A slowly increasing pile of shows awaiting their series review has been on my mind lately. I’m tempted to brush them under the carpet since I could rightly reason that hardily anyone will care (and click on) what I thought of Toradora or the third season of Minami-ke or Rideback at this late date and my time could be better spent on other, more relevant posts. However, I remember that I enjoy when other bloggers review non-current series and remind me of past experiences – just the other day, I got the warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia when I read someone’s review of Dennou Coil. And since I’d like to think that I’m not an extreme oddity, I figure other people think the same way.
So, here’s my review of J.C. Staff’s Toradora and hopefully I’ll be following this up with other reviews.
Final Series Score: 11/12 A+
Rewatchablity: 3/5 – Average – Medium; The characters will ensure it will be rewatched but nothing really stands out as needing an immediate rewatch.
Ending: 3/5 – Good; Pacing problems rob the ending of some of it’s goodness but it still satisfies
Animation: 4/5 – Excellent; J.C. Staff does not disappoint in this department, while it may lack the latest bells and whistles, Toradora is animated quite well and is also pretty to look at
Pros: Characters are non-cliched, likeable, and given much depth from the superbly done character development, story is well-plotted out and always remains relevant, great voice work, J.C. Staff shows that it’s possible to create magic even with a show that should feel generic and cliched
Cons: The flow of the second half feels like too much material was stuffed in the given episode count
Awards given to this show by this blog
- #3 Top Overall Anime of 2008
- Best Male Main Character of 2008 for Ryuuji
- Best Female Supporting Character of 2008 for Minorin
- Runner-up Best Female Supporting Character of 2008 for Ami
- Best Cast of Characters of 2008
- Best Character Development for Cast in 2008
- Best Female Seiyuu Performance of 2008 by Rie Kugimiya as Taiga
- Runner-up Best Seiyuu Cast of 2008
- #5 Top Anime of Winter Season 2009
- Best Supporting Character of Winter 2009 for Ami
- Runner-up Best Couple of Winter 2009
- Best Character Development of a Single Character of Winter 2009 for Taiga
- Best Fight of Winter 2009 for Episode 21
Ryuuji is your standard male high school student with an extreme neat freak streak and a mom that works as a hostess at a upscale club that caters to the likes of the yakuza. He’s also a very nice guy but everyone is scared of him because he received his unknown yakuza father’s facial features so he looks like a dangerous juvenile. On the first day of school he meets Taiga, a girl rightly feared by almost everyone because of her explosive temper. Taiga is fearsome but she also has someone she likes – Ryuuji’s friend – and it turns out Ryuuji also has some he likes – Taiga’s friend. A plan is hatched by the two but sometimes even the best laid plans go awry.
Thoughts and impressions
When I think about Toradora I split the show into halves, the first 13 episodes and the final 12 episodes. I do this because the show’s plot structure feels like it was conceived to run as two separate blocks as more and more shows today are but in-the-end they ran together. This is why, even though it ran during the fall 2008 and winter 2009 seasons, it was able to earn so many awards in my 2008 yearly awards. (And FYI, for space considerations and because the yearly awards is a bigger award then seasonal awards, I didn’t include the Fall 2008 seasonal awards.)
This split also helps me explain my feelings for this show. I’m convinced that if this show had run another 13 episodes (for a total of 37 episodes) I would be writing right now that Toradora was the best thing J.C. Staff has ever done, even better than Honey and Clover and Azumanga Daioh. Instead, I’ll say that the first half of Toradora displays J.C. Staff at it’s absolute best – a level few studios can match – and the second half is still a very great show but the storytelling felt constrained due to time and it just couldn’t match the first half.
So what makes this show so good?
To answer my own question, it’s the characters and how well the story naturally unfolded, with it’s emphasis towards character development and finding ways to take even well-used plot devices and making them feel new again.
And I don’t want to gloss over that fact since I know there where many people who didn’t initially watch this show because it looked like every other school-based relationship type anime with all the cliches and plot tropes that we all know and love (or hate). Yes, it had a tsundere, a hyper-energetic girl, a spoiled rich brat (or two); yes, it had a beach episode, a Christmas episode, and a valentine’s day episode. That’s not what’s important, what is important is how well the show is executed and how content it was to stick with the stock scenes and characters. Toradora definitely worked at infusing vibrancy and newness to even the most basic and well-used parts of the show.
An example of this is the main character Taiga, voiced by Rie Kugimiya – well known for voicing short tsunderes like Nagi from Hayate, Shana from Shakugan no Shana, Zero from Zero’s Familiar, etc. Taiga is another short tsundere so most people, even myself, figured we had Taiga’s character pegged before the season started but we were wrong. Taiga’s emotions came off as being genuine, her harshness came from her frustration at always being around people who didn’t understand her and her syrupy lovey-doveyness came from finally finding some happiness; as a result, she was able to transcend her character type and became an engaging, real person. Nor should it be forgotten that this would have not been possible if the story didn’t allow her to display how she was different or allow her character to grow and become a better person. It’s like two sides of a single coin – good characters make the story better and a good story helps make the characters more interesting.
Another thing that I liked about this show was how the storytelling wasn’t just about a single character but all five major characters. Not only did this allow for great character development of many characters but it also allowed for better storytelling. We don’t get the contrived stretching of the story to fill space we see in harem style shows nor do we have to suspend belief over characters that conveniently can’t make up their minds for episodes and episodes on end.
So, in conclusion, I would highly recommend Toradora to anyone looking for a character driven show that knows when to be funny, when to be serious, when to be contemplative, and when to be silly.
- 25 episodes
- genre: drama, romantic comedy
- animation studio: J.C. Staff
- director: Tatsuyuki Nagai
- OP: “Pre-Parade” by Rie Kugimiya, Eri Kitamura, and Yui Horie, “silky heart” by Yui Horie
- ED: “Vanilla Salt” by Yui Horie, “Orange” by Rie Kugimiya, Eri Kitamura and Yui Horie
- Seiyuus of note: Junji Majima, Rie Kugimiya, Yui Horie, Eri Kitamura, Hirofumi Nojima, Sayaka Ohara