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Toradora! Anime Review
There seems to be a reoccurring trend in the anime industry during recent years wherein comedy/romance/slice of life shows seem to dominate everything else in terms of quantity and popularity. From moe-stricken existences such as K-On!, to the very provocative To Love Ru Darkness, anime viewers are given quite a lot of variety as far as what series with minimal plot development they most prefer. However, there are still pieces of media within the world that try to do more than earn a profit off of exploiting the basic desires and actions of humans (not implying that there is inherently anything wrong with this to a certain degree). One thing I am specifically on the fence on as to whether it belongs to the the former or the latter group is an anime known as Toradora!
Setting & Characters
Toradora! is a 25 episode romantic drama/comedy series developed J.C. Staff that is based on a series of light novels by Yuyuko Takemiya. The anime series debuted in late 2008. The story begins as main protagonist Ryuji Takasu accidentally receives a love letter from Taiga Aisaka which was intended for Ryuji's friend, Yusaka Kitamura. Ryuji and Taiga then form an odd relationship in which Ryuji seeks to help Taiga in her quest to articulate her true feelings to Kitamura in exchange for Taiga helping Ryuji do the same thing for Minori Kushieda whom he is infatuated with. The series follows these four characters as well as another female character by the name of Ami Kawashima in their lives as high school students as they attempt to better understand themselves and those around them.
The main protagonist, Ryuji Takasu, seems to have a lack of experience as far as what his preferences are on most things. Contrary to this, he appears a very determined and kind youth that comes off feeling quite relatable, which is almost always necessary since most stories follow the central protagonist through either all or the majority of their contents. This is offset by Ryuji's peers seeing him as unsettling due to his sanpaku eyes.
Taiga Aisaka, also known as the secondary protagonist, is a tsundere character who doesn't really have any redeeming characteristics that I can recall. Being that she is in fact a tsundere, calling her a dynamic character wouldn't seem too far-fetched . Many who watch Toradora! and have seen other stories like it before probably have a good idea as to how Taiga will end up at the coda section. Even with this, I still found Taiga to be a rash character whom I just can't seem to like no matter hard I try. I'm not sure just how common this is, but this definitely made the show's third act unenjoyable for me.
The third character, Yusaku Kitamura, often serves as a comedic relief device during Toradora! He's a relatively extroverted and cheerful character compared to the two main protagonists early on in the series but this does not mean that this is all there is to him. He is rarely ever says anything negative and will usually come to the aid of someone in need, making him quite admirable in that respect.
Minori Kushieda is more or less a female adaptation of the afore mentioned Yusaku. She's impulsive, perseverant and exhibits questionable behavior from time to time. She is also quite altruistic and usually puts the needs of others ahead of her own. I found the dialogue between her and Ryuji to be rather interesting since her level of intelligence is definitely higher than it might appear to be and the two seem to mesh very easily during conversation. Also, her use of figurative language and word choice aren't something to scoff at. Finally, there is Ami Kawashima, a girl who is very blatant and rude at times when it comes to the other four main characters but sometimes puts on a ditsy facade when dealing with most of the other characters. This doesn't necessarily make her a "bad" person per se, but the other characters (especially Ryuji) find her behavior questionable at times.
Animation & Sound
The animation in Toradora! is nothing special, mostly due to the show's setting. Though this doesn't mean that the animation can't appear fluid during its few fast-paced scenes. It does feel as if the colors could have been a bit more vibrant in some areas but doing so could possibly break the semi-realistic tone of the series.
The opening and ending songs (they change during the latter third of Toradora!) aren't really that memorable or noteworthy and neither are most of the tracks which seem to be what is usually expected from romance/drama-based anime. There were still a few tracks that caught my attention momentarily during the body section of the episodes. As for the differences between the Japanese and English audio, I haven't had much experience with the English dub and the only actor I recognize is Johnny Yong Bosch (Lelouch vi Brittania, Itsuki Koizumi, Vash the Stampede, and many others) with his role as Kitamura, but this is unsurprising since he seems to virtually be in one third of all English anime dubs ever produced. With that being said, the only main character that sounded quite a bit different in the English version compared to the Japanese version is Taiga, which is could be problematic since she is (arguably) the second most important character. But another problem I have with the English is that it may not have been translated at the best quality, particularly due to this scene:
Non-crunchyroll English translation
which differed from the translation presented on crunchyroll.
Crunchyroll English translation
There are also a few other differences between these translations that were not shown in the second YouTube video. During the part of the scene where Ryuji is reading the note from Minori, the note reads something along the lines of " don't alienate yourself from Taiga or there'll be a whippin'!" in the crunchyroll translation instead of "you'll be punished" which was the translation used elsewhere. I feel that this not only makes this specific scene less whimsical, but it also detracts from Minori's supposed image as someone with somewhat unusual word choice and projects her more as just some random, silly girl instead. This could also mean that this was what the English dub is word-for-word, which could potentially hurt the credibility of it.
Other thoughts/ Conclusion
Toradora! is a series that caught my attention during the early episodes as very fascinating due to the very strong chemistry between the two protagonists Ryuji and Taiga. Unfortunately, this likeness came to disappear into a bunch of drama in the latter third of the series that made it feel as if everything that was enjoyable about the show was suddenly thrown out the window in favor of a predictable and dull ending which I'm sure has been done countless times before. Towards the ending, I kept hoping that the story would end in one way, though the rational part of my brain was 90 percent certain that it would end the way that I didn't want it to. Once the end came around, it came in the way that the rational part of me had predicted, which made me feel more contempt for the series during its final few episodes. Despite this, Toradora! still had far more great moments than it did flukes. The characters all feel like real people who have real weaknesses and strengths. They also have differing ideals, which are responsible for many of the conflicts throughout. I highly recommend this series to basically everyone, maybe even people who aren't interested in anime or the romance genre. I should also mention the fact that there is no fan service (though some may argue that there is a small amount) and little in the way to estrange western viewers , making it great for anyone new to anime or drama/romance titles. Though if you can, you should watch it on crunchyroll with japanese audio since the other translations seem iffy to me (though take this with a grain of salt since my window of experience with the English dub is relatively low).