffer Whale. The Puffer Whale is a special preparation ingredient; this means that an expert must be brought in to help with the capture. This arc runs for three episodes and divides itself into perfectly portioned phases. We get an expansion on the world as we meet more Gourmet Hunters as well as another of the Four Heavenly Kings (of which Toriko is a member of), and begin to learn that even though everything in this world seems crazy super powered, what we’ve seen so far is simply child’s play for what lies out there. The basic structure of this arc is what really sets the template with its extended pacing and detailed phases that provide intrigue along with action.
Moving from this three episode arc to the next arc which consumes the remaining 8 episodes in the set (and still doesn’t resolve by episode 13), the series begins to work tirelessly on expanding its supporting cast and the possibilities of the world being created. As with almost all long-running shonen action shows, the supporting cast is what really makes the series enjoyable. Toriko has a slight exception to that rule in that Toriko himself is a terrific character that is just as interesting and exciting to watch as the supporting cast. If only Komatsu wasn’t so whiny and useless in these episodes! The only real downside to this set of episodes is the 8 episodes that begin the Jewel Meat/Regal Mammoth arc. With three incredibly efficient arcs completed within the first 5 episodes, the pacing appears to become completely uneven with this arc. The pacing actually isn’t that bad. It does flux from a nice fluid pace the builds and moves with purpose to a rocky sort of pace that feels as if bits of the story were cobbled out of the source material in an inefficient manner simply to generate ‘episodes’. What I mean by that is, where a piece of the story feels like it could smoothly flow from one scene to the next we instead get scenes that feel needlessly drawn out just so the episode can end at the transition/cliffhanger and the following episode is terribly rushed at parts so that piece can be contained within that single episode. This disruption in flow makes these episodes drag on for a bit more than they should. The weird part is that each piece of the puzzle is enjoyable, entertaining, and fun to watch. It’s just the execution that falls apart a little. The episodes here of the Jewel Meat arc follow this mixed-bag pattern up until the last two episodes in the set. With these two episodes the various threads come together in such a manner that allow much easier shifting to maintain both interest and entertainment value. Overall, this set is a great introduction to give the flavor of the show to viewers, if only it was better executed as a whole to ensure viewers will stick around without the help of a cliffhanger ending.
When I watched these episodes during their initial simulcast I was absolutely in love with every single one of them. The manga was also just coming out here in the States so I was reading along while watching with a slight lead on the anime. The “superior in every way” manga experience seems to have colored my initial impression of these episodes as this re-watch in marathon form really started to show some of the issues the show had at the beginning. There’s nothing wrong with the story itself and the characters are absolutely terrific. Hell, this show is so much fun it will remain on my permanent “re-watch list”! But there are some execution problems with the episodes in the first set; some that may deter others from fully enjoying the series. Thankfully the issues are relatively minor and have no chance of detracting from the incredibly fun world and hilarious/ridiculous characters that are introduced. I look forward to Part 2 with extreme fervor because that’s where I remember the simulcast becoming a can’t miss show and I’m extremely interested to see how they hold up for me; considering how these first episodes turned out. As this is basically a budget release with a low barrier of entry, I see absolutely no reason why people should not pick up this set. There’s nothing special about the set itself except that it provides a cheap way of starting to collect the show. With the series still running in Japan, the eventual investment is more tolerable with this type of budget release and well worth checking out for the series itself.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary for Episodes 1 & 9, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: C
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: C
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: January 22nd, 2013
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony BRAVIA KDL55EX720 55-Inch 1080p 3D LED HDTV, Sony BDP-S580 Blu-Ray Player via HDMI cable set to Auto.