Toriko 396 (Final Chapter)

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Hey, so this is the last chapter of Toriko everybody. If there’s some kind of bonus-thing where Shimabukuro releases extra chapters later, we’ll try to do those as well. Nothing like that’s announced so far though. He’s doing a one-shot set to come out in April 2017 and the last 2 volumes will come out on December 2nd and December 31st, that’s all the ads said. I wrote up a long essay at the end of this post about what t he series means to me and my overall thoughts and history with it. It’s pretty long, and I hope at least a few people bother to read it once you’ve read the chapter. I’ll stick the links up here first. Enjoy, everybody. It’s been a wild ride.

Toriko 396
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My History with Toriko by Kewl0210

So, for those that aren’t aware, I’ve translated the entire series of Toriko. Every single chapter from 1 to 396. I’ve done them one a week almost every week (Except the occasional late chapter or break) for over 8 years now. The first chapter I translated was chapter 18 in September of 2008. I actually had done some of chapter 17, then chapter 18 came out and I saw it was really low on text, so I stopped 17 and did that one first. But since then I went back and did the earlier chapters and got those scanlated as well. It was the first series I ever translated outside of spoilers (I translated the end of Konjiki no Gash!! which I had worked on earlier, but didn’t translate until after I’d started Toriko).

So, I started out with this series because it felt really different and exciting to me at the time. Actually, when I first saw it I thought it looked weird and the art looked odd. But then I saw it was doing well in the Shonen Jump table of contents (The order of a series in the table of contents shows it’s approximate popularity), I decided to read through it. And I loved it. It had all these elements of science and adventure and it had this cool twist of motivation by food and stuff. It seemed like something that could be this huge vast series someday. At that time I really was into One Piece and a bunch of other manga. And I thought “If I’m the translator of this series and it becomes huge, I’ll be this big figure in the community! I’ll bring the series to the fans and that’ll be so cool! I’ll make this one my own!” And so I set about doing that. And man has it been a looooooong ride.

That might sound kinda exciting, but for the record, I don’t really think that mindset is the best one. That kind of undertaking was a bit insane if you think about it. I started this when I was 18 years old and I’m now finishing it when I’m 26. That’s something I obligated myself to do EVERY WEEK EVERY YEAR through the end of high school, all through college, and during the first few years of my career after college. All regardless of what might be happening that week any week.

Now, to be fair, when we first started out scanlation was in a way different place. People would post a translation to and it would just be a public thing. Anybody could use it for a translation. Some volunteer could use public raws, clean it, then another volunteer could typeset it, then another volunteer could proofread/edit it and release it (They got rid of this policy after getting notices from the manga publishers). It was a really relaxed atmosphere at the time. Because of that, a lot of scanlations around this era aren’t all that good. Cleaners didn’t use the right tools and usually stuff looked blurry or had tons of dirt from the way Jump uses recycled paper and cheap ink to make the magazine easy to print. Rather than using various filters and techniques to make everything look marginally better (Still not as good as using volumes as your raw base). The first few chapters of Toriko were done by HS and Draagon. Later it was done by Sugooi Scans. A lot of these don’t have very good cleaning, have errors, have bad fonts, sloppy typesetting, that kinda thing. Early on anyhow, Sugooi got pretty good as they went on. Eventually, all these groups lost contact with me. I was still just publically posting chapters on Mangahelpers and hoping the scanlation would get done a few days later. But at a point, Sugooi Scans fell apart organization wise. This happens in scanlation a lot, and I’ve written about it before, but volunteer groups need a lot of motivation and group cohesion to stay afloat. Otherwise they die and often the series never gets finished.

