Anime Review: Toradora!

Toradora!
Run Time: 307 Minutes
Studio: J.C.Studio
Publisher: Nippon Ichi
Genre: Romantic-Comedy
Release Date: 07/06/2010

A few days ago, I reviewed the first anime release from Nippon Ichi, Persona: Trinity Soul. I reviewed that one first because it was directly tied into a video game franchise and well, we are a video game site. Toradora! however, is the series I really wanted to see. What can I say? I have a soft spot for wacky Japanese romantic comedies. Love Hina, Happy Lesson, Tenchi Muyo! and even pairings in otherwise non-romantic series like Lina Inverse and Gourry Gabriev are fun to watch. I knew nothing about Toradora! coming into this save for what was on Nippon Ichi’s website or the press releases they sent me, so I was going into this blind save for really digging the box art of the set. I’m happy to say that the packaging was just as awesome as Persona: Trinity Soul, but the actual anime series itself was even better. In fact, right now in my mind, it’s tied with the fourth and fifth season of Slayers for the best anime release of 2010 in this country. Of course that Golgo 13 TV series is coming out in a few weeks so things may change…

Toradora! comes in a huge oversized case that would appear to be a coffee table book at first glance. Both sides of the case feature the same artwork, albeit it in different tones. The front is coloured normally, while the back side is in grayscale. The case is very thick and sturdy and like some anime sets that I have (Robotech: Protculture Collection and The Irresponsible Captain Tylor), this box survived an attack by my rabbit, the appropriately named Mr. Chewie Biteums without only a minor scratch. That impressed me to say the least. As strong as the materials are, the case is only the width of two normal DVD cases, so it should fit on your shelf just fine…as long as you lay it horizontally. The length of the case is the size of a reference book, so it would have trouble standing vertically on a book shelf, much less a DVD one.

The case contains the first thirteen episodes of the series in two slim-pak DVD cases and a full colour hardcover artbook. I really love the artbook, if only because I really like the style and design of this series, especially the two main characters. The book contains episode synopsis, character relationship maps, explanations of terms and phrases, interview with the voice actors, and something called the “Ohasi Times” which is a mock school newspaper.

The anime itself is what truly held my attention. Your male protagonist is Ryuji Takasu. He looks like a badass with shifty evil eyes, but in fact he’s a gentle soul who turns out to be both an excellent chef and cleaner. Still, in high school appearance is everything, so much of the student body is frightened by him. The female protagonist is Taiga Aisaka and she’s as viscous as she is petite. Her nