Note: I want to thank everybody who shared, liked, or provided feedback on my original review of Toradora. However, I was never entirely pleased with my review, especially since it concerns a show I am very passionate about. As such, I decided to do a re-review now that I had a chance to rewatch the anime in time for Christmas.
#1 The Tiger and Dragon
The story of Toradora revolves around Ryuuji Takasu and Taiga Aisaka, two classmates who also happen to be neighbors. Both of them have trouble with their appearances; Taiga is very small and flat-chested, earning her the nickname “The Palmtop Tiger”, while Ryuuji inherited his father’s mean looks, leaving him with an intimidating presence.
While first impressions of each other are poor, the two end up in a strange friendship when Ryuuji accidentally receives a love letter from Taiga intended for his best friend. To comfort her after the misunderstanding is resolved, Ryuuji reveals that he has a crush on her best friend as well. In a moment of stupidity, Ryuuji then also swears to help her with her romantic trouble, only to learn the next morning that she was absolutely going to take him up on that.
Both Ryuuji and Taiga are characters I very much grew to adore. Taiga is very aggressive and appears to be egotistical, but it’s also clear that there is a sweet side to her tucked away behind layers of defenses. As the show goes on, those begin to fall away and her personality becomes increasingly pleasant, while we also get to learn what tragedies from her past created the need for that aggression. Ryuuji, meanwhile, is interesting for many different reasons, but his most interesting aspect (in my opinion) is that he is too dense to foresee the consequences of his good intentions. Watching him realize these mistakes and work to repair his damaged relationships is a kind of story you don’t frequently get in romance anime.
An interesting dynamic is how Taiga and Ryuuji are viewed by their classmates and school as a whole. Both students and teachers alike fear the two of them, wrongly viewing them as delinquents. Through the events of the story, both of our protagonists get to show their true selves to their classmates, forming and strengthening friendships. It’s great to look back on how distant these side-characters felt at the start of the show, compared to how close they are with Ryuuji and Taiga by the end of it.
#2 An actual romantic drama
Toradora is a romance story and, while it features a great amount of comedy, it’s mainly focussed on being a drama story centered around its strong cast of characters. With the initial goal of helping Taiga hook up with the dependable class representative Kitamura and Ryuuji with the athletic workaholic Minori, the story that actually happens strays from the familiar path quickly.
The romantic ambitions of the characters aren’t set in stone and begin to change when confronted with harsh realities, rejection, and changes in perspective. You very much feel that both Ryuuji and Taiga don’t actually know terribly much about their crushes at the start of the show, and it’s then interesting to see them react when more is revealed about these characters. Of course, it’s also interesting when side-characters become increasingly involved with the plot and further distract Ryuuji and Taiga from pursuing the romances they intended.
Toradora truly shines in its emotional peaks, with one of my favorite scenes being a brutal confrontation between Taiga and a romantic rival. These emotional moments are well-paced, allowing for enough breathing room, character development, and comedy to take place between them. Toradora never feels like a cheap melodrama, like it’s just one tragedy after another. Fittingly, the show’s ending is a major surprise, as well as something I feel most fans would be pleased with if given the time to process the reasoning behind it.
I am not exaggerating when I say that Toradora is a 10/10 story for me. Even on the rewatch, I found myself tearing up at some of the hard-hitting scenes and being enthralled by the wonderful characters. You don’t get shows like this every day and Toradora feels wholly unique in the genre of romance anime.
Like with Toya in my Cardcaptor Sakura review, I want to take a moment to shower some much-needed praise on Yasuko “Yasu” Takasu, the mother of our angry-looking main dude Ryuuji . Yasuko is a barrel of fun as a character and contributes to many of the show’s funniest scenes. However, there is a tragic side to her, as she got pregnant young and was then abandoned by her lover, leaving her on her own to raise Ryuuji while working as a hostess to pay the bills. And this she does gladly. To see a person in such a desperate position still being so hopeful and optimistic, that was very inspiring to me.
She is a wonderful and loving parent, who even extends her warmth to Taiga when she and Ryuuji become friends. She is not very intelligent and, honestly, kind of childish, but the more I learned about her, the more I grew to respect how strong she was. The few moments that address the struggle she has gone through and the extent to which she pushes herself were some of the most heart-breaking scenes in the show for me.
Toradora, like no other anime, made me truly respect how much good sound-design can add to an anime. Of course, there are the obvious examples of this. All the openings and endings to the show are gorgeous, with Pre-Parade being a memorable and fun song that everybody is sure to recognize, whereas Silky Love feels like a more traditional OP for a romance anime, but is introduced at a great moment in the show where its lyrics become especially fitting.
But Toradora also has background music that is way more noticeable to me than that of other anime. Lost My Pieces, Small Heaven, there’s even a song that is performed in the anime itself and which makes for one of the most pleasant and surprising scenes in the show. But also the smaller details, like well-timed sound-effects and good use of silence; minor touches that Toradora gets consistently right.
#5 The Dub
On another sound-related topic, the dub of Toradora is some of the finest work I have seen in anime so far. And some people might call me a heretic for saying so, because the original sub had some big names to it. Junji Majima handled Ryuuji, big name actresses like Rie Tanaka and Eri Kitamura are in there, and the Queen of Tsundere, Rie Kugimiya, voices main girl Taiga. To many, that would seem unbeatable.
Still, the dub ended up surpassing many expectations and going for more than a few unconventional choices for its cast. Still, the end result is damn good and I honestly can’t imagine some of these characters with any other voice. Even Rie Kugimiya is somewhat outshined by the stellar performance put on by Cassandra Lee Morris. The sharp writing is also very endearing and often surprised me by having lines you don’t really hear in anime much.
In particular, I have to say I enjoyed Erika Harlacher‘s performance as Ami. Not only is her voice pleasant to listen to, but she also manages to perfectly keep up with Ami’s fluctuating moods. It’s a character that I can’t imagine being easy to voice, so massive kudos to her great performance.