Review written by Bananaowns
Images courtesy of J.C.Staff and NIS America.
Certain genres of anime make it difficult for any one show to stand out. In particular, the romance genre faces this problem. So when a show manages to overcome these hurdles, it’s special. I know I am a bit late to the party when it comes to Toradora, but this show managed to exceed every single one of my expectations, to the point where I watched 22 episodes of the show in one sitting. I have to give credit to the annual r/anime rewatch, which is still going on as the time of this review. Toradora is one of those rare anime that manages to overcome the genre, but what is so special about it? I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime Review.
Anime categorized as romantic comedies live and die by their characters. This is one of the aspects that Toradora excels at. Every one of the main cast is a unique hybrid of various anime personalities with their own set of insecurities and issues. The male lead Takasu Ryuji is a golden hearted teenager who is often portrayed as a thug because of his gangster like expression. He was raised by a single mother and as a result, had to grow up relatively quickly. The female lead, Aisaka Taiga is the classical tsundere but with a huge amount of depth. Taiga has an infamous reputation around the school for being small, with a fiery temper, being affectionately named after a Tiger. While her personality may annoy people early on, it becomes very apparent of why she acts the way she does. As the plot progresses, the viewer learns more about Taiga. That is the essential charm which does take a few episodes to present itself in some capacity.
As for the rest of the main characters, they too exhibit some unique qualities. Yusaku Kitamura, Ryuji’s best friend, at first appears to be the stereotypical nerd character, but he is in fact quite athletic and popular. Kitamura also serves as a voice of reason; often times being very perceptive of his friends’ true feelings on a variety of manners. Kushieda Minori, Taiga’s best friend, takes the role of the stereotypical anime airhead at first but as with Taiga that is not all there is to the character. She is hardworking and energetic, but this serves as a cover for her own feelings of inadequacy and fear. Rounding out the main cast is the character of Kawashima Ami. Unlike the rest of the main characters, Ami appears a little ways into the series, but she immediately fits in with the rest of the group. She initially appears very sweet, however, that serves to hide her more cold and vicious personality. Like Kitamura, she is very perceptive, but this perception is used as more of a means to create conflict between herself and Taiga.
Now the main story manages to use these characters in a meaningful way in the high school setting. Ryuji and Taiga initially meet when Taiga accidently puts a love letter meant for Kitamura into Ryuji’s bag. After some shenanigans with a break in, it is revealed that Ryuji has a crush on Kushieda. Given the fact that Ryuji and Taiga are attracted to each other’s best friends, the two agree to help one another pursue romance. Then the plot moves into a more typical romantic comedy fare, with the main characters being placed into a variety of situations ranging from adventures at the school pool, to planning a performance for the school festival. Toradora masterfully crafts interesting story elements from these seemingly normal plot points. I will not spoil the intricacies of the plot, but Toradora excels at both the comedic and dramatic aspect of a romantic comedy. Certain moments had me laughing hysterically, while others literally had me in tears. The story is an emotional roller coaster with an absolutely astounding payoff. Romantic series rarely end well, and this is one of the few that do.
As for animation quality, this series is not on a level as any of the works of Ufotable. However, for a show that aired in 2007 and 2008, the animation quality more than adequately serves the need of the show. There is a difference in quality in a few scenes compared to the anime as a whole. Certain scenes, mostly toward the end of the series, possess an obvious quality jump. It can be a bit jarring at first, but given the emotional impact of the scenes in question, it is more of a nitpick. The character design of the main characters is very well done. The main characters are uniquely designed. The expressions of the characters are near perfect. Every character is drawn in a way that accurately expresses the emotions that they are feeling at the time. If this point sounds a little convoluted, let’s use Taiga as an example. The animation for Taiga accurately captures the wide range of emotion that she exhibits. Whether it is a smile, tears, a blush, the animation perfectly conveys the emotion of Taiga at every point. This also is true for every other character in the series as well. Another minor nitpick is the background design of the scenes. There really is not anything special about the backgrounds. Now I realize that for a show with no fantasy elements, there is not going to be anything similar to the cathedral-esque school of Madoka Magica. However, for those that really enjoy the background design, there is not really anything that will impress you. Again this is a relatively minor nitpick, but those who are crazy about animation and art design will not find anything particularly amazing here, except for some character expressions.
Another one of the strongest aspects of Toradora is the music. Well it would not be fair to say that all of the music is amazing. Most of the music serves its intended purpose well, but is forgettable. However, there is one amazing track that pops in again and again throughout the series. A track that will make even the most cold hearted of individuals swell with emotion. Lost My Pieces is the name of that track. Frankly, Lost My Pieces is absolutely beautiful. The slow lullaby-like piano build up erupts into an outburst of emotion. This is the track used to highlight almost every single major emotional occurrence of the show. It enhances these moments to the point where my eyes start to well up every time that I hear the song start playing. Seriously, go out and buy Lost My Pieces right now, or find it on Spotify. Just do everything you can to listen to this amazing piece of music. It is rare that one piece of music manages to elevate the entire musical aspect so much.
Watch this show. Seriously watch this show. If you can actually buy it, do that too. Toradora is an absolute masterpiece of romantic comedy. While, there may be a few things that are not perfect about the series, the parts do come together to form an absolutely amazing experience. This is one of the finest shows in the genre. At a length of 25 episodes, it is more than worth the time. I give Toradora my Bananaowns stamp of approval.