“There exists in this world something no one has ever seen. It’s gentle and so very sweet that it only takes a glimpse to make a person crave it.That’s why this world has kept it hidden. Making it difficult to obtain. But one day, it will be found. By the one person who is meant to find it. Because that’s how it works.”
-Ryuji Takasu & Asaka Taiga
To close out Spooky Anime month here on the blog [and because of the pending LSU vs Alabama Football game this Saturday…], my original intention was to have OtakuAndrain review the oddly appropriate “Soul Eater” anime. However, due to situations beyond our control [And the fact that he can’t even think of the “Soul Eater” ending without going into a bloody rant the likes of which few mortal men have witnessed…], I’m going to pick up the last review of the month with an anime that I had, admittedly, put on the back-burner, but since it became available on CrunchyRoll, I figured “Meh, why not?” I’m Cajun Samurai, and this is my review of “Toradora!”
Warnings and Notable Objectionable Content – “Toradora!” is a clean series. The language doesn’t go above PG-13, there are a few fights, but nothing out-of-the-way, no nudity, no sexual situations, and religious sensitive souls will find no problems here.
Series Availability – If you’re looking for physical media, I got some bad news for ya. At the time of this writing, “Toradora!” is currently not sold in any brick and mortar major retail stores. Sites like Amazon and eBay do have the Complete Collection DVD’s, but PLEASE be careful as there are bootlegged copies floating around: if it seems too good to be true, then chances are, it is. Investigate before you invest. If you’re looking for a more digital experience, sites like CrunchyRoll and Hulu are streaming “Toradora!”.
Story Premise – “Toradora!” is a 25 episode anime based off a light novel and manga series written by Yuyuko Takemiya. The series follows a group of five high school students as they go through their last two years of high school, searching for love and dealing with the feelings of those who are oblivious to yours. The series focuses on our two lead characters, Ryuji Takasu, a gentle soul with anything but gentle looks and Asaka Taiga, a beautiful yet short-tempered [and short statured] girl who just can’t seem to get along with others, save for her best friend and Ryuji’s crush Minori Kushieda. As fate would have it, Ryuji’s only best friend, Student Council Vice President [Later Student Council President] Yūsaku Kitamura, is Taiga’s crush, yet due to her underlying shy nature, she has yet to confess her feelings to him. Due to a potentially horrific error on Taiga’s part [She mistakingly puts an envelope containing a love note in Ryuji’s bag instead of in Yusaku’s bag–which as it turns out, was only an empty envelope as she forgot to actually put said note in said envelope to begin with…oy…], she agrees to help Ryuji hook up with Minori with the agreement that he not only cooks lunch and dinner for her [Taiga lives alone due to some family issues explained in the series…] but that Ryuji helps her hook up with Yusaku. And so the series goes on with Ryuji and Taiga trying to hook each other up, while learning more and more about each other and coming to grips with the odd feeling that maybe the person they are REALLY in love with is the person they least suspect. “Toradora!” is an expertly crafted story, taking advantage of all 25 episodes without any wasted time. Each scene, each moment, is key to the overall story, but you never feel lost or confused about what happened. The ending is good, but there were a few things that I was left scratching my head about that wasn’t quite clear or explained. I won’t go into details here due to spoilers, but all I can say is that if you take it at face value, without doing too much questioning, then “Toradora!” ends on a perfect note. If you start asking questions, then you might not get a full and satisfied feeling from it. [24/25]
Favorite Scene/Episode – I have to say Episode 19 “Christmas Eve Festival” was just one of many favorite episodes. Though it could be said that the entire “Christmas” story arc [Episodes 17 through 19] are my all time favorites because it’s around this time when our characters finally learn what their true feelings are, be it good or bad.
