"Toradora!": Simple but Fun!
When it comes to Toradora! I find myself slightly torn. On one hand, the plot is simple and nothing really special; on the other, it is a fun, light-hearted show with hilarious moments. It definitely has a specific audience and isn’t a series for individuals who like deep, meaningful stories. As a romantic-comedy of sorts, though, it works pretty well at what it does, and for that I ultimately have to say Toradora! is something everyone who enjoys that genre should give a try.
Toradora! starts off introducing a high school boy named Ryuji Takasu getting ready for his first day. Ryuji has unfortunately been gifted with his “father’s scowl” and because of this his classmates fear him and even go so far as to say he has the eyes of a murderer. As Ryuji is walking down the halls, paying no attention to what is in front of him, he runs into Taiga Asuka, also known as the “Palmtop Tiger” due to her tough nature. Taiga’s short temper is right away revealed when she punches Ryuji across the face, giving him quite a bruise. A series of events later in the night reveal that Taiga has a crush on Ryuji’s friend Yusaku Kitamura, and Ryuji has a crush on Taiga’s friend Minori Kushieda. Due to their circumstances, Ryuji agrees to help Taiga obtain Kitamura’s love and Taiga will do the same for him with Minori. And there you have it folks: that is the extent of the plot. Nothing complicated, just a simple case of teenagers in love and not knowing how to express it.
So, you may be wondering why the show is so much fun having despite such a simple plot. The answer is simple: the characters just have a lot of great chemistry together, and their interactions range from sad to side-splittingly hilarious. Taiga’s act as the tough-yet-innocent girl works mostly because her character design really is cute. Her eyes in particular stand out from the rest of the characters, easily revealing whether or not she is upset or angry. Still, her abusive nature towards Ryuji gets old pretty quick. I’ve never really been a fan of constant male abuse in any show, and this is no exception. Ryuji, despite the bad reputation he has at school, is a really gentle guy, taking care of his often hung-over mother and even of Taiga (who happens to live next door and has no cooking or cleaning abilities whatsoever). Their relationship seems to work so well since Ryuji likes to make people happy and Taiga likes to see people suffer, causing a great deal of comedy and tension between the two. While this is evident in several episodes, episode seven, “Pool Opening,” takes this mixture to a new level when Taiga doesn’t want to get in a bathing suit due to her lack of development in her breasts. Ryuji takes it upon himself to help her and sews together fake padding to put under her bathing suit. Unlike most shows when it comes to such an awkward subject, Toradora! mixes humor and distress quite well and is really able to express the bond Ryuji and Taiga have formed during the episode.
Kitamura and Kushieda are great additions to the cast, despite the fact that both really have no depth. Kitamura is Taiga’s kryptonite, and whenever she is around him she quickly becomes flustered and unable to speak, something completely out of her normal character. In one episode he picks her up by her armpits to stop her from arguing with the student council president, rendering her completely weak and happy for the rest of the day. Ryuji, on the other hand, just really doesn’t know how to express to Kushieda how much he likes her. Kushieda is completely hyperactive all of the time, easily amusing the audience with her eccentric nature. She also happens to be a closet horror freak, loves when people try and scare her, and even gets nosebleeds when thinking about ghosts and UFOs. It’s this kind of nature that Ryuji comes to like, making his involvements with her cute in a not-so-tacky way.
In truth, none of the characters are too terribly deep. Taiga has issues with her father that surface towards the end of Volume One, which brings her and Ryuji closer together. Ryuji also has daddy issues (because he is dead), but they haven’t really been brought to light just yet. Just like the rest of the show, the characters are simple but give the series a lot of life. Oh, save for one great addition to the cast in episode five, Ami Kawashima, a friend from Kitamura’s childhood and a model that transfers into their class. Ami comes across as a very sweet and caring person, only for it to be revealed that she is a cruel and devious individual. Her two-sided personality quickly becomes known to Taiga, and because of this the two feud with one another. Ami just sort of throws everything out of order. She begins to make Ryuji question his love for Minori and even whether or not Taiga loves Ryuji, and that is what makes her so fantastic. She also brings a new level of entertainment to the show that the other four weren’t quite able to do, and that is perhaps due to her rivalry with Taiga.
Like PERSONA -trinity soul- NIS America has also included a high-quality hardcover art book for Toradora!, this time an in-depth episode guide for viewers that is actually quite helpful in understanding the relationships between characters. The book highlights key terms from each episode, and describes a lot of the background characters, and is creatively put together as well. In addition, there are interviews with Ryuji’s, Minori’s, Kitamura’s and Ami’s seiyuus as well as Mari Okada, who did the series composition. It’s a fun book for a fun show!
Even after thirteen episodes of watching Ryuji and Taiga fail at getting even a simple date with their respective love possibilities, I still find myself fairly entertained. The plot isn’t groundbreaking and the characters individually aren’t anything special, but their interactions within the show make it amusing and for that reason fun to watch. And at the end of the day, that’s a pretty high quality when wondering what you should or shouldn’t watch. I’m sure the outcome is fairly obvious, with Taiga and Ryuji realizing they love each other, but I’d like to see how the rest plays out and see if maybe Ami will mix things up with that potential relationship. Either way, every now and then it is nice to get away from the darker series, and Toradora! is a great series to do so with.