Ho Ho Ho, Anime Secret Santa Time!

Hahaha, that’s right. I’ve decided to involve myself further into the anime blogsphere by participating anime secret santa. The rule itself was kind of simple. Send your MAL/Hummingbird. You get three recommendation. Watch at least one of those shows and then finally review them.

Of the three shows given to me, I’ve decided to try out Xam’d first, a 2008 original Bones show. Unfortunately, 6 episodes in, the series prove itself too much for me.  So, rather than torturing myself further, I decided to drop it and move on to another show on my list, which is Toradora!

Toradora was originally on my on-hold list over at MAL, which makes this recommendation somewhat odd. However, I suppose its a good excuse as any to finally finish the darn show.

So, how is Toradora?

Toradora OP2

The first time I learn the existence of Toradora, which is when I’m still relatively new to anime, I’m initially skeptical about the show’s general quality and popularity. Googling the series promo art, the impression I get that its a stock rom-com with pretty recognizable archetypes. Ryuuji is the nice guy, Minori the genki girl, Taiga most obviously a tsundere and so on.

Of course, when it comes to story, execution is really what matters and I do enjoy my share of romcom, however I found most of them not exactly to be emotionally affecting, with their conflict are generally constructed  around “getting these two leads together” with less-than-graceful execution. Reliance on misunderstanding, drama contrivance, just not-so-good writing all around.

Toradora, however, prove itself to be a different beast. The series isn’t interested in just having the characters going through all sort of shenanigans and hijinks, and also baiting the relationship between its two leads for our amusement. Toradora care for its characters, and also wants them to develop and grow. And the series does it like it was the easiest thing ever.

Just in case you didn’t know, the premise of Toradora was about misunderstood teenager, Ryuuji Takasu, who was avoided by his peers due to his menacing look. After an unfortunate, or fortunate, run in with another school delinquent Taiga Aisaka, he discover that she has a crush toward his best friend, Yusaku Kitamura. Coincidentally, Ryuuji himself has feelings toward Taiga’s best friend, Minori Kushieda. With those knowledge in mind, the two decided to team up to help one another get closer to their respective crushes.

If there is one thing Toradora is about, I’d say its about teenagers growing up, whether its moving toward maturity and/or moving past their crushes, and about good-intentioned people hiding and surpressing their feeling for one another, in order not to damage to status quo and hurt their friends, even if it will kill them.

Toradora begins with a pretty dense first episode that establish all the basic variables in the story which feels like it was longer than it is, which is to its credit. By the time the credits roll, I feel like I’ve already known so much about the characters. Their personality, their struggle and what their want in their life. And the entire pacing of the episode feels natural instead of frenetic (courtesy of the series composer, Mari Goddang Okada).

That was probably the moment in which Toradora grabbed my attention. The one that really makes me fell in love however, was the following episode in which Taiga finally confess her feeling to Kitamura which resulted in rejection, followed by Ryuji declaration that he’ll be the dragon to Taiga’s, well, tiger.

Not only the event from Taiga’s confession to Ryuji’s declaration feels like a climax in any other romcom, it also really solidified the rapport and the relationship  between the two.

From there, Toradora generally spends the entire first half of the series getting the characters into pretty much standard high school anime scenario, summer vacation at the beach, school festival, etc. But with even generally familiar scenario, the series keeps a good balance between comedy and the development of each characters psychology and relationships, in particular, Taiga and Ryuuji realization that the one they actually love are closer than they think, not the crushes they often hold in pedestal (recurring thread which Toradora likes to address).  All of this comes to a head in the more dramatic second half of the series, in which all of the characters began to realize that the world and the dynamic between them has changed, and their wish for comfortable stasis and something stable may will caused them to do bad things for one another, whether out of selflessness or selfishness. Watching the second half, you really wish for all of the characters to end up happy, but not without them hurting themselves first.

The characters are pretty much the stars in Toradora. While on broadstroke, all of them has pretty basic type, the series use those type as a jumping platform for deeper characterization and even subvertion. Ryuuji is well intentioned young man who cares deeply about his friends, but his inability to read mood often caused him trouble. Taiga is a unstable girl who often lashed out on others, but it was as the result of her unhappy family live. Her best friend Minori is a cheerful energetic girl who wear a fragile mask of her own. The real standout however, was Ami. Kitamura’s multi faceted childhood friend who seems to really know what’s going on with each characters but couldn’t do anything to help other than cryptic message as an outsider looking in.

Honestly there’s not much I could complain about Toradora, but I do have some complaint. For one, the beginning of Kitamura arc felt awkwardly structured, although the finale was pretty satisfying. I’m also less lenient toward the series humor, coming back. All the character-driven one are solid, but many also quote unquote anime humor, like the homeroom teacher who couldn’t get married or the beginning of episode 6. And while the direction was nice, the general aesthetic, animation and music are pretty serviceable.

All in all, I like Toradora. Its heartwarming emotional-ride that quite well-deserved its reputation.

Side Note:

  • As requested, the best girl is Minori. You may say I was wrong in the comment section now.
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5 comments

  1. appropriant · December 25, 2015

    Actually you’re completely right. Minori is the sun in our world. Congratulations on making the objectively correct decision in best girls.

    Glad you liked Toradora. Admittedly it’s been at least five years since I last watched the show, so my recollection of the series is quite fuzzy even as I recommended it. Still, though, this is a very good and measured response and I understand where you come from with the critiques. Thanks for taking the time to review it!

    On a side note, I am completely not surprised that you passed on Xam’d. I guess I’ll just keep searching for someone who truly understands me on this grumble grumble. Wandering Son, though, is something I would still like for you to watch sometime.

    Like

    • Namhur · December 25, 2015

      Yeah! I knew I have the ”””best””” taste. It was a toss up between Minori and Ami, but ultimately I kind of prefer Minori. She’s just too good for this world.

      Hahaha, yeah sorry. I actually really want to get through Xam’d since I like the way you describe the series, but the experience is pretty confusing. Hope you can find someone who can understand the series though!

      Also I knew it! You /are/ the pretentious snob!

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  2. Pingback: Secret Santa 2015 Project Reveal | Reverse Thieves
  3. Kai · December 26, 2015

    I definitely agree with you that characters are the best aspect of Toradora. It’s kinda funny too because like you said, they just look like very basic LN archetypal characters at first glance, and the visuals don’t help either. I think Toradora is just great at treating it’s story and characters seriously, which really allow people to invest in the drama.

    Also, Minori may be Best Girl, Ryuuji X Taiga is OTP.

    Like

  4. reversethieves · January 6, 2016

    The funniest thing about Toradora is how many people seemed honestly perplexed that Ryuuji X Taiga is the way the show turns out. I don’t feel that is a spoiler because it is in the title.

    But I think your spot on about the fact that while the show leans on the formula of the genre where it stands out is when it subverts those tropes just as much as when it strongly plays them straight. It is a surprisingly fun little series.

    Also my only comment to appropriant would be that thee main problem with Xam’d is that it has a very high barrier to entry. It really can have a very off putting first episode, It either lures you in with the promise of its mysteries or just confuses you.

    – Alain

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