I was finally able to watch one of my most anticipated series of anime seasons past. Toradora kept my attention all the way through with both humorous and emotionally touching storytelling. With an great story and a wide array of strong characters, Toradora is an excellent series that should be on every anime fan’s “To watch” list.
Although a high profile voice acting cast is not a requirement for creating a great series, it can certainly help. The seiyuu cast in Toradora is absolutely amazing, particularly with the 3 female leads. I’ve always liked Rie Kugimiya (Nagi Sanzenin <3) but she went and exceeded my expectations in the role of the ferocious yet timid Tenori Tiger. Taiga Aisaka is now permanently engraved in my all-time favorite anime heroine list. I absolutely adore her ^^ Of course, there is also the ever-talented Yui Horie as Minori. I have to say few characters have made me smile as much as Minorin did. Usually such overly genki characters annoy me but she proved to be a rare exception. Finally, there is Eri Kitamura as Ami. She fulfilled her role quite well as the self-loathing, fake perfect girl. The Holy Night song by Taiga and Ami was perhaps the most entertaining seiyuu song I’ve yet heard in an anime :-D
This image and more at e-shuushuu.net
Speaking of songs, I really like the opening and ending songs for Toradora. Pre-Parade (OP1) and Vanilla Salt (ED1) are my favorites but Silky Heart (OP2) and Orange (ED2) are also great songs. I find myself listening to Pre-Parade and Vanilla Salt a bit too often ^^;
The story itself is the real meat of the series and through it we experience the captivating characters of Toradora. It felt reminiscent of high school, the good and bad. Lots of drama over who likes who ^^; There was also the cat fight at school. When girls fight… and I mean really fight, it’s a scary sight. >_<
Most importantly though was the theme of love. Sacrifice in love. Minori and Taiga both cared for each other enough to sacrifice their own love interests for the sake of the other. And Ami pretty much just watches. She realized what was really going on with the intertwined relationships earlier than did those who were actually involved. I don’t think she ever really considered herself in the race, instead she tried to convince Ryuuji, Minori, and Taiga to be true to themselves.
Thankfully, there was real character growth in Toradora. They all eventually accepted the reality of their individual situations. Taiga continuously ran from her own feelings and instead focused on trying to do what she believed would make Minorin happy. We see her finally accept (with some forceful persuasion) that she could be honest to her feelings. Ami sees that Taiga was able to be herself and still be loved by someone and is jealous which drives her to be honest with her true self. She discovers that she too can be true to herself and doesn’t need to cling to self-inflicted lies. Minorin perhaps sacrificed the most… she tried to hide her own feelings for the sake of Taiga even though Ryuuji was initially interested in her. She conceded Ryuuji to Taiga because she believed Taiga needed him more than she did and admirably bowed out.
Around the middle of the series it felt like there was little progression in Taiga and Ryuuji’s relationship. I would have loved to have more of the series like the last 3-4 episodes when Taiga and Ryuuji’s relationship really started taking off, but then I realized the long wait and buildup to that point is exactly what made the last few episodes so enjoyable. It was the long journey for all of the characters to finally get there. Though gradual and not always obvious, the characters and their relationships matured. This is what made the series so memorable to me. There was actual, believable progression by the end of the series. Seeing the evolution of each character and their relationships, especially Taiga and Ryuuji’s, was a refreshing break from the norm in romance anime to leave things nearly the same as they started even after dozens of episodes.
The combination of great characters, an engaging story, and high production value made Toradora a pleasure to watch. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and go watch it. A true masterpiece that I would recommend to anyone.