The Toriko Movies Ranked
The Toriko manga series enjoyed a level of success in Japan that, for a time, rivaled the popularity of mainstays like Dragon Ball Z and One Piece. Running from 2008 to 2016 and produced by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro, the shōnen story of the titular Gourmet Hunter and his chef sidekick never really hit a proportional audience here in America. That goes doubly for the series’ anime adaptation of the same name (2011–2014), which ran continuously for almost three years in 147 episodes and yet never reached the midpoint of the manga storyline before it was canceled. No word of TORIKO’s return has seemed to surface in the nearly nine years since the TV show’s end, in spite of initial efforts to bring him into Western attention with crossover episodes with the aforementioned DRAGON BALL Z (1989–1996) and ONE PIECE (1999-present) and video games like J-STARS VICTORY VS (2014, a Shōnen Jump crossover fighting game).
During its run, the TORIKO anime was criticized somewhat for its perceived dilution of the power of the source material, making things more family friendly and never culminating the manga’s strongest moments. For my part, as someone who hasn’t read much of the manga, I enjoyed the TORIKO TV series, even if its cliffhanger ending was unsatisfying. But there’s a bit more to the Toriko adaptation universe: four films were released before and during the anime’s run. Ranked here are just three, as TORIKO: CAPTURE THE BARBARIAN IVY! (2010), shown at the annual Jump Super Anime Tour, is an apparently lost work, or at least one that can’t be tracked down anywhere on the web.
#3 — TORIKO: JUMP SUPER ANIME TOUR 2009 SPECIAL (2009)
D: Mitsuru Obunai
The first Toriko movie was a short shown at the 2009 Jump Super Anime Tour and subsequently shared to Shōnen Jump’s site. TORIKO: JUMP SUPER ANIME TOUR 2009 SPECIAL was made only one year after the manga series’ beginning, and possibly for that reason, it more closely follows the tone of the source material than the anime to follow. Established here is the world of Toriko, which is not unlike DBZ or One Piece in its cultivation of an approximation of our reality full of superpowered beings and large, strange creatures. In Toriko’s case, however, those creatures and many other objects are based in the culinary realm, as the franchise’s Earth-like planet is in the Gourmet Age. At this time, the world is full of Gourmet Hunters like the titular character and high-class chefs like his sidekick Komatsu (who is not a buff being fueled by “Gourmet Cells” like Toriko and many other ridiculous superhumans). The whole world of Toriko is centered on the cultivation and cooking of ingredients, which often come in the form of portmanteau creatures like a “chihuahuaffle,” as just one example; they’re often based in puns. In any event, this whole dynamic is not totally explored in TORIKO 2009 SPECIAL. Instead, it adapts the earliest moments of the series (manga and anime), with Komatsu seeking out Toriko and their hunting of the Galala Gator. The “Capture Levels” of beasts are explored, which of course balloon into ridiculous difficulty and powers later in the series. But here, things are just “manageably” more powerful than an average group of humans. Komatsu’s “guy in distress” role is established right away, although Toriko’s care for his future partner is somewhat dismissive. This provides a more “mature” sensibility than the overall positive vibe of the anime, which is also helped along by more extended sequences of alcohol-imbibing and cigarette-smoking. Finally, the short film also shines with a gauzy filter and fluid animation that impart a fidelity that would not be reached by the churned-out TV series. TORIKO 2009 SPECIAL essentially operates as an extended episode of the show to come (indeed, the story was once again adapted for it a couple of years later), but its self-contained arc, impressive animation, and place in the history of the franchise make it worth watching for anyone familiar with or interested in Toriko.
#2 — TORIKO 3D MOVIE: KAIMAKU! GOURMET ADVENTURE!! (2011)
D: Junji Shimizu
Released after the missing BARBARIAN IVY! film, which clocked in at the same 40 minutes, TORIKO 3D MOVIE: KAIMAKU! GOURMET ADVENTURE!! was released to theaters with ONE PIECE 3D: STRAW HAT CHASE (2011) as a double feature just a few weeks before the TORIKO anime began. This was fitting, as the very first episode of TORIKO was actually an out-of-canon crossover with ONE PIECE, but in spite of its name, the Toriko movie was not made in 3D CG style like STRAW HAT CHASE. Toei, which produced the anime in the way that attracted criticism as I’ve described above, clearly went all out in trying to make TORIKO a success. In any event, this short feature is actually a prequel of sorts to TORIKO 2009 SPECIAL and the beginning of the TV series. It ends with Toriko and Komatsu’s first meeting, setting up the stories to come. Although it was made at a “filmic level” in terms of its length and story, that TV connection extends to the visual approach. TORIKO 3D MOVIE is not as beautifully animated as TORIKO 2009 SPECIAL, but its scope (which sees Toriko helping a boy and his village deal with a rampaging monster) is undeniably bigger. The arc of Peck’s (that’s the boy) self-confidence and abilities is paired with a more cold and distant Toriko than is seen for much of the series. It’s slightly off-putting, but also compelling within the realm of a standalone movie. Ultimately, in spite of its generally entertaining action and dabbling in a unique world, TORIKO 3D MOVIE still doesn’t totally deliver on the potential of the series’ wild locales, creatures, and powers, remaining rooted in a relatively “grounded” approach considering the amping up to come.
#1 — TORIKO THE MOVIE: SECRET RECIPE OF GOURMET GOD! (2013)
D: Akifumi Zako
The only one of the Toriko films to be traditionally feature-length and released during the anime’s run (about eight months before its end), TORIKO THE MOVIE: SECRET RECIPE OF GOURMET GOD! also more obviously fits into the canon of the series. It depicts the epic scale of Toriko’s world; I mean literally, as the planet the franchise features appears to be humongous, matching its giant creatures. TORIKO THE MOVIE also brings into the story Toriko’s fellow “Heavenly Kings,” Gourmet Hunters who he grew up with and have their own wild powers. But this movie assumes you have all this knowledge about TORIKO unlike its predecessors, which is fair since it more directly exists in the anime universe. Even with that information and the stakes and investment that come with it, however, something about TORIKO THE MOVIE feels somewhat lacking. Perhaps because my expectations were higher for a longer movie and one that has ties to the series, rather than the almost standalone plots of the preceding shorts, I found the story’s resolution to be missing compelling importance and consequences. But that’s often a trait of anime films spun out from a series. They’re usually intended as extended filler stories that, sure, hit some “big screen” visuals, energy, and screenwriting structures. And I’m actually a defender of the (right) filler episodes and arcs of anime, so enjoyment of this story was clearly not totally lost on me. Some of its integration of 3D CG animation is just ugly to look at, but there’s no denying the extended, action-packed scale of TORIKO THE MOVIE makes it the best of the franchise’s films and a worthy stop in the process of watching the anime series.