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, Devil Pythons, and the ferocious Regal Mammoth! 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!
But there’s more than just tasty beasts on the prowl. Toriko faces stiff competition in the form of a GT Robot. This seemingly-indestructible mechanized menace is controlled by an unseen evil, and it wants all the delectable delicacies for itself. To save his friends and quench his heroic appetite, Toriko must level up his punching power and turn the bad guy into a bucket of bolts!
Contains episodes 1-26.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language in stereo encoded at 192kbps as well as the new English language track in 5.1, encoded at 448kbps. The series is one that works a decent blend of action and dialogue, though it tries to do more dialogue since the action budget is high, but the dialogue track for both languages works each aspect well. There’s a lot of fun in the way the cast has to talk so admiringly about the food in both languages and the kind of general admiration and enjoyment of the work. The action side plays in a familiar way where it goes for the loud and simple with some basic kind of directionality at times that works well but doesn’t really stand out all that much. It’s a kind of serviceable action mix that does things right but it won’t stand out in a way that really makes it memorable. Both mixes work well overall and it serves the material right and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This release has the first twenty-six episodes of the series using the same discs as the original half season sets, so it’s spread out across four discs in a seven/six and seven/dix format. Animated by Toei Animation, the show captures the look and feel of the manga pretty well while upping the color quality and depth in obvious ways. The struggle with a show like this isn’t what the animation in general looks like or the smoothness of the animation either. It’s in trying to make the food itself look succulent enough to make you want to eat it. And for the most part, it does accomplish it here as the colors are strong, there’s some really appealing aspects to the vibrancy where appropriate and it can get a little mouthwatering at times. Most of the show is fairly standard stuff and you can make the Dragon Ball Z allusions easily enough, but it has its own style and the transfer captures it well with little in the way of problems outside of some occasionally noisier than normal backgrounds and a touch of line noise in some busier sequences.
The packaging for this release is pretty neat even if simple as we get a slipcover over a standard sized clear keepcase that holds all four discs across a couple of hinges. The case artwork in the front is really, really simple as we get Toriko with his mouth wide open as he wears what looks like a wifebeater as he’s set against a bland brown background. What makes this work is that the die-cut slipcover has just his upper half visible as the bottom half of the slipcover shows off a whole lot of succulent food. The combination of the two works really well to make for an eye-catching and memorable cover. The back cover of the slipcover and case are the same as it extends the brown background. It’s here that we get a couple of good full color shots from the show and a clean and accessible summary of the premise. The extras are clearly listed as is the collection number and the number of episodes. Technical information is a bit small as usual when it comes to DVD packaging from FUNimation though making it hard to see the audio and subtitle selections. Though there are no inserts with the release, the reverse side breaks down the episodes by number and title with each disc.
The menu design for this release is definitely simple and easy to build off of and work through over the course of its run. Using the same reddish brown as the cover with a bit more brightness and light applied to it here, we get the logo through the middle and off center lightly which has the navigation below it that’s familiar to most FUNimation releases. The right side is given over to character artwork that changes from disc to disc as more characters are introduced and they look good but it all falls under that kind of simple but solid approach rather than something really involved. Everything is quick and easy to access and setup is a breeze.
The extras for this release certainly favor the English language fans as we get multiple episode commentaries across all four discs that lets the cast and crew talk about the experience. These are the same ones as on the original releases so they’re welcome pieces here. We also get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences relevant to these episodes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro that runs in Weekly Shonen Jump, Toriko is an anime series produced by Toei Animation that was looking for a solid One Piece companion. Prior to its launch in 2011, there were a couple of specials that paired the two shows up together with fun crossovers that worked well to gauge interest. In the spring of 2011, the full Toriko TV series hit the airwaves and got a simulcast pickup here by FUNimation in hopes of catching the next quirky thing. While it didn’t have that overall longevity, the series ran for 147 episodes, which FUNimation has licensed fifty episodes of that have been dubbed and put out in 13 episode season form. This collection brings those first two sets together into a nice twenty-six epsiode show that lays out what it’s all about.
And it’s quite the series.
The world of Toriko is an interesting alternate world where the makeup of it is worthy of its own examination. Five hundred years prior to the start of the series, there was a hundred year long war that put the world to ruin and caused immense hardship and pain. What brought it to an end was a ruler who discovered a food that was so incredibly delicious that it helped to ease all the frustrations people had and brought about a kind of understanding and harmony through the process of sharing meals. That began the Gourmet Age, where people scoured the world for all sorts of unique foods, spices and more to make unique and engaging dishes that would delight. A kind of common drive towards the awesomeness of being delicious. That brought about the job of Gourment Hunters that go out for ingredients and top class chefs became hugely important to state affairs as treaties and other works are signed over the quality of the food that member nations in the International Gourmet Organization provide.