Characters – As I type this, there’s one thing that sticks out about all the characters; for the most part, they remind me of the characters from the “Peanuts” comic strip. Our story starts with Ryūji Takasu. Ryuji is a very admirable and overall nice guy: he takes care of his mother, who makes a living working in a bar seducing customers, he’s culinary gifted, and he’s extremely domesticated when it comes to household chores–especially cleaning. Alas, despite all his good traits, Ryuji has one glaring problem. Thanks to his absentee father’s genetics, Ryuji has the appearance of a juvenile delinquent–short hair, small squinty eyes, and a tall, imposing physique. [Sounds like me when I wake up in the mornings too early…] Because of this, people tend to think the worst of him and keep their distance especially, to his hearts great sadness, girls. Ryuji is one of the most refreshing male leads in an anime I’ve seen in quite a while. He’s…well…NORMAL. He’s like a less spastic Watanuki from “xxxHolic”. In fact, he’s a perfect combination of Watanuki and Domeki. You really hope he succeeds in love and in life and you feel sorry for him when he fails. He’s probably the closest thing to Charlie Brown I think I’ve ever seen in an anime…save for Tsukasa in “Ganbare Goemon”. If Ryuji is Charlie Brown, then I have to say that our female lead, the “Palmtop Tiger” Asaka Taiga is Lucy Van Pelt. She is in the same boat as Ryuji, however there is a great difference; unlike Ryuji, Asaka is a very beautiful, doll-like girl, but her attitude is…shall we say…tiger-like? She tends to repel just about everyone who tries to come close to her; lashing out with her claws and her wooden sword conveniently placed behind her back under her school uniform. She’s what I’m dubbing a “hyper-Tsundere”. Taiga is also a slob, leaving her apartment in complete disarray. It’s easy to dislike Taiga at first blush, but I ask that you stick with her–she’s so much more than her outward appearance. Minori Kushieda is our resident genki girl, Taiga’s best friend, and Ryuji’s love interest. She’s a very unique character; while she is your typical genki girl, but she has plenty of heart and brains. Common sense…well…we’re working on that. If anything, she reminds me of Peppermint Patty. Yūsaku Kitamura takes the Linus Van Pelt slot in our group as the Student Council Vice President [Later to be full President…], Ryuji’s best friend, and Taiga’s love interest. At first, I thought that Yusaku was going to be just another boring best friend character like Masashi in “ToHeart”. However, after one particular episode, I was proved completely wrong. Yusaku grew to be one of the most standout characters in the entire series. His eccentricities are hilarious to watch and his story was very intriguing. Rounding out the list of our main characters is Ami Kawashima, childhood friend of Yusaku, and the school idol, running almost a close second to Taiga. Ami doesn’t really have a “Peanuts” equivalent, but that’s only because she’s so two-faced; acting sweet and innocent around strangers, yet vain, cynical and abrasive to others. Now I know that phrase has a typical negative connotation, but in this case, I think it can be seen as both a positive and a negative. Ami acts as the catalyst of the group with regards to their troubled relationships, planting the seed that will set the wheels into motion. Overall, the cast of “Toradora!” are perfect considering the story that it’s trying to tell. I honestly cannot see this story being told with any other group. [25/25]
Animation – The animation of “Toradora!” is very well done. The colors are bright and vibrant, and the character designs are true to the original manga. The animation remains consistent throughout the entire series and I truly enjoyed it. One thing that I particularly enjoyed was the “Steady Cam” effect used in the first opening title sequence “Pre-Parade”. It gives it a sense of realism like there is actually someone in the room recording them with a handheld camera. [12.5/12.5]
Music – Earlier this year, OtakuAndrain and I did a breakdown of our favorite and not so favorite anime opening and closing themes, and the first opening theme [For episodes 2-16, and 25], “Pre-Parade” by Rie Kugimiya, Eri Kitamura, and Yui Horie, was right at the top of OA’s list–with good reason. “Pre-Parade” is hip, upbeat, and smooth without sounding overly bubbly and sugary as is the case with many other anime with an all female singing group. The opening animation is also very well done, introducing us to our main characters in their natural environment. The first closing theme, “Vanilla Salt” by Yui Horie is a nice way to end the first half of the series, with very pretty animation. The second opening [For Episodes 17-24] is “silky heart” by Yui Horie and it sets a very nice tone consistent with the changes that take place at that time in the series. The animation this time around matches perfectly with the song–not quite as bright or vivid as “Pre-Parade”, but still contributing its own spark to the show. The second ending song, “Orange” by Rie Kugimiya, Eri Kitamura, and Yui Horie is nice and peaceful. The three singers harmonize very well and the animation of our male lead baking an orange cake for our three female leads is cute in its own way. Incidental music is perfect–pleasant to listen to, yet not taking away from the action on-screen. The song “Holy Night”, performed by Kugimiya and Kitamura in episode 19 is all kinds of awesome–they have a perfect harmony and the song itself really makes me feel so moon. [12.5/12.5]