It’s a lot of work to scanlate a manga on a regular basis. If you had to just do one chapter and say that was it, that’s not too bad. You run filters on 19 pages, you clear off all the bubbles, redraw the areas that weren’t in bubbles but had text on them, translate it, and typeset with fonts vaguely corresponding to the Japanese text. That’s mostly the whole process. But this is, for everyone involved, a hobby. And just like how lots of “wouldn’t it be fun if we did it all the time?” projects, people get busy. People get bored. People lose the thrill of when they were starting something new and exciting with endless possibilities and realize they’re just sorta coming back to it because it’s routine. Sometimes, this is rightly so. It’s kind of a second job. And the thing is even if 5 out of 6 members is dedicated and works hard and does their job on time, if the 1 other person doesn’t, then the whole thing can’t be finished. And realize, this is something you’re doing over the internet with strangers. Or at best, people you don’t know too personally (Maybe you talk over Skype or something sometimes). Then on top of that, no one can get paid. It’s not a career, it’s a hobby. Even in tight-knight groups who work on things like indie games or youtube channels, sometimes people quit because they just can’t sacrifice their time for passion projects. And because of ALLLL that, keeping a group together is hard. But I’ve talked about this all ad nauseum before. I feel it kinda bears repeating though.

So, basically, because we couldn’t get a group to consistently work on Toriko (and later Gintama) ourselves, we made Hi Wa Mata Noboru. Me and Rufi. Though really Rufi was mostly just doing his own thing and giving me some support from the sidelines. It was me and whoever else was cleaning/typesetting at the time. I think I was trying to do it all myself at first and just put recruitment pages up at the ends of chapters. In not too long, the Juin Jutsu Team guys joined us. And we worked with them for a good few years. They’re and Italian team that does a bunch of manga seires and some good guys. And they’re still around. We still keep in contact a little. Since then, the staff’s changed a lot. Swiftgold and Hish and Manhhai have helped a ton and been super dedicated. And I wanna take a second to thank everyone sooo so much for all they’ve worked.
Anyhow, basically at this point I didn’t want to lose this project I’d worked so hard on because I didn’t have a team, so I motivated myself to make sure not only to translate it EVERY WEEK, but to see to it that the other jobs got done. All while still in high school and not having tons of confidence in my translating ability. Back then my translations weren’t so good at deriving subtle meaning, plus my phrasing and ability to write clear, fluid English was way worse. Translating in an understandable and clear way is a skill that needs to be developed. Often you need to write in ways you don’t write/speak in real life, and familiarize yourself with different speech patterns in order to both make the story make sense, and to give characters different character voice. There’s a ton of pitfalls and it took me a while to get good at it. And I’m still trying to get better. Some translators out there are really amazing at it.

A lot of this worked well, though. Usually I only spent a few hours a week one day a week on Toriko. I didn’t have any stress of having to get it out in a few hours after I got early raws at this point in time. The world didn’t really work that way. I think people would get spoilers on Wednesdays, and then public raws would come out on Friday/Saturday. People would just use those. People rarely tried to work on series that were being consistently done by another group (Obviously, that’s changed since then.)

The thing to keep in mind with all this is, Toriko wasn’t my only project. Plus I was doing school and work and all kinds of life things. I honestly probably spent too much time working on manga/anime, but it was a way for me to escape and produce something I knew people would enjoy. Something I could think “I built this. I figured out how to do it and I got it done. People saw it and people enjoyed it. Thousands of people. And some even know who I am and thank me for it.” If you wanna know what other projects I’ve worked on, I was running Anime-Destiny doing the Konjiki no Gash Bell!! anime and later part of the Bakuman anime and the entire Kingdom anime. Later we did the Toriko anime AS we were doing the Toriko manga (Which had so many little changes I couldn’t just use old scripts for the most part. Also the old scripts weren’t translated/phrased as well, like I said). I also worked or am working on all these manga: 3-Gatsu no Lion, 81diver, Bakuman, Billy Bat, Doubutsu no Kuni, Enigma, Gintama, Hito Hitori Futari, Hunter X Hunter, Innocent, Innocent Rouge, Inumarudashi, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 7: Steel Ball Run, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 8: JoJolion, Kingdom, Kokou no Hito, Konjiki no Gash!! (the manga after the anime ended), Omoni Naitemasu, REAL, Ring, Spica, and Wolfsmund. And a bunch of One-shots. Now, realize a lot of these projects was only for a few months, or I would go off and on again every few months, or the anime would have a 6 month season and then it would end or something. But honestly, it was still a lot. And while I enjoyed it and I’m proud of all that, sometimes I still wonder about what I would do if I’d used that time for something else. Though I think I gained a whole lot from my life taking on all these challenges. (The reason I stopped doing HQ volume versions of Toriko on top of all that was because it just wasn’t fulfilling enough to spend the time and energy trying to organize it.)

