Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Toradora!

So you want to go on a feels trip, huh? I understand your desire. Sometimes a man just needs to sit down and watch a good rom-com. Call it a break from all the endless action and sports anime we normally watch. I for one like a good romance anime as a way to take a break from the shounen-fest I am currently involved in. And if you think there aren't any fights in a romance anime then you are wrong as can be. Sometimes the best fights happen in rom-coms. Trust me. 

Toradora! is a modern day classic of the rom-com genre. Perhaps what makes it so is that you have the knowledge of knowing exactly how everything will end from the very beginning. I think that's an important ingredient in a lot of romance shows. It sounds like a serious cop-out (and it is if you choose to look at it that way), but just think about it for a moment.

Think about every romance anime or movie you've ever seen. You know why Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are on the movie poster for Sleepless in Seattle? Because they are the main characters who will fall in love. That's why. I mean, it's not like Bill Pullman was the main star anyway. You just know Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan will end up together. The main questions are how and when. 

That's what basically all romance and rom-coms are about. Telling how and when. Why is obvious. Why is because the main characters are in love. Duh. 

Although there a few out there that don't end the way I just mentioned. White Album and White Album 2 are good examples. So is School Days. Hell, even Tenchi Muyo! would fit the bill although I don't call that a romance (although the more inferior of the series Tenchi in Tokyo comes close to being a romance). These shows don't really commit to a relationship ending.

There's nothing wrong with that, either. I like a show that doesn't give you everything you think you want every now and then. Sometimes no real resolution can be a good thing. 

But if you want a dependable romance. A show where you know what is ultimately going to happen then look no further than Toradora!

Our main male protagonist is Takasu Ryuuji and he is just your typical seventeen year old student. All of the other students are afraid of him because of his sanpaku eyes. They apparently make him look like a bully even though he really isn't one. Ryuuji lives with his mom in a little house right next to a tall apartment building. This causes their house to have a lack of sunlight and this increases mold growth. Ryuuji doesn't like mold. He doesn't like dirty or unneat things at all. Just seeing a sock by itself will freak him out. 

None of this has jack to do with the actual story but it's kinda funny. 

Living in the apartment room right next to the Takasu household in Aisaka Taiga. If you've ever needed confirmation that all short people are indeed evil (and flat-chested) then look no further. Taiga is known as the Palmtop Tiger because of her size and because of the way she snaps at other people. She lives by herself in the apartment room, but she doesn't really know how to take care of herself. Unlike Ryuuji, who grew up to become self-sufficient. 

What we have here are the two biggest misfits in the school living right next to each other. Perhaps it seems like a match made in heaven (or hell), but they both happen to like two of the most popular and upright students in the whole school. Might as well aim for the sun, right?

Ryuuji likes Kushieda Minori, a girl who plays softball. Red flag, Ryuuji. Minorin is also a good friend of Taiga. Another red flag, Ryuuji. Poor guy is doomed. 

Taiga likes the vice president of the student council and captain of the boy's softball team Kitamura Yuusaku, but Yuusaku doesn't seem to like her back... anymore. Taiga has never known how to deal with affection and praise so back when Yuusaku actually confessed his feelings for her she shot him down. Now Taiga regrets doing so, but doesn't know how to make up for it. Or if she could.

So Ryuuji and Taiga do the only thing that they can do in their situations. They team up and plot together how to win their respective crushes over. This requires spending a lot of time together and along the way Ryuuji and Taiga actually start doing some bonding. Hell, even Taiga and Ryuuji's parakeet Inko-chan get to know each other. The two of them spend so much time together that rumors start circulating about them being a couple (Ryuuji and Taiga, not Taiga and Inko-chan).  

Are these rumors accurate, though? 

As far as male protagonists go, Ryuuji is typically dense. Nothing new there.

The only two that seem to have a good idea about what is really going on between everyone are Kawashima Ami and Kitamura Yuusaku. More so Ami, though. 

Ami gets introduced in episode five and she is the one of the few characters that doesn't seem like an idiot. She's tough to like at first, though. In fact, you'll probably hate her in the beginning like I did. But she soon becomes a dark horse in the race to win Ryuuji's affections, giving both Minori and Taiga a run for their money. I'd dare say that without Ami's efforts this anime would never have ended on a satisfactory note (depending on who you were rooting for, anyway) or possibly at all.

One thing that makes this show as popular as it is are the fights. No, this isn't an action anime in disguise. There are just two important fight scenes, though. One of them in particular is badass beyond just about all things badass. You'll know it when you see it. I'm not saying you should watch the anime because of the fights because there are only two and they are short ones at that, but they are satisfying in their own right. Afterwards you'll think that more teenage girls need to settle their differences with other teenage girls using fists and wooden swords.

I think I've just about covered everything I've wanted to say with the exception of two things. I wouldn't call these two things complaints because they are not, but they are "almost" complaints.

During the intervention scene in episode 23 Taiga is essentially bullied by Ami, Yuusaku, and Minori into admitting her feelings for Ryuuji in front of him. They basically lock her in the classroom with them and won't let her leave until they are satisfied that Ryuuji is determined enough to chase after her. Think The Quiet Man with more feels. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful scene and an emotionally rewarding one, but I can't help but think that maybe things could have been done a bit less brutally.

My next "almost" complaint is the ending. Just for a little bit I thought I was going to be pissed the fuck off. If you are the type that skips ending credits or will "rage quit" a final episode then I strongly suggest you don't do either. Watch all the way until the end of episode 25. Watch until the very last second. That's the difference between smiling and going out on a multi-state killing spree.

I recommend this series wholeheartedly. I won't say it breaks the mold, but it does what it does so well and it deserves to be watched. All of the characters are likeable. Kinda stupid sometimes, but likeable. Sure, both Minori and Yuusaku could have benefitted from a bit more characterization, but other than that I have no complaints. You can certainly debate about who Ryuuji chooses (not that you will be surprised since you'll know all along), but in the end we all end up the winners for watching this anime.

It's a good one. Especially for Christmas time or Valentine's Day.

















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