Performances and Production – “Toradora!” was directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai in Japan. He’s worked as Associate Director and Storyboard artist for quite a few shows including “Mushi-Shi”, “Honey and Clover”, “Chobits” and “Witch Hunter Robin”. Unfortunately, there is no American Adaptation, save for the translation. I find it funny that no licensing company decided to take a chance on this one, as it has an extensive fan following online, but, such is life. In any case, playing our male lead Ryuji is Junji Majima. Majima-san has been in quite a few series, mostly over the last ten years including “Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai” [Or “Oriemo” for short or “My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute!”], “Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?” and “Kodomo no Jikan: Anata ga Watashi ni Kureta Mono”. I had no problems with his voice at all–he plays the awkward Ryuji perfectly. Playing our little Palmtop Tiger is Rie Kugimiya. Of course, her resume goes without saying: Alphonse Elric in both iterations of “Fullmetal Alchemist”, Sabato-chan in “Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan”, Momo in “Tokimeki Memorial Only Love”, Chika in “Hidamari Sketch x365”. The list literally goes on and on. I love her voice in this production–she is the perfect Tsundere voice. Yui Horie as Minori Kushieda is flawless–she plays the hyperactive yet caring friend role very well, and she adds real heart to each of her lines. Hirofumi Nojima as our Student Council Vice President/President Yūsaku Kitamura [Akatsuki from “Aria: The Animation/Natural/Origination”, don’t you know…] is awesome to listen to! Listening to his grand over the top moments as well as his quiet, introspective moments are well worth the price of admission. Eri Kitamura plays the two-faced Ami Kawashima, and I have to say, she did a great job–shifting from the nice and bubbly side of Ami to the dark and vain side with fluid-like abandon. She is awesome. Rounding out our cast is Sayaka Ōhara as Ryuji’s mom Yasuko Takasu. Now, it goes without saying that Ohara-san has been known to play quite a few mother/nuturing-type characters; Alica Florence in “Aria: The Animation/Natural/Origination”, Yuko Ichihara from “xxxHolic”, Yukari Nitani from “Usagi Drop”…but I do believe that this is the first time I’ve ever heard her play drunk…and I have to admit…I LIKE IT! [25/25]
Story Breakdown – 24/25
Characters – 25/25
Animation – 12.5/12.5
Music – 12.5/12.5
Performance and Production – 25/25
Final Score – 99/100 = 99% – (A)
Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra):
- In case you haven’t caught on, the performers of the opening and closing songs, Rie Kugimiya, Eri Kitamura, and Yui Horie, are the voice actresses for Taiga, Minori, and Ami respectively.
- In Episode 20, when the group gathers at Taiga’s apartment for a meeting, Minori can be seen drinking from a mug that has a picture of the Twitter Whale on it. [You know, that smiling whale being held up by several birds that pops up when Twitter is overloaded? Yeah, that one.]
- The title “Toradora!” is a combination of the Japanese word for “Tiger” and “Dragon”. Ryuji’s name literally translates to “Son of Dragon”.
So where does that leave us? Well, as OtakuAndrain said in March, “Toradora!” is “The Greatest Love Story Ever told”. With it’s inspired story telling, loveable and intrepid characters, animation that rivals anything of the time, music that stays with you long after the show is done, and an all-star expert acting cast from The Land of the Rising Sun, “Toradora!” has earned it’s place in the heart of fans everywhere, and will forever be considered a go-to series for those who know what a good love story looks like.
And so, the epic last-minute write off is completed just one minute before midnight CST!! I think this is the fastest I’ve ever typed up a review–from blank page to full review in just under a few hours! That’ll wake up the old grey matter upstairs! In any case, for the month of November, I don’t really have a whole theme lined up…so…I guess November will be a Freestyle month! Pretty much, I’ll look on my shelf and see what I feel like watching, pop it in, and review it! First up on the list is a show that I had to fight tooth and nail for and a relative new comer to my collection! Plus, how can you not like an anime that features our nation’s capital? Yup. That one. Stay with us here as I take a look at…
“Eden of the East”