What I’m saying is, getting all that done is hard. And through almost all of it, I was always doing Toriko every week. No matter what. I did it even when I went on the couple weeks I was on vacation in Japan in 2010 and 2015. And I was also leading the groups, making sure people did their jobs, making sure people filled in when they couldn’t work, finding backups when we couldn’t get raws, dealing with raw sources disappearing and needing to find new ones, etc. A lot of it was really fun and I loved sharing it with people, but a lot of it was really stressful too. At some point, I ended up having to going to sleep around 7-8PM so I could get up in the early mornings around 1-3 AM to work on Toriko so I could compete with other groups. Because the hard truth is, if yours series doesn’t come out first, way fewer people read it. And if people aren’t reading their work, then your staff loses motivation (Include me in that). And then it all falls apart even EASIER than usual. So I kept telling myself “I’ll work through his. Even though it’s hard and I’m losing sleep, if I work really hard I can overcome it and get this thing I care about done.” And to be honest, that was hard to do a lot of the time. Sometimes I got really frustrated. I had to work with people that didn’t communicate or weren’t cooperative if I wanted to get everything done and on schedule. Plus, often if I fell behind schedule I wouldn’t have time later to do it anyhow, so I HAD to get it done fast (And I still wanted it to be good quality). But, I made it to the end now, somehow or other. And I’m proud I stuck with it till the end. And now I can say I did the whole thing, about 400 chapters. Which is kinda surreal.

So, now that I finished talking about the process. I’ll talk about the actual story of Toriko a bit. I seriously loved this series the whole way through. Do I think it had flaws? Yes. But there was never a point where I wasn’t interested in what happened next. Not only that, it was always one of the most unpredictable series I’ve ever read. It never just lazily went into a cliché, it would find some twist to do the story a bit differently. And that’s something incredibly rare. I know some people didn’t like some parts and some people wish it stayed a series about going to exotic locations and getting a rare food item, but I really love the way it developed. I love the villains and the different kinds of problem that needed to be solved, I loved when it was fast and when it was slow, I loved when it seemed to setup a long arc but then made it all one chapter and I loved when it did a whole bunch of chapters to vastly expand on something that seemed simple.

To talk about flaws, I feel like Shimabukuro probably should’ve taken more time to develop the characters a lot. Toriko is very much made up of set-pieces. It’s not the type of manga to do super drawn-out battles where the one with the advantage switches 5 times. It’s usually one big thing that wins it for one side. But there were characters that were interesting but didn’t get all that much screentime. Later on, after the anime ended, there were places where it felt like he had all these plot ideas he needed to get through to get to the end. So rather than be slow and build up characters it sorta zipped through the events. Coco, Sunny, and Zebra become kinda side characters that helped Toriko rather than having their own goals and purposes like early on. I dunno if I’d call it “rushed” or just how Shimabukuro wanted to do it. There’s no way of knowing for sure what his original plan was. But one thing to keep in mind is Shimabukuro does a TON of foreshadowing. Joa is mentioned in chapter 80 or something and doesn’t become the main villain for another 100+ chapters. The Nitro were placed in really early and got developed into this whole alien species with a class system. I know SOME of these ideas were probably decided on after they were introduced. Like all the aspects of the appetite beasts was probably originally just a visual metaphor, rather than a super-being that died and was reborn as part of another being. Food Luck was probably originally just a hyperbolized version of how high-class chefs talk.

