I kinda wish my life revolved around hunting for one amazing tasting thing after another. Oh wait. It does. In that sense, I feel a certain kinship for Toriko, the main protagonist in the same titled manga by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro. Toriko is a bishokuya or gourmet food provider who tracks down hard to find delicacies, be they plant or animal and regardless of the dangers involved. Sometimes he’s hired by various companies or individuals and other times, he’s just doing it for the hell of it. He’s also trying to collate data on food in general so that he can finally compile his ultimate menu. From gigantic crocodiles to forbidden fruit protected by a horde of carnivorous gorillas or poisonous puffer fish, everything is over the top and absurd.

Toriko gives the gourmet world a ridiculous spin on things. Take something familiar like puffer fish and it’s extrapolated into a kind of extreme, that also require a particular licensed skillset to prepare but catching them is like a bossfight in an rpg, only you’d ideally prefer to knock it out instead. To give the series a bit of a scale and reference, there’s also Komatsu, a chef who’s meek and timid and is perpetually shocked and amazed at the things that Toriko can do, like knock out wild animals with a single blow or his knowledge of animals and plants such as the bacon leaf. God I wish there were bacon leaf trees. Underpinning the farcity of it all though, is a foodie’s heart which references a lot of real world food related things. Take the world market, where the best exotic food is sold and bartered for. It’s a clear reference to Tsukiji fish market, which is pretty much the same thing and only something that can exist in a place where there are gourmets. Then there’s the respect for food itself. The manga takes into consideration that food isn’t forever and that it needs to be considered and respected. The first monster Toriko is sent to hunt down is a 300 year old megacroc that is threatening the existence of an entire ecosystem, justifying it’s death. The forbidden fruit that changes flavours seven times in your mouth is protected by that horde of 4 armed beast gorillas that were all relatively left unharmed and only one of the fruit was picked to allow the gorillas to continue their dependence on the fruit. It kinda acts as a trap for other animals really. But it’s this understanding of the finite nature and ephemeral quality of food that really endears me to the manga.

I’m not a big fan of the artwork and the main character’s a little one dimensional. The action is also nothing to shout about and everything’s just a little awkwardly simplistic. However, that’s also what’s interesting about it. It kinda feels like early DBZ crossed with One Piece crossed with Iron Chef. It’s got this earnest, appallingly OTT feel.

So yeah. Bacon leaves. This shit is sheer inspiration material right here.