Anime Review – Toradora!

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In honor of its english dub being released this summer (for better or worse), I’ve decided to kick off its new dub by reexamining one of the more well-known romantic comedies: Toradora!

I do reviews as follows

Story: this covers storytelling, pacing, tone, essentially everything except the actual substance of the story itself

Characters: pretty self-explanatory.

The Story

Toradora’s story is honestly best told in short sentences. It revolves around two paris of friends: Ryuji Takasu and Yuusaku Kitamura and Minori Kushieda and Taiga Aisaka. Taiga likes Kitamura; Ryuji likes Minori. So Ryui and Taiga decide to work together so that both of them ultimately end up with their love interests.

Overall, Toradora’s really tongue-in-cheek. It doesn’t take itself all that seriously. Every now and then, it turns a little more serious, but those moments are few and far between, enough for the show to really just go crazy. The show’s producers, J.C Staff, are really good with non-linear plots. While there’s some form of logical progression from one episode to another (i.e they don’ t have one episode talking about one thing and the next episode talking about something completely different), it is a little tricky to predict what the next episode will be about. Most importantly, it never loses sight of its core concept: Ryuji and Taiga’s agreement that I mentioned in the first paragraph. Things that happen all stem from that core concept and the show keeps reminding you of that, not to the point of being annoying, but enough for you to not forget.

That said, the one thing Toradora fails in is its tone change. Around episode 17, it starts to turn more towards romance (i.e Ryuji and Taiga’s relationship) and away from its tongue-in-cheek tone in the first half. The change in tone happens so quickly that it’s hard to get used to; certain characters are hit hard by this and lost much of their light by the end of the show. Personally, I think Toradora tried the same approach Clannad tried (coincidentally, both aired around the same time) with a light-hearted first part and a serious second part. This show didn’t give you enough time to adapt to the new tone. While not entirely debilitating, it can be jarring for people who don’t see it coming

The Characters

Toradora boasts not one, not two, but five main characters, all of whom I’ll be going over. J.C Staff does characters really well and, for the most part, Toradora is no exception. I know I was critical of the second half of the show, but in all honesty, the second half did a really good job fleshing most of the characters.

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Ryuuji Takasu:  Ryuuji’s the main character of the show. He’s best described as a boy with the eyes of a killer, but he’s really one big teddy bear. In the first half of the show, he’s not all that interesting of a character. Characters that interact with him are supposed to be highlighted, not be highlighting him. In the second half, which focuses more on him and Taiga, he gets a little more fleshed out as a character, but for a main character, he’s remarkably simple. Even his main draw, his appearance, barely plays a role, and while that’s not a bad thing, it raises the question, “why make a big deal out of it”.

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Taiga Aisaka:  Taiga’s what you would call a tsundere: an archetype of characters, mainly girls, that are initially cold and hostile but then gradually open up over time. That’s the traditional definition, but most modern tsunderes tend to switch back and forth between being tsuntsun (japanese for “cold” or “curt”) and deredere (“loving”). Taiga sticks, more or less, to the traditional definition; she loses her edge by the end of the series. She’s a rarity among tsunderes in that she gets a backstory explaining why she acts the way she does. How you view Taiga’s change over the course of the show is entirely up to you. Seeing a tsundere turn sentimental can be a bit shocking if you’re not prepared for it.

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Minori Kushieda (right) and Ami Kawashima (left):  I’m including these two characters together because they both symbolize what I did not like about the transition between the first and second halves. Their characters changed so rapidly that I couldn’t adjust to the change and ultimately was repulsed by them. Minori is a very bubbly girl almost to the point of eccentricity. Ami acts like an airhead, but is actually manipulative and scheming. In the second half, Minori turns serious, Ami turns detached. I would’ve been ok with these changes had they not happened so quickly. Honestly, the change kinda killed Minori for me; I had gotten too used to her personality in the first half

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Yuusaku Kitamura:  Poor, poor Kitamura. Out of the five main characters, he’s easily the most neglected, so there’s not much to say about him. His main role in both halves (more so in the second half) is to simply be the comic relief character. Yeah, he gets his serious moments, but those are overshadowed by his antics as the show’s clown.

English Dub:  The whole reason why I’m writing this review is in honor of the English dub. It hasn’t been released yet, but judging from the trailer alone, it sounds poised to do fairly well. A problem that many English dubs suffer from is bad casting; characters just don’t sound the way they should. From the English Dub, the five main characters’ voices fit them, so the success of the dub would boil down simply to skill of the performers, which I do not doubt.

Final Verdict:  I’ve heard Toradora called one of the best romantic comedies out there, and I do think that’s a bit of an overstatement. That said, the only main complaint I have is its change in tone, and even that doesn’t cripple the show. All in all, Toradora’s a really solid piece of work and I think is worth your attention.

Grade: B+

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