Hello and welcome to the Anime Chop Block
With the election ending in a way that I don’t think people will be happy about, I figure we need something relatively fun to lighten the day. Today, I will be reviewing Toradora.
Toradora can best be described of as a show with two halves with the latter building off the former. The first half of Toradora is designed to establish characters and be a fairly comedic set of episodes revolving around the main characters, Takasu Ryuji and Aisaka Taiga, trying to help each other with their mutual crushes, Kushieda Minori and Kitamura Yuasku. In addition, another character, Kawashima Ami, enters the mix to complicate things. The first half is full of fairly generic setpieces of the anime romantic comedy: the beach episode, the culture festival, the pool and the test of courage. However, the show manages to make these setpieces feel unique with the main cast and how they are developed.
Right off the bat, we see that each of the main characters are unique in some way compared to their standard archtype. Ryuji may look like the tough faced character with a soft side, but his fatherly nature towards Taiga is enough to make him endearing in the same way that Tatsumi Kanji from Persona 4 is endearing; Both are characters with softer sides to them that get fleshed out. Taiga meanwhile may seem like the stereotypical tsundere but right from the first introduction of what her living space is like and how she feels about her parents in episode 2 makes her emotional enough to connect and stick with. Minori seems like the genki girl but her insight into the hearts of people and her compassion for Taiga balances it out. Ami is a two faced person with the face of a ditz and the nature of a manipulative person but she has a sense of emotional understanding that balances out the more volatile emotions of the cast. Yusaku doesn’t have that much development but he makes up for it by just being the even-handed person in the whole affair.
As such, this makes them compelling when things really go dramatic in the second half. The second half focuses more on the drama of a romance and how the relations built up in the first half interact with each other. Here, Mari Okada’s melodrama comes out but it’s grounded in the emotions established in the first half. The emotions run high in the second half with many feelings of anger, sorrow, passion and conflicts in love; this doesn’t feel as artificial as some other shows due to the fact that we got to see the emotional states of our leads before this and so the increase in emotional tension feels real. Ryuji and Taiga’s arcs in particular really come to a head with how they relate to their families and each other. This leads to a final set of 2 episodes that feel more emotionally real than any number of Jun Maeda death scenes. It should be noted though that this is a show where you have to stick around after the credits in the last episode or a lot of the emotional impact is lost.
Animation is well done but nothing of real note that would make sakuga fans take note. The characters are generally designed with sharp chins and natural proportions of the female characters. What should be noted are the voice performances. While Rie Kugimiya is known for tsundere performances, Taiga is one of her best roles with the right amount of anger, emotional vulnerability, and genuine happiness that makes her a person you would want to succeed in love. Junji Majima as Ryuji provides a very warm voice to the role, allowing the compassion that Ryuji gives Taiga to come through. Eri Kitamura as Ami provdes a flawless transition from serious and emotionally insightful to catty and manipulative to ditzy without hiccups. Yui Hoire as Minori pulls both the eccentric genki girl and the troubled in love girl with a lot of range that makes her believable.
All and all, Toradora is a true gem of romantic anime. It establishes itself with memorable characters delivered by talented actors and a focus on natural drama and emotion supported by solid writing. A must watch for anyone who loves romantic dramas