Romantic series have always been a tricky beast to handle. Often times the story and plot fall short of expectations or the typical emotional roller coaster fails to hit the expected peaks and valleys along the journey from beginning to end, however, one anime pulls it off rather well. This is J.C. Staff’s Toradora!
The series is a few years old. It aired in the 2008-2009 Winter Anime Season. It was a show that was on my list to watch, but I never got around to it. Now that I had the time to sit down and watch this 25 episode series, I completed it with no regrets. So what makes Toradora! a great anime to watch if you’re into the romcom (Romantic Comedy) genre? Let’s take a look.
Toradora! is a slice-of-life romantic comedy with a high school setting. It centers around Ryuuji Takasu and Taiga Aisaka, two high school students who live next to each other and have different love interests, yet, they agree to help each other pursue their goals after Taigi writes Yuusaku Kitamura a love letter and accidentally places it into Ryuuji’s school bag. Taiga then breaks into Ryuuji’s home in an effort to take the love letter back, but we learn how clumsy Taiga is when the envelope that was to contain the letter winds up being empty.
Ryuuji’s love interest is Minori Kushieda who also happens to be Taiga’s best friend. Ryuuji has loved her for over a year, but never has found the courage to confess to her. Most of the show revolves around Ryuuji trying to put Taiga into situations where she would be alone with Kitamura and vice versa for Ryuuji and Kushieda. Since this a romcom series, you can imagine that things always never seemingly go to plan.
Along our journey, many of the plans are executed in some of the most typical anime trope settings imaginable. We have the beach-side house as well as the swimming pool episodes for fanservice reasons. We also have the school’s cultural festival, the Christmas party, even the exchange of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. The only one that was really missing here was the trip to the hot springs. Nevertheless, either key story or character development points happen in each of these scenarios which is pretty much cliché of romcom animes. Also, if you want to talk about tropes, Ryuuji’s seat in class is second from the back, next to the window. Forever the main character’s seat!
Speaking of the characters, they’re up next!
Every good show needs a good cast of characters and Toradora! puts some good effort into developing them. Even some of the lesser supporting characters get developed late in the series, but not to the extent that would overshadow the main characters or the main support cast.
Ryuuji Takasu is your typical high schooler. He was born with a face that makes him seem scary. Many people don’t like interacting with him simply due to the way he looks. They feel that they will end up on the business end of a beatdown should they say the wrong thing to him, however, Ryuuji is far from that type of character and even recognizes the fact that people are scared of him because of his looks. Ryuuji is, in fact, warm and compassionate and serves up the classic lesson of never judging a book by its cover. As the show goes on, though, more and more people actually disregard his scary looks and warm up to him, although they do pull the old “don’t make Ryuuji mad” joke several times throughout the show, but when they do, they’ve already invested so much time into making Ryuuji look tame that it only serves as a reminder to how his character started rather than providing a laugh.
Taiga Aisaka is your typical tsundere character. Although she won’t take the title away from Shana (Shakugan no Shana), she does a wonderful job in the role. There is a great balance between her meanness and her sensitive side. She typically holds her true feelings in, calls everyone an idiot and isn’t above doing nice things for people which is why she is helping Ryuuji out. She even tries to force her softer side during Christmas so that her wish can come true and to see her trying to be nice WHILE being mean is pretty hilarious!
Minori Kushieda is our first main supporting character. She’s the girl with endless energy that can seemingly handle and balance anything that life can throw her way. She’s the team captain of the school’s female softball team and we often find her working anywhere from three to four part time jobs in a given week. In fact, it seems that no matter where Ryuuji and Taiga go, they always run into Kushieda working somewhere. She does get some nice development throughout the series, though. We find out she’s a horror fanatic and, like her best friend Taiga, is really good at concealing her emotions which shows that she can’t always be carefree and full of energy 24/7. It really makes Kushieda seem more human more than a typical trope character you usually see in anime.
Yuusaku Kitamura is Ryuuji’s best friend and your typical upstanding high school student. He’s on the student council and even ends up becoming student council president. In fact, we learn that Kitamura asked Taigi out in the past only to have Taiga reject him. He seemingly moved on but still knows Taiga’s feelings when she tries to find ways to be alone with him. He also gets some nice development as well where he enters a rebellious phase which, again, breaks the mold of a typical trope character. Typically the student body characters are immune to being human and just walk around like mindless drones who enforce the rules. Kitamura is a bit different in that regard and his rebellious phase serves a nice twist.
Ami Kawashima – Ami is a new character that’s introduced early in the series. She transferred to their school in order to escape a stalker who ends up following her anyway. She is a popular modeling idol and immediately draws the attention of everyone at school. Kitamura ends up introducing her as a sweet lovable person… pretty much what everyone sometimes believes about celebrities, but Ami is quick to reveal that she has a princess-like attitude, thinking that her fans are mere peasants who only come to see her. She’s rough around the edges, but that doesn’t actually last too long. While she maintains her attitude throughout most of the series, being around our cast of characters slowly changes her into a more relatable character that actually shows some moments of kindness and charity.
The rest of Toradora!’s characters are pretty minor, but even they are pretty fun to watch such as Yasuko, Ryuuji’s mother, who is forever 23 in her mind even though she’s in her thirties. She spends most of her nights getting hammered at clubs and stumbling home. Yuri Koigakubo is the students’ homeroom teacher and quite possibly my favorite character of the lesser supporting cast. She’s in her early thirties and believes she will be alone forever. She gets anger and jealous each time she hears the students complaining or bragging about their love lives or lack thereof. Even though she’s a minor character, she always shines whenever she gets screen time. Also a favorite of mine is Inko.. Ryuuji’s really ugly parakeet that tries to talk, but typically spurts out one word or fails and just falls over. There are many other characters in the show and each have their quirks and attitudes that really help pace the shows along. They’re not just cookie-cutter characters with a few lines, but they all try to have meaning when they are on screen… and that’s a good thing.
Composed by Jin Aketagawa, the OST of Toradora! isn’t something that’s going to win a lot of awards as there wasn’t really anything truly memorable about it. The OST does serve as nice background music and does convey the emotions of each individual situation so it succeeds highly in that regard, but that’s all it really seems to accomplish. Outside of supporting specific moods, the soundtrack is easily forgettable and even after just finishing up watching the series and writing this review, I cannot actually recall any track that really stood out. Then again, all anime OSTs can’t have epic soundtracks like Shingeki no Kyoujin or Fairy Tail, but what the music accomplishes in this show, it accomplishes it well and serves its purpose.
If you want some pretty good love stories similar to Toradora!, I will point you towards a couple of mangas. The first being GE ~Good Ending~. This is a series that wrapped up a little over two years ago and currently does not have plans for an anime, which is a shame because an adaptation would have been very nice. Also, I would recommend Love Hina. Love Hina does have an anime, but after watching it, I would HIGHLY suggest the manga over the show as the anime is a decent adaptation at best. Hopefully between those two, you’ll find something you like!
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