So Why the Crossover?
So how can a show about a gourmet hunter possibly land this coveted spot right next to the acclaimed, fan-loved One Piece? How could it edge out Dragon Ball?
The short version is that Dragon Ball didn’t get edged out at all…it just died a natural death.
The storyline of Toriyama’s opus ended with GT way back in 1997. “Kai” is simply a revised version of the series, and even that ended production in 2011. There just wasn’t any more value to be wrung out of them.
So then, the question becomes: why choose Toriko as heir apparent to the throne?
Business, mainly. In particular, common ties and easy integration with the surviving show, One Piece.
What do I mean? Well, here’s the deal: One thing that Dragon Ball, One Piece, and Toriko (not to mention about a zillion, million others like Captain Tsubasa, Kimagure Orange Road, Saint Seiya, Slam Dunk, Yu Yu Hakusho, Rurouni Kenshin, Hikoto no Ken/Fist of the North Star, Hunter x Hunter, Shaman King, Hikaru no Go, Tennis no Ooji-sama/Prince of Tennis, Naruto, Bleach, Death Note, D. Gray-man…I’m out of breath…) have in common is that they initially began as manga series in an anthology publication called Weekly Shounen Jump.
Once any given series gets enough attention (and maybe a successful OVA/OAV), it’s not unusual for Toei animation to swoop in and pick it up. Toei Animation, as it so happens, is 14% owned by TV Asahi and about 7% owned by Fuji TV.
(I mention the statistics because I find the distribution of shows that Toei owns odd given the uneven split, but hey: TV Asahi gets subtitled Sliders AND Danny Phantom, so I guess it evens out.)
Additionally, Eiichiro Oda and Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro (the mangaka of One Piece and Toriko) are on record as being friends, and had already teamed up for a manga collaboration in the past.
Having the two series interact in the anime versions seemed only natural, and beginning with a collaboration was a great way to ensure that Toriko had a strong start.
So Toriko’s first episode and One PIece’s 492 episode combined their power and their plot to make the first “Dream 9” Collaboration Special (トリコ×ワンピース コラボスペシャル).
Dream 9: The Beginning!
In Toriko episode 1, “Arrival on Gourmet Island! The Gourmet Hunter Toriko Appears!” (上陸, グルメの島! 美食屋トリコ現る!), the straw hat pirates realize that they’re short on food supplies and stop at a nearby island to restock. Luffy, Sanji, Chopper, and Nami all venture forth to collect the necessary nom-ables, and discover the aforementioned ‘gourmet’ foods that are common in Toriko’s “Gourmet Age”.
In the midst of their delectable discoveries, the mugiwara pirates become suddenly aware that they’re not alone on the island. Toriko mistakes the ship’s anthropomorphic reindeer Chopper as a gourmet creature, and literally pops out of some bushes to grab him.
Luffy understandably takes issue with this and the pair have a brief skirmish. Chopper talks, startling the gourmet hunter and bringing the battle to an end before either the character’s or their fanbase’s egos have a chance to so much as get bruised. For a moment, it looks peaceful enough.
Until, of course, the fearsome BBQ pigs show up in force. (You know how that goes, right? Happens to all of us.). As the porcine perils get a pummeling, Komatsu brings the Mugiwara Pirates up to speed on the world of the “Gourmet Age”. It only smells slightly of the dreaded exposition dump, and as clumsily as I’ve seen such things handled, they manage to make explaining ‘capture level’ and the like feel somewhat natural by having the audience empathize with the Straw Hats’ understandable curiosity about their new companion. (The fact that any slow moments or silence is filled with a BBQ-themed fight sequence might help matters along as well…)
Menace turned to meal, the protagonists gather around the campfire, a tad more briefing.
It’s far from elegant, but does tie up some loose ends and allows for a neat little exchange of mutual culinary admiration between Sanji and Komatsu.
As it turns out, Toriko is on Hungri-la (a portmanteau of hungry and shangri la) Island in search of the legendary Hungrila Tori. There’s a name-dependant twist later on, but I won’t spoil it here. The two gluttonous protagonists wind up devouring all the food gained, and so the straw-hats join forces with Toriko, Komatsu and Terri the battle wolf to seek out more nommables.
There are a few more battles and discoveries and the episode ends with another meal, and a rather out-of-no-where abduction.
The Beginning Continues!!
Episode 492 of One Piece, “Strongest Tag-Team! Luffy and Toriko’s Hard Struggle!” (最強タッグ! 奮闘、ルフィとトリコ!), opens with Luffy and Toriko discovering that Nami and Komatsu have been kidnapped by a gang of Cocoalas. (I don’t think I need to explain that pun, do I?) So the gang sets out to rescue them, introducing the remaining side characters of Toriko’s world in the process.
I hate to gush over something so simple as a character introduction, but the way that the episode handles introducing two more of the four “Heavenly Kings” (the strongest bishoukuya in the Toriko series) and Sani’s sister, Rin, is just beautifully handled. There isn’t too much time spent on it; they simply pop in, get the gist of a dire situation, and send the other’s off as they handle it. It’s simple, but perfect. We get the impression that they’re both helpful and powerful, but aren’t overwhelmed with unneeded information or backstory.
I doubt I’m spoiling anything when I say that the day is saved, both ‘damsels in distress’ rescued, awesome food-stuffs are retrieved, and the episode ends with yet another meal around a campfire.
TL;DR: First Dream 9 Crossover Overview!!
