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Toradora! (とらドラ!) Review

July 1, 2009


A review by a guy who isn’t attracted to the female cast.

Synopsis: Ryuuji Takasu is a dutiful high school student who, thanks to his father’s genes, is labeled by his peers as an aloof delinquent because of his permanent scowl and broadly-stooped shoulders. At school, he maintains a friendly relationship with the industrious and level-headed Yuusaku Kitamura, while vying for the affections of the ever-cheerful Minori Kushieda. On the first day of school, he is accidentally confronted by the hostile Taiga Aisaka, known as the “Palmtop Tiger” by her classmates. When Taiga accidentally slips a love letter meant for Yuusaku during school afterhours into Ryuuji’s bag, she is understandably flustered. But when she learns that Ryuuji is in love with Minori, who happens to be her best friend, they reach a compromise to help each other out despite their obvious antipathy for one another.


Warning: As predictable as the show may be, this review contains spoilers. I urge you to use discretion when reading.

Toradora! is one of the few Anime shows of recent seasons that had its reputation laid bare before it even aired. Based on a series of light novels by Yuyuko Takemiya, the show and its popularity has ballooned to such a volume that it’s already being hailed as the archetypal love story of modern Anime by critics and bloggers alike. But is the show really worthy of such highfalutin praise?

In the first episode, we are introduced to Ryuuji Takasu as he begrudgingly goes through another school day against the probing stares and jeers from his withdrawn classmates. After accidentally bumping into a fellow student named Taiga, we learn they share a likeness in having their reputation precede them. Taiga Aisaka comes off as self-important and abrasive, which is understandable when looking at the probable years of being labeled the “Palmtop Tiger.”

At home, Ryuuji takes care of his flaky but lovable single mother, Yasuko, through whom we learn that the father of the household is no longer with them. Ryuuji is extremely conscientious when it comes to cooking and cleaning in place of his mother, who works long hours as a bar hostess to support the two of them. This leaves him to develop a mild case of germaphobia, a habit which inexplicably turns into an obsession as he finds himself unable to stand the sight and smell of house mold.

On the night of the misunderstanding involving the love letter, Taiga breaks into Ryuuji’s house and attempts to murder him in his sleep. At this point, you might be willing to suspend your disbelief and say to yourself “It is a romantic comedy, after all. It’s not like she really wants to kill him for something so trivial.”

But for Toradora!, that just isn’t the case. Taiga’s characteristics, as well as the rest of the cast to a lesser extent, have been strung out to such a ridiculous degree that throughout the entire series, her solution to anything that upsets her would be to bludgeon it with a wooden sword. When the Student Council President, Kanou Sumire, openly rejects Kitamura during a ceremony, she wills it upon herself to engage in a sword fight in the middle of class to defend his pride. Does this girl suffer from antisocial personality disorder? Her knee-jerk violent reaction to everything is off-putting, and is indicative of why some of the plot points just don’t work within the framework of the show.

And it’s a strange loop in itself; Toradora would have actually been a lot more tolerable if it didn’t try too hard from wanting to separate itself from the rest of the pack towards the end of the series. The tender slice-of-life moments contained in the earlier episodes are highly enjoyable; so much so that you might be dreading the instantaneous turn into forced drama and the insufferable half-baked clichés worked into the script during the supposedly pivotal scenes. The ending scene of episode 23 typifies the misplaced feeling a viewer seems to experience because of the jarring and frenetic pacing of the show.

The animation for Toradora! is just atrocious, even by JC Staff standards. This is apparent in some of the shots with increased frame rates, such as the aforementioned scene with the sword fight with Kanou:

In that same scene, you can see other instances of where the animators cut corners. Like how the two students who were holding Kanou back look exactly the same:

The character designs themselves are horrendously uninspired. Ami Kawashima looks exactly like Kanou Sumire but with less of an evil twinge in the eyes. A nameless minor character bears resemblance to Minori, but with hair that’s ruffled around the edges. Some minor characters are interchangeable save a few modifications in hairstyle and a color palette swap. Most of the animation budget seems to have been poured into the opening and ending songs, and not so much on the in-between editing.

The songs are passable at best with a cursory listen, but begin to irritate as the show goes on. Infectiously catchy j-pop beats with nonsensical lyrics as seen in the video above are what compose the show’s OP and ED tracks. The score itself is decent, but may add to the lackluster cheesiness depending on how receptive you are to the more austere moments in the show.

In all, Toradora! would have been a lot more enjoyable if the direction didn’t falter towards the end of the show when Ryuuji and Taiga began to come to terms with their feelings. The fact that it falls under the category of romantic comedy does not excuse it from indulging in unrealistic plot devices and reciting vague aphorisms in place of substantive dialogue. It’s a classic case for JC Staff of having not paid attention to the minute details, a mistake that ultimately detracts from the totality of the experience.

Art/Animation: C-
Story: C+
Music/Soundtrack: B-

Overall: C

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