“Since ancient times, the Dragon has been the only beast to equal the Tiger.”
When two of the most unlikely people join forces to help each other out, what happens? One of the most refreshing, yet familar Anime of its genre. This is my review of Toradora!
(Note: I know, I’m slow to get on these bandwagons. This review will be as spoiler-free as possible. Pictures are not mine.)
Toradora! Is a Romantic-Comedy Anime based off of the very popular light novel of the same name. It follows the life of Takasu Ryuji, a 2nd year high school student at Oohashi High School. He has a problem in which his eyes make him look like a delinquent, although he is really a very nice person. This problem hinders his ability for him to make friends in every class he has been in and is often misunderstood. He disdains this problem greatly, and the only person who knows his true personality is his best friend, Kitamura Yusaku.
Ryuji is love with a girl in his class named Kushieda Minori, and has been unable to properly convey his feelings to her. However, one day he literally runs into another girl in his class named Aisaka Taiga, who is known throughout the school as “Tenori Taiga” or “The Palmtop Tiger”, and after a series of events, they find out that they are in love with the other’s best friend. They both agree to form an alliance to help each other out.
The characters of Toradora! Are really what makes this Anime shine. While the typical character archetypes are present, Each of them has their own unique personality and have a certain sense of realism to them. Their interactions with each other really moves the story along and the events presented and how the characters handle them is very well done (More on this in the Story section).
For now, let’s meet the key characters:
The first of our main characters. He is a member of class 2-C at Oohashi High School, and has a problem with appearance in that his eyes make him look like a dangerous delinquent, something which irritates him vastly. Every time he has had new classmates, he has had to prove that he isn’t a delinquent, since people judge him solely on his appearance . In reality, he is a very nice person and is almost always will to help people. He is an exceptionally good cook, and has an obsession with cleaning to the point of compulsory behavior. He lives with his mother, Yasuko (often called Yacchan), who works nights at a hostess bar, and their pet Parrot, Inko-chan. He is secretly in love with his classmate, Minori.
Our second main character. She is a member of class 2-C, and is considered by many of the male students to be very good looking. She known throughout Oohashi High School as “Tenori Taiga” (The Palmtop Tiger), due to her violent personality and small stature. She has a short temper and is prone to snapping at people without a moment’s notice. However, despite her strong attitude, she is very conscious about her height and body and finds her given nickname to be very hurtful. On the inside, she is actually very clumsy, and quite kind.
A main supporting character and Taiga’s best friend. She is also a member of class 2-C and is the captain for Oohashi’s Girl’s Softball Team. She is very energetic and cheerful, and has a high metabolism for work, in which she holds multiple part-time jobs. She is the subject of Ryuji’s love.
The second supporting character and yet another member of class 2-C. He is Ryuji’s best friend and the only person who understands his true personality. He is very active at Oohashi, serving as the class representative, Vice-President of the Student Council and Captain of the mens softball club. He has a caring, but odd personality. He is the subject of Taiga’s affection.
A transfer student to Oohashi High School and member of 2-C. She works as a model and is Kitamura’s childhood friend. Her personality is seen as kind and cheerful, and is a self-proclaimed “Airhead”. However, there is more to her than she lets on, and she is very insightful of other people.
And here we go, the defining factor. I know, I did say the characters were what makes this anime great, but there still is a story for them to be a part of. And a good story it is. While the story isn’t the most original, and some of the aspects are indeed predictable, what is original is how the story gets there, and how the scenes are executed.
Toradora! Takes familiar situations and presents them in such a way that it feels new, even though many of us have seen these elements time and time again. However, there are events that take place where even the most seasoned veterans of anime may be caught off-guard. In addition, many of the situations are executed perfectly, and to great degrees of emotion and varying depths. Sometimes things are conveyed bluntly, while other times key things are dropped with the utmost subtlety, but you are never out of the loop when it comes to it. It says a lot about the writing when you are not lost in a story but still feel genuinely and pleasantly surprised when something hits.
And when something hits, it hits. Though this is a Romantic-Comedy (And a very funny one at that), it very quickly takes on the qualities of a drama. New revelations and situations cause conflicts between both the characters and within the characters themselves. There is an internal struggle where one needs to decide between how they think things should be, and what they truly want, and it continues to be a driving force until the very end. The characters handle these emotions in surprisingly realistic ways, and it most notably starts in episode 2.
As the series progresses, we see the characters take on drastic changes and start to truly develop, discovering things about themselves and each other. No character is the same by the time the series end. Key interactions are presently beautifully and nothing feels rushed; everything seems to happen naturally. Overall, it comes as one of the freshest, most well-written anime of it kind in years.
The soundtrack of Toradora! Is a mixture of emotional orchestrals, tender piano pieces, and poppy, electronic music. It isn’t the most memorable element, but it serves its purpose, though there are a few pieces that do stand out amongst the crowd, such as “Startup” and “Lost my Pieces”. Separate from that are the two openers and three closers. “Pre-Parade” is a catchy, upbeat choice for the first opener where the lyrics of the song fit well with the anime, and the first closer “Vanilla Salt”, which I think is appropriate in describing Taiga’s personality.
However, my favorites are the second opener and closer. “Silky Heart” is a perfect choice for the second half of the series, where the lyrics fit the changes in the characters and situation so well it’s almost scary. The second closer, “Orange” is probably my favorite song of any of the openers and closer, because in my opinion the song is about Taiga’s growth in character and personality, as well as her struggle to understand herself. Episode 19’s closer, “Holy Night”, is a nice song fitting the Christmas season in the Anime.
On a side note, what I love about the ending songs is that they begin as the episode is ending, with the episode’s ending blending into the end animation. It may not seem like much, but it serves to preserve the emotion set as the episode ends. I love this style to death. I just wish they would have done this in Clannad. You need to experience this for yourself to understand it.
Now, let’s focus on the voices. Without a doubt, the voice acting for Toradora! Is nothing short of the highest quality and effort. Each character’s Seiyuu is appropriate for their respective roles, and the level and range of emotion each of them can achieve is brilliant. Notably, the Queen of Tsundere herself, Kugiyama Rie, voices Taiga, and lives up to her title. Kitamura Eri does an excellent job with Ami, and Horie Yui can really show some emotion as Minori. This is exemplary voice acting.
At the helm of this adaptation is J.C. Staff, known for animating series such as Shakugan no Shana, Zero no Tsukaima, and Ai Yori Aoshi. The animation is great and at times very fluid, and the scenes are very colorful and alive. The characters themselves are great looking and it’s easy to spot their respective emotions. However, there are some noticeable flaws and sometimes some characters look odd in terms of consistency, but for the most part it is well done. Not much to say, here.
Toradora! Is an excellent and fresh addition to the popular Romantic-Comedy genre. It manages to bring originally to a familiar story with perfect execution. It backs the great comedy with well-written drama, interesting characters and excellent growth. The animation has a few problems, but definitely nothing that would take away from it in the slightest. It also comes with a lesson that you should never deny yourself of what you truly desire, and who you truly are. If you still haven’t seen the coming together of the two most legendary beasts, it’s not too late. This one comes as highly recommended.