An average Shonen series.....and there's nothing wrong with that
Toriko is an interesting Shonen series. While most of them have a theme that can be seen as exciting or interesting, like ninjas or pirates or assassinations, this one is focused purely on food. And it does a good job making food a very serious subject, especially with how it makes it clear that food is worth more then the biggest and best treasures of the world. In terms of characters, Toriko is pretty much like some of the more popular Shonen heroes. Crazy hairstyle, signature technique, hatred for mistreating ones allies, and a BIG appetite. But he's still interesting in terms of his fighting style and the jokes that come from his massive appetite. The other main characters are also tons of fun to watch and read about, be it because of their designs, personalities, powers, or all of the above. The abilities are also something to note, as they are some of the most unique powers I have seen in any manga or anime I have seen thus far. Toriko rivals One Piece for the craziest, yet most badass superpowers a character can have. Storywise, the entire series is about getting delicious food. That the core of it all. Of course there are multiple twists and turns here and there so as to not have the reader be bored of reading what amounts to "Kill this and eat it" or "Pluck this fruit or vegetable and eat it". But even if it's just that, the author does a great job describing the foods that Toriko and the rest of the cast captures. He goes into immense detail, describing everything about the food, such as color, texture, smell, and of course, taste. This series is also very smart. It may sometimes seem like the author is throwing random science jargon in the series, with terms like polysaccharide and amino acids being used, but if you take some time to research it, some of the stuff included is surprisingly intelligent. All together, Toriko is one big food pornfest. But it's an entertaining one. It's certainly not the most popular manga as of right now, and in fact it's fairly average, not offering too many new concepts and sticking to the basics. But to be honest, the basics of Shonen are everything we love in our cheesy animes and mangas. If you're looking for something familiar, but still want something fresh, Toriko might just be the cream of the crop. And so we give thanks for this series' great bounty. Itadakimasu!
Four thumbs up in my opinion. At first glance Toriko is an homage to old-school shonen: Crazy Awesome fighters, techniques, and fights; winning with Heart (or Stomach) as much as with fists; super healing; minimal girls & romance; World of Badass; and absurd serial escalation. Then around the time of the Eco Nori I went back and reread a lot of it, and had my epiphany. Toriko is a parody. It is an extraordinarily high-quality parody with unique characters, wonderful world-building, and an impressive plot, but it is also an unbelievable parody that verges on Troll. Firstly, it is a thorough parody of the old-school shonen manga as much as it is an homage. Serial escalation while they only run into stronger people enough to be reminded how far they have to go, (The Battle Wolf is over 6,000!) check. Unique fighting styles and fighters to the point of ridiculous specialization, (Grinpatch's straw) check. Lack of Romance (Toriko and Rin) is go. Importance of Heart (ingredients choose who cooks/eats them, even living animals that should not want to die) shows up often enough too. Next, overcommercialization. Goumet taxis, Gourmet barbers, Gourmet soothsayers, and IGO's influence over everything in the world. Compare it to Scooby-Doo lunch boxes, Ronald mcDonald actions figures, and oil's reach into government. Get the joke yet? Lastly, it parodies and comments on human vice and real world issues through the "Gourmet" lens: Gourmet Casino: gambling& greed; drug cartels; slavery; and tyrannical warlords in undeveloped areas. Pit fights in the IGO 1st Garden: even good governments will make moral compromises to work on a bigger picture. Four Beasts: disasters/uprisings/threats are not best resolved through overwhelming military violence, but through people willing lay their lives and beliefs on the line. Midora: poverty and desperation creates many of our world's monsters, and they can be defeated by defeating those issues. Ichiryuu: true strength is found not in fighting, but in faith (in his kids), hope (for the world/humanity), and love (for everyone, even those fallen into darkness). Toriko is overall very idealistic on the scale, showing that these problems can be solved if people are willing to care and to try. The imagination, awesome, and comedy are just bonuses.
I don't know what to make of Toriko.
On the one hand it is an enjoyable, exciting, and imaginative romp. On the other hand it turns hedonistic cannibalistic psychopaths, thrill-killing bandits, and overall amoral Social Darwinism into a glorified ideal, and is crafted by a jailed child prostitution user. So, although the manga is perfectly enjoyable taken on the anime's "eat your vegetables" song surface level, underneath that surface it is rather unlikeable.
Great Manga, Distilled Anime Adaptation
Toriko is a great manga which harkens back to old Shonen series. It's a testosterone filled adventure that can get people who like that sort of thing pumped up. The anime adaptation of it however is... eh. It's not bad as it still provides a great world. It's just not as good as it could be. Distilled is probably the best word to describe it I get. One of my gripes with the anime version, is the amount of censorship of violence it does. I get that censorship is supposed to be there otherwise it wouldn't be shown in the air. However, to censor things to the extent that practically almost all instances of blood are non-existent. It kinda makes things goofy, like this show is just a kid version of Jo Jo's Bizzare Adventure or something. This gets especially jarring during Knight Of Cerberus scenarios like Toriko vs. Tommyrod or Chiyo's introduction. The seriousness of these are completely downplayed in the anime due to the obvious censorship. This censorship is even more jarring in the crossovers with One Piece, that are kinda losing their initial appeal due to repetition. One Piece may not be as over violent like Toriko is in the manga, and it's anime adaptation has it's share amount of censors, however at least it is willing to get crap over the radar with what violence it can show. Seeing these two series side by side with the knowledge of how they are censored individually kinda ruins the crossover abit. The only other gripe I have with the anime version would obviously be Tina. Apart from what has been constantly been said about her, my gripe with her is that she feels like a needlessly weak female character whose job feels not as big as the others. Her weakness makes all the so called super dangerous areas she went to in the first arcs seem tame. Komatsu and even Zonge already fulfill the role of weak character that could survive these place if aided or given the right circumstances. Tina waltzing around almost unaided makes the danger less serious. Her role as a female character feels really demeaning when you've got female powerhouses like Setsuna around. Her job is really weak as all she does is mostly exposition, and she doesn't seem to be like a real-life food reporter like Guy Fieri for example. She's just looks like a pair of boobs added for the sake of boobs.
A Confusing Mess
I've checked the scanlations and fansubs for this series. Frankly, the producers must have been on drugs, in my opinion. Apart from the main duo of Toriko and the short guy (Komatsu), I feel like I can't tell who gets involved in what, let alone whose side they're on. Fans of this series might find it enjoyable but I found it too deranged and random for words. Personally, trying to understand what's going on in this series is an excercise in futility.