Del Rey just keeps hitting us with these volumes of Toto and they just keep on proving to be solid shonen adventures. In fact, Toto may even be improving as it goes along. Volume 1 was a pretty good introduction, though it erred a bit on the side of being a little too traditional and Gibli-esque. Volume 2 treaded forward onto new territory, but was perhaps a bit uneventful, introducing only one or two new characters and events, and ended on a cliffhanger before it felt much had been accomplished.
Volume 3 pushes forward pretty strongly, introducing many new characters and expanding a lot more on the mythology behind the magic “accessories”. Noil, the aspiring comedian from volume 2, is retained as a major member of the cast – essentially taking on the “Adventurer #3” spot – which is good, since he’s a rather likeable character. A friendly witch named Paisley enters the scene, as an investigator for an organization trying to locate the accessories before they fall into the wrong hands. A massive battle with the villain Corporal Chopin and his Gorgon snake rings breaks out, giving way to many outrageous special attacks and their ensuing collateral damage. Just as that battle is reaching its peak, a new accessory owner, Red of theYuan Toulun, who fights with giant monkey-like arms, enters the fray. Before long, the team has met Karakusa, leader of the North W.I.T.C.H. organization, who reveals that Kakashi’s father is still alive. The volume concludes with a visit to Kenbi Sow, a bizarre dancer and martial arts master, who sports a huge afro and effeminate mannerisms.
Toto‘s greatest strength, particularly during this volume, is that it never stops moving. The cast is always arriving at a new place where something new is happening, so things never get too repetitive. While Kakashi, the boy adventurer at the story’s center, is quite a generic shonen hero, as he continually recruits crazy new characters to his team, attention is drawn away from him and things are made more interesting. The Wizard of Oz references which have previously remained subtle and in the background, have just begun to take on a more apparent and central role, which rather than making things feel derivative and played out, actually proves to make things more interesting as the series spins it in a wild alternate direction. At a time where ninja and mecha clichés dominate manga, Oz is an unlikely and unexpected place to draw inspiration from, and it sets Toto apart from all the more generic shonen stuff out there.
Certainly, at the end of the day, Toto! The Wonderful Adventure is still a pretty simplistic series which relies on a basic formula set up, but it’s entertaining and stands out in the pack as above average. It may not be the deepest manga you ever read, but if you’re looking for a fun adventure with some original story elements, Toto is worth reading.
Publisher: Del Rey
Story and Art: Yuko Osada