(Toriko is simulcast on Funimation and Hulu.com.)
It is the Gourmet Age of humankind, a period in time where men and women have perfected the art and comprehension of cooking. In this unnamed land, there are creatures and plants that exist on a whole new level, but the dangers to obtain such ambrosia is real. It is in this age where Gourmet Hunters roam the succulent lands, finding the choicest ingredients that exist in nature in order to create the ultimate full-course menu.
However, not all are as brave as the Gourmet Hunters. Komatsu, a skinny cook from the International Gourmet Organization, would normally get eaten alive, but he is able to locate Toriko, one of the greatest of the Gourmet Hunters. The two start their adventures together in the Baron Archipelago by looking for an ingredient on Komatsu's list, the legendary Gararagator. During the trip, we get the full force of Toriko's power, as he's able to fell immense fish, birds, and reptiles without a problem, but can he overcome a Gararagator twice its average size?
While Toriko does have some imagination put to it and borrows some good concepts from its Shônen Jump brethren (check out the DBZ-like opening animation where Toriko runs in the foreground while a gargantuan beast strolls in the background), I can't help but feel guilty about the subject matter. Zac Bertschy from ANN pretty much hit my opinion in his review, noting that "if you're an animal lover, or a conservationist, or let's say a yearly donor to your local zoo, the entire idea behind this show might rub you the wrong way". I just have this sinking feeling that we're watching a version of Pokemon where Ash captures a critter in a Pokeball, only to roast it on a spit with herb butter.
Pal, you're talking to the big men on the block, Toei Animation. Already known for being THE authority on animation (Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, One Piece, Digimon), Toei pretty much capsizes the competition when it comes to scale. There are plenty of expansive horizons on display here, and the colors are vibrant even in the dark. Considering that Fuji TV and the Yomiuri corporations are helping this project financially, it's no surprise that you'd get some incredible vistas.
While Toriko himself appears something like your strong-man prototype, the shock of his orange suit bringing images of Goku to mind, the creativity of the various creatures makes for fantastic new branches in the animal and plant kingdoms. Fish with crustaceous claws, alligators with eight legs, dragon-tailed birds—I'm not sure what clicked in the mind of the manga's creator Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro, but he's certainly being generous with genetics.
The music is produced by Hiromi Mizutani (Hell Girl, Before Green Gables), and we're getting some pretty big orchestral composition. It would have to match the size of the show's range, so there are some really good moments of music. The actors provide some full vocal ranges as well, the studio wise to reunite Ryôtarô Okiayu (Toriko; Scar, Fullmetal Alchemist) and Romi Park (Komatsu; Edward, Fullmetal Alchemist).
Most of all, the show's opening theme "Guts Guts!!" is sung by Akira Kushida, veteran when it comes to high-impact themes (Kinnikuman, various tokusatsu shows). If this music doesn't make you want to eat a burger in one bite, nothing will.
Toei and Shueisha uncorked the money keg for this show, marketing it heavily towards the younger audiences. The first episode was actually a crossover episode with One Piece where Toriko and Luffy pretty much ate everything in sight, but it did the job to launch the series into orbit before it even ran its first TV episode. While first-time director Akifumi Zako may be untested, he's got a capable character designer in Hisashi Kagawa. Let's also not forget that Toriko is running in the spot vacated by Dragon Ball Z Kai, a coveted spot to say the least.
Toriko is pretty much the ultimate Shônen Jump wet dream. If you were to combine the muscled one-on-one battles from Dragon Ball, the immense collectibility of critters from Yu-Gi-Oh!, and the adventure (and belly-busting gluttony) of One Piece, you'd get everything there is to Toriko. That's not to say that the show is unoriginal from its combination, as the show has gone for broke by being big—big music, big animation, big characters, and big sponsors. We're seeing the Big Gulp of anime.
Staying on the theme, Toriko has some "big" shoes to fill. If it stays disconnected from reality as the flower child of Iron Chef and Crocodile Dundee, it should do extremely well in the younger audience. However, I do wonder how other cultures and environmentalists will view Toriko in the long run, even if it is fiction.