Overall? These two episodes are really well done. The characters introduced are artfully limited, allowing for a much less cluttered feel, and a more flowing narrative. Much of the straw-hat crew are left aboard the Thousand Sunny, and the side characters from Toriko stop in just long enough for audiences to learn what’s needed. Exposition doesn’t feel forced, but is obviously Toriko-centric. If I had any complaints, it would be that the episode seems to assume the audience has a working knowledge of One Piece…which, all things considered, they probably did.
The art styles have some serious differences. Toriko is gigantic and veiny enough to imply that he works out at the same gym as Zangief and Ryu from Street Fighter (and probably takes the same steroids). One Piece characters, on the other hand, all seem nearly anorexic by comparison. The two series blend surprisingly well after you get over the initial shock though, probably due to the fact that both Oda and Shimabukuro drew influence from
Toriyama…and it shows, especially in facial design.
The music is standard, and outside of the opening to Toriko, “Gatsu, Gatsu,” I can’t say that anything really stood out to me. I really liked “Gatsu, Gatsu” though, especially upon second listening. It’s one of those pieces that you dismiss initially, but find yourself humming for days afterwards.
I recommend starting here if you’re unfamiliar with either of these two series, as they really did a bang-up job representing them.
One Piece and Toriko II: Son of Collaboration Special
A year later, One Piece and Toriko reunited again in Toriko and One Piece Collaboration Special 2 (トリコ×ワンピース コラボスペシャル2). This was a megazord made of episode 51 of Toriko and episode of 542 of One Piece.
The 51st episode of Toriko, “The Reunion of Toriko and Luffy! Find the Seafood Fruit!” (トリコとルフィ! 海鮮の実を探せ!), begins with Toriko, Komatsu, and Terri angling for a rare shark in the middle of the ocean. It’s an interesting contrast to the first special as it puts the Toriko gang directly into what is indisputably the Straw-Hat Pirates’ territory. Even the intro seems to make a point of this as they combine the two standard openings teasing “this is the gourmet age…nope, just kidding! This is the great age of pirates!”
The bishoukuya trio succeed in reeling in a Harusame, the rare shark they were searching for, but after stunning the beast… It stirs.
And then…Luffy pops out of it.
Yes, you heard me right. Luffy pops out of this capture level 10 shark-thing like some sort of Gomu-Gomu no Xenomorph. If that’s not quality entertainment, I don’t know what is. Frankly, I nearly cheered.
The group catch up and it turns out that the meeting is more than fortuitous. Chopper, it seems, has come down with a serious illness that can only be cured with the help of hard-to-obtain gourmet food. I mean, what are the chances, right?Fortunately, they’re relatively close to the nearby gourmet island of Touchuuka. So of course, they head out for another adventure.
The island is, of course, fraught with peril, and it seems that “boss” of the special is downed in the first half hour.
I love the portrayal of the Mugiwara Pirates’ iconic camaraderie and care for their crew (‘nakama’) in these episodes, as well as the use of the devil fruit users’ one weakness…water. It’s an interesting kryptonite for a group based in the high seas, and lends a certain vulnerability and humanity to the super human pirates. Actually, the entire special does a phenomenal job of removing all these mighty characters from their high perches and placing them in what seems like genuine peril. As with any good plot, the heightened sense of urgency and vulnerability adds weight and poignancy to the drama…and I found myself seriously invested before the first episode ended.
I have to say though, that this special pulled a nice twist toward the middle. By the time we reach One Piece episode 542, “Team Formation! Save Chopper!”(チーム結成! チョッパーを救え), the stakes have somehow become even higher. The “how” is a little contrived sure, but the two groups suddenly have a need to chase down yet another macguffin…or rather four of them in order to save the Mugiwara Pirates’ reindoctor. In response, they pull together to explore and conquer a tower of four seasons. (A…suspiciously phallic tower of four seasons, but I’m not judging.)
This time around, we get even more character introductions. Brooke, Usopp, and Franky come along for the excursion, as does Coco, Sanii, and Rin. The interactions of the crew members (Sanji and Sanii in particular) were really entertaining as the pirates and epicureans came together to work for a common goal, and the world, as a result, seemed that much smaller.
There was far less need for forced exposition, and the individuals that fans had come to love were allowed to shine without being weighed down with introductions or explanations. The worlds blended nicely as it seemed entirely plausible that this gourmet age and the pirate age could potentially coexist. Talents were further explored, and personalities allowed to display naturally.
The ending isn’t surprising, but the episodes succeed in forcing the viewer to ask ‘how will they succeed?’ rather than ‘will they succeed?’…which is an understandably difficult goal to reach when dealing with well known franchises like both Toriko and One Piece.
(Spoilers here, but Chopper will live!)
TL;DR…Again. Second Dream 9 Crossover Overview!!
If you’re still reading this far down, then chances are you’re interested enough to enjoy both of these collaboration specials. If nothing else, this second installment is a phenomenal demonstration on how to build slowly on a solid foundation.
Like any story with a lot of characters and a limit on time, there are elements that feel a little rushed, but overall these two episodes do a great job of conveying the core elements of both series…especially if you watched the first crossover first.
If you plan on or have already watched the third and latest installment of the Dream 9 Collaborations, I strongly recommended regarding all three specials (all 6 episodes) as one gigantic mini-series. They work…passably as individual entities, but stand up best when allowed to build on one another.
Stay tuned for Part 4: “Movies, Game Sales, and Monster Monkey Tails! (That’s What Marketing’s Made Of!)” Why the “when” of Dragonball’s Dream 9 reunion makes so much sense and a review of the third collaboration special itself!