While there’s a good human population here, mankind exists on only about thirty percent of the world. The rest of the world is made up of the Gourmet World, which has several very large biotopes and gardens where fascinating worlds exist within them. The Gourmet Hunters are the ones that go out there to “do battle” with some incredibly varied, powerful and sometimes scary creatures that exist that provide the meats, spices and more. It’s a hugely varied world, one with bizarre creatures and hilarious plants and the like. Giant corn stalks are rare things called BB Corn that requires intense heat to achieve its succulent tastes. A giant Regal Mammoth creature is something that you can walk through its innards like another world in order to find the Jewel Meat that is incredibly rare. And yes, you have trees and bushes that grow all sorts of candies. The variety is endless and the combinations thereof makes it even more so. You have to suspend a huge amount of disbelief to accept this world, but when you do you find yourself simply enjoying the creativity and simplicity of it. It has its own logic and it really does work.
It’s into this world that we meet Toriko, one of the Four Heavenly Kings of Gourmet Hunters that handles some of the most intense of creatures out there in order to gain their delights. Toriko’s design is one that conjures up Goku from Dragon Ball Z with his frame, his hair and the orange outfit he wears. And there are a few similarities in a way between them, though the show doesn’t play to the same narrative with overextended fights. Toriko is definitely one with nature in a lot of ways and has a great command of knowledge with so many species, the interactions of the ingredients and a real love of what it means to be a Gourmet Hunter with its history, which comes into play from time to time. He’s not a rich or deep character in some senses, but he’s the type that’s fun to watch because he’s confident in himself and is looking for the thrill of adventure and discovery rather than being meek, hiding from what he is or other usual tropes.
Naturally, we do get some of that from other characters as the adventures get undeway and we see a changeable cast over the twenty-six episodes here. The other main character is that of Komatsu, a top chef at a five star restaurant that’s still learning and growing in his skill set. He’s young and unsure of himself but realizes that he has to go into the Gourmet World to understand his ingredients by understanding their origins, which is a pretty good concept to work with. Komatsu can be a bit annoying at times, but he’s the mild comic relief, the semi-bumbler with great skills that opens up other avenues. Thankfully, he’s really the only one like this. Beyond him, there’s a supporting character of Tina, a reporter looking for Gourmet scoops and she adds some commentary to what goes on from time to time to fill in the blanks. After that, it’s largely powerful people of a similar level to Toriko but with very different powers. Coco has spent years imbibing all sorts of poisons in order to master and control them. Sunny is a master hunter as well who has thousands of nearly invisible feelers he uses to interact with plants and animals as well. The combination of them all at times makes for an impressive bunch.
The structure of Toriko in terms of its adventures works well, though I found it dragged some when I watched the simulcast. With this set, we get the obvious introductory adventures that showcase how the world works, introduces us to our characters and expands our knowledge of it. Hunting for rare beasts and ingredients works well and the achievement and failures along the way makes it clear how the model works. The show goes into slightly longer pieces from time to time, but nothing that really stands out as obnoxious or with fights that go on too long. The exploration of the world is the main thing here with a lot of it as we see some of the secret facilities that IGO runs where the animals are watched and understood and how some are saved. There’s conflicting about this since it’s a large zoo in a sense, but more so because we see how they also get them to fight for the enjoyment of top world officials that are members of the IGO. The betting helps to fund the IGO and its operations in a big way so it has an upside, but it feels like it would go against what a lot of the Gourmet Hunters stand for.
As all this stories and adventures go on, we also get another story that’s building across it. This comes in the form of a mysterious creature that shows up early and then starts appearing in different forms more as it goes on. These things turn out to be something called GT Robots, robots that can be controlled from afar but utilize the abilities of the one controlling it. They’re working for the Gourmet Corporation that has its own goals, something along the lines of a new age coming in the Gourmet Age, and are seeking the ingredients they need for their boss, including the long sought after GOD ingredient that goes back to the hundred year war and what resolved it. There’s several fights across it and some mysteries along the way, but it’s not resolved in this set by a long shot. It’s the kind of larger storyline to tie things together from time to time while allowing the smaller stories to dominate the foregruond for the most part.
While I had watched a lot of this in simulcast form, I had dropped the series early on in its overall run because it is one that I think works better in marathon form. And that really feels right when I revisited it in this set, having passed over the half season sets that came before. There’s a smoothness and easy to what it does here as we get the introductions to the world, the characters, the larger storyline and all the trappings in between to realize it all. It’s a very fun show in its own way, one that doesn’t quite figure in to the way a lot of anime works these days, especially the super popular ones. It has a sense of adventure and discovery that gives it its own life and these episodes really captures that well. Toriko isn’t a show that changes the world, Toriko is a show that makes you enjoy and have fun with the world. There’s a lot to like here and a lot of material for a very low price that makes it worth trying out and discovering what makes it so much fun.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentary (1, 9, 15, 20, 26), Textless Opening Songs, Textless Closing Songs
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August 26th, 2014
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.