Aug 11, 2013
Romance has always been a tricky, unforgiving genre; you make one mistake and the story slowly begins to crumble. Why is that? Well, as many of us may know, love is a complicated business. So is entertainment. So why do we watch romantic series? There's many different answers that vary based on the individual. Maybe we're simply taking a chance at trying to find a feeling. A feeling of the tingle of our heartstrings, or a stir in our human emotions. It's good to feel these things from time to time. Fortunately for us, Toradora is a series that gracefully grants us this chance. It captivates us in remembering what a romance series should strive to be.

What makes Toradora so exceptional as far as the romance genre goes? Is it the story? The art? The Sound? The Characters? It just may be all of them combined. I'd like to begin by stating something. The story of Toradora is very predictable. Cliché even. But wait, isn't that a bad thing? While the story may seem plain, the execution of the pacing is undeniably good at assuming a calm, relaxed flow for the majority of its run which, in turn, yields a satisfying romantic series as a result.

Toradora is not like many other romantic series out there that have characters fall in love simply just because. Love slowly stems from what begins as two people who become friends looking for mutual assistance in their romantic interests. Toradora gives its audience room to breathe and focuses the first half of the show on building the friendship between the two main characters through silly, lighthearted antics, making developed romantic feelings between characters seem more realistic and sincere later down the line when things become more serious. However, love is a complicated business, as I've said in my introduction. People's feelings do get walked over and left in the dust. While it's thematically a good thing for the audience to feel touched emotionally, seeing characters getting their emotions crushed was truly a somber sight to behold.

The art was smooth and was enjoyable visually. I did like the consistency that Toradora’s animation offered. For a series that was done in the 2008-2009 time period, it still looks marvelous and holds its own compared to more recent anime. The sound was a big plus in my book. While I liked both the OPs and EDs, I have to give a big shout out to the timing of the music during dramatic moments; that repetitive melody of piano left quite a strong impression on me. I'd like to also address that the script and voice actors were really quite something. The dark little subtleties in comments or remarks were an admirable feature the show had to offer.

I think every romantic series heavily depends on its cast to be the foundation of the series, holding the structure of the show into place. The characters of Toradora are an interesting bunch that create the opportunity for its audience to laugh and also feel gloomy. There is more than meets the eye underneath these seemingly cliché characters. Ryuuji is the male lead and he is generally a very likable, realistic character. He struggles with romance, gets low self-esteem because he’s self-conscious, and regularly voices his opinions on matters at hand. Throughout the show he proves that he’s a loyal friend and all around good guy, though he might be a little obsessive compulsive about cleanliness and order. But hey, who doesn't have their own little quirks?

Moving onto the main female lead, I felt a little wishy-washy in regards to liking Taiga’s character. I’m not a fan of the tsundere type, and that’s exactly what she is. While Taiga acts like a brat most of the time, she also becomes more and more endearing as the series progresses. She stands up for herself and her friends, and despite her childish behavior, generally cares for the people around her. With the main two characters out of the way, what about the other ‘main’ characters: Minori, Yuusaku, and Ami?

One of Toradora’s strengths was allowing the supporting characters to have their moments in the spotlight. Because of this, we are able to obtain a deeper understanding of them and paint a better picture of them as characters. While Ami and Minori seem perceptive of the relationships in the group, I’m honestly not sure about Yuusaku. Under his oblivious façade it’s somewhat difficult to tell. While he's Ryuuji's best friend, he is oddly quite different compared to him. Yuusaku is energetic, outgoing, responsible, yet also very silly and childish. Minori seems like genuinely a nice girl with the happy on the outside cliché personality, but Minori is really a coward underneath it all; she doesn’t confront her own emotions and constantly pushes for Taiga’s happiness at her own expense. It’s not that I disliked Minori as a character, it was just agitating to watch her at times. Last but not least, Kawashima, Ami. Ami is the most astute of the unsaid troubles that are bothering the people in the group and often makes subtle comments or sarcastic remarks pertaining to their unspoken feelings. When she is first introduced she seems extremely stuck up and vain, but as the series progressed it becomes more apparent that she’s tactfully looking out for the people she can finally call ‘friends’ for the first time. She developed the most out of the three supporting main characters, in my opinion, and easily became one of my favorite characters of the series, if not my most favorite.

Despite how gratifying I thought the series was, I also can’t turn a blind eye on the aspects of the show that I did not like. One of the most annoying tropes in anime, at least for me, is characters getting hit for no reason, or very petty ones. It's a trope that comes hand-in-hand with the tsundere character archetype, and it's one of the reasons I dislike tsundere characters as a whole. Taiga, who basically goes down the list of tsundere character traits like a check list, is a huge offender of verbally and physically abusing Ryuuji early on in the series. If you're like me, you'll find this to be quite vexing. Lastly, fan service is apparent in nearly every recent anime. While I personally dislike fan service, I know that many series utilize it to keep a portion of their audience interested. I watched Toradora because it was a romance story that set itself apart from most others. Although it's substantially toned down, comparatively to other series, I believe Toradora would have been better off not utilizing any fan service at all.

While I did like the ending overall because it ties things up nicely, and felt fairly rewarding, I did not like how the ending felt very rushed. The amount of material crammed into the last couple episodes felt considerably off, considering the rest of the show was focused on coaxing the relationships at a much slower pace. A couple bad apples on a tree don’t make the rest of the apples rotten, and Toradora was far from being bad. It isn’t a completely perfect series, but one of the best the romance genre has to offer in anime so far.

Every once in a while a person can't help but wonder what if. There has been a time in all our lives when we have pondered the thought of meeting the 'one' who is exactly right for us. Every day we strive to find a person, or people, who understand and accept us for who we are. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find that one person that fits together with you like two consecutive cogs in an intricate machine. Maybe, if you were lucky, you might meet someone who is exactly right for you. It's not because this person is perfect, or because you are, but because your combined flaws fit together seamlessly in a way that allows two different beings to coexist together perfectly as equals … something like a Tiger and a Dragon.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9
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