Some characters were kinda one-and-done. Don Slime was fun, but I didn’t feel much sympathy for him because we didn’t really get to know him. A bunch of characters weren’t much beyond a backstory and some kind of “proving themselves” thing. There’s like 10 villains that were introduced, only to be beaten offscreen or just disappear (Probably Shimabukuro couldn’t find anything useful for them to do. They may have just been there to let the readers know “This is a big organization way more than these 2 guys” even if the 2 guys were the only important ones). But there were definitely some really well done characters. Even some little ones. Like Yuda’s story I thought was great, despite his character not doing all that much outside that one battle. Toriko, Komatsu, Sunny, Coco, Zebra, Midora, Starjun, Ootake, and Acacia all had great story to them, I thought. They also had time to be introduced, developed, and make choices. For momentary purposes, Match, Takimaru, Aimaru, Brunch, Tommyrod, were all good characters despite not doing much for most of the series outside their “one big event”. That kinda frustrates me, but I guess a lot of the time it’s a matter of needing to do keep the plot going. Rin would’ve been nice to have been a bit more in the “main crew”. She had some good scenes beyond being the “love interest”, but they were all pretty short and didn’t involve much characterization beyond the Regal Mammoth arc. But some characters did have clear motivations, change, and grow. In addition to accomplishing things. And a lot of those really had great emotion. I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton here.

Of course, the world building was great. It had so much extreme stuff and it never felt to me like it ever got “routine”. It always found a way to take some aspect of society or nature and supercharge it, and then supercharge that. It never felt like it was “going through the motions”, it always felt creative. Course, at times it would’ve been nice if the world building were more involved. Like a lot of aspects got introduced then never really brought up again. Like Bar Heavy Lodge, or the wholesale market. Various things about the Neo organization. The Gourmet Prison had all this stuff introduced then it never came up again. The Shokurin Temple’s ideas got touched on SOME later on but mostly it was a straight power-up. The high-class chefs got brought up and developed pretty well. Sometimes when you think about these things they seem like “well maybe they got through everything interesting”. And it wasn’t meant as anything other than a set piece. A lot of things would’ve been cool if the set pieces had built on each other (And some did, obviously), but a lot of the time they were one-and-dones. I think the building of Food Luck and Appetite was done well. And how the Nitro worked and all that. Slow establishing of the past with Ichiryuu and Midora and co. worked ok, but at times it felt like we were on the outside looking in, rather than hearing about characters we cared about (Like Chichi, Kaka, and Jiji mostly felt like exposition machines. Didn’t really have character arcs).

So yeah, those are my general thoughts. I don’t really feel like going into any more detail than that. But I thoroughly enjoyed the series. I know some people felt it got too convoluted and plot-heavy towards the end, and that’s ok. It’s fine to have different opinions. I do wonder what Shimabukuro-sensei ends up doing next. He’ll probably do another series within a year or two. Last time he did Ring, which was a sports series. A heavy departure from Takeshi, which is a comedy/battle manga that’s generally pretty goofy and lighthearted.
I’ll think about maybe doing a volume scanlation of the last volume just as a going-away thing. Shimabukuro might have some last words about the series in it, and I’ll translate any of that if it’s there. And thank you all so much for supporting the series and sticking with it. Please buy the series in your language if it’s available and find any way to support the author. Even after all that hard work I talked about, Shimabukuro-sensei worked 10 times harder than I did, I’m sure. Thank you all for reading. I’m not planning on trying to start any more weekly series at the moment (I’m 26 and working a full time job. I think sticking to an irregular volume/chapter release is the more responsible thing at this point) I’m gonna see about maybe working (at least the beginning) on Seikimatsu Leader Den Takeshi as we wait for Shimabukuro’s next series.