It's no secret that I have a total crush on Taiga. After sitting through and watching Toradora!, you'll understand why -- it's hard not to love one of the most original romantic comedies that sits atop a sea of run-of-the-mill high school romance stories.
Yes, there are a lot of tropes. Yes, this does take place in a high school, the most over-used location in anime. Yes, Taiga is as flat as a board.
But these are all things that work for the show, once the story kicks into full gear.
So come, join me and see why you have no choice but to jump in and buy this show.
Toradora! is about two kids who come of age while trying to help each others' romantic pursuits with their best friends, only to end up falling in love with each other in the end. That's the basic premise of the show, but by no means is that all.
Much like one of my other favorite shows in this genre, School Rumble, Toradora! is a tangled web of one-sided romances, total mishaps and complicated drama. Not only do we have our main protagonists of Taiga, the tiny tsundere who lives a live of luxury -- missing only love -- and Ryuuji, the poor but content next door neighbor, as well as their respective love interests of Kitamura and Minori, but we also have a wide net of support characters as well. The idol Ami challenges the balance between Minori and Taiga in Ryuuji's heart and both Taiga and Ryuuji's parents play key roles in the show.
Needless to say, Nippon Ichi was smart to include relationship charts and their progress throughout the show as part of the art book in their fabulously-crafted box set.
So, what makes this show worth watching? There are a few reasons, but they all center around how the relationships progress. Because of how much there is to untangle and develop over the course of the show, things have to move quickly. We see confessions right off the bat. Developments happen, one after the other, constantly giving the viewer something new to mull over or work with.
Nowhere, though, does it feel rushed -- since the show has multiple characters and multiple relationships to deal with, one pairing gets a break as other details are explored, all while feeling natural. It's funny to think about this in comparison with Kimi ni Todoke, another romance that felt as though it had a natural pace. When you put the two side-to-side, there's a huge level of disparity, but if I had to pick one, I would say that Toradora is my preferred show.
The reason for that is because you deal with characters who are seriously flawed. Everyone here has their own issues, their own baggage, that come to the foreground at one point or another, and it gives the show so much more weight when the poignant moments hit. It makes the characters more sympathetic, and attaches you dearly to Taiga's family drama and Ryuuji's life without a father. These aren't unbelievable things -- these are stories we hear about in every corner of the world and that just about every one of us can relate to. Just imagining some of the scenes, such as the sports festival and the winter ball, instantly fill my eyes with tears -- not only because of the personal relationship I can have with the scenes, but also because they are executed so flawlessly that they are almost burned right into your brain.
As such, you root for the characters. The scenes are portrayed without obscene amounts of melodrama, and in this less-than-perfect world that they live in, you want them to find true happiness. It's on a different level than every other romantic comedy. It's so good, in fact, you'll watch it twice. So many details -- character ticks, offhand statements -- go unnoticed or unexplained the first time around, and during a second viewing, a whole new light is cast on the show. In fact, you might find yourself rooting for entirely different characters, just because you understand their true feelings already -- things that they try to keep hidden or displaced.
If you enjoy romantic comedies at all, buy Toradora!. While the show may initially seem like middle-of-the-road fare, the show's exceptionally strong characters and emotional interplay turn it into something that will stick to your ribs for a long time to come. No other show continues to bring tears to my eyes as readily as this one does.
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