Publisher: Del Rey
Story and Art: Yuko Osada
Toto! is a about a young boy named Kakashi who lives in a small town on a small island where nothing ever happens. He’s determined to get off the island and find adventure, and thus continually involves his friends in schemes to do so which never work. By this point his friends are tired of being dragged along in his stupid blunders and berate him for his silly dreams. But having been told to go on a journey through a note to him written in his missing father’s journal, Kakashi has no intention of giving up.
One day a luxury zeppelin makes an emergency landing on the island for repairs, and Kakashi manages to sneak on board. To his surprise, once he gets there he finds that the ship has been hijacked by yakuza, and it’s up to him to weasel his way into their favor in order to avoid being thrown overboard.
It’s a pretty typical shonen story. Kakashi is a loud, determined boy who lives by the mantra “I’m gonna do my best!” and pulls crazy stunts in the name of adventure, which he always gets through unscathed due to Einstein’s seminary “protagonist can’t die” law of make-believe physics. He has a sidekick dog with mutant superpowers, and a Darth-Vaderish, “Luke, I am your father” relationship with the boss of the hijackers. Before long there is a precocious kung-fu-wielding school girl introduced as the love interest, and they have to haphazardly ride off on a motorcycle to escape from the evil adults chasing them. It follows a watered-down version of the Studio Ghibli formula of kid’s adventure stories to a T.
That being said, for all its simplicity and unoriginality Toto! is still a fairly endearing, fun tale. I wouldn’t quite put it up there with Hayao Miyazaki, but Studio Ghibli movies are still fun even when you’re an adult and they’re blatantly all the same after the second or third flick. In much the same way, even though you know the formula and the story is simplistic, Toto! brings out the kid in you and gets you rooting for Kakashi even though he’s just another obnoxious brat shonen hero.
The art is decent. The line work is clean, and there’s just enough style and exaggeration to keep the action looking interesting. However, since the subject matter is fairly tame as manga goes there’s little opportunity for the artist to flex his drawing muscles with anything extremely visually exciting. To be honest, Osada actually does a pretty good job coming up with unique little character designs for all the background cast, so each of the townspeople and mafia cronies look like specific people and not just a blur of stock characters. However, the scope of the artist’s designs is still somehow limited enough that a few key characters look nearly identical, like the bandit boss Tequila and the military leuitenant Vio.
If you’re looking for a fun little shonen story, Toto! The Wonderful Adventure could be your ticket. It doesn’t have extreme power battles, ninja fights, magic, or giant robots, but it’s a good old-fashioned tale about a boy going on an adventure, lightly reminiscent of movies like Laputa: Castle in the Sky or Steamboy.