Monday, March 14, 2011

Toriko Volume 4

By Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.

When we last saw Toriko, he was dealing with both a mother and baby Battle Wolf, and a vicious killer robot. Sadly, the robot has just killed the mother wolf, leaving Toriko as angry as we've ever seen him. Because this is Jump, the motivations are spelled out so they're easy for all to understand - Toriko will never get angry at an animal, as they act on their basic instincts, even the worst killers. But humans? Man, they can be nasty and horrible. And that gets Toriko mad. So we get a big ol' battle between our hero and the supposedly invincible robot, which ends the way you'd expect a Jump battle to end.

The main thrust of this volume is the arrival of Sunny, who is another Japanese manga cliche, the gorgeous young man who only likes beautiful things. We've seen this effeminate type with Yumichika in Bleach as well. Even worse, his powers involve hair sensors that can instantly tell him everything about the others around him, and Toriko describes it as akin to being 'licked', complete with art demonstrating how Toriko views this. This sort of thing is not helping Jump's image of catering more towards fujoshi now, but is still kind of amusing. More to the point, Sunny is one of the Four Kings, an equal to Toriko, and seriously badass... when he can be bothered, of course, as he doesn't want to go after things that aren't beautiful, or can't be made that way.

And I continue to be fascinated with Komatsu, the comic sidekick character. Unlike a number of these types in Jump stories, Komatsu is not trying to get as strong as the hero, or even strong in general. Komatsu knows his limits, and is content to simply stand back and let others take on the hideously dangerous things. And of course, his talents as a chef are superb, causing even Sunny (who had ignored him previously as Komatsu is not 'beautiful') to sit up and take notice. I particularly liked Komatsu noting that he gets even happier when people praise his knife rather than himself, something that apparently comes up a lot in his character. In terms of using the non-powerful character, Shimabukuro continues to do a great job.

If there's a fault in the manga, it's that I continue to not care about any main overarching plot. We meet some bad guys here, but they're typical 'mid-level boss' bad guys, with their leader maybe being a cut above. The fact that we get a 'capture level' panel next to each animal once it appears reminds you that this is very much a fighting manga meant to resemble a fighting game, with Toriko and company moving on to take on stronger and stronger opponents, no doubt while finding out about the conspiracy that haunts their world. It's nothing you have not read in eighty other Jump mangas. But I'm not really sure that matters. Toriko is big dumb goofy fun, and you read it to see the heroes grin while punching things. It doesn't have much of a goal beyond entertaining, and it succeeds in that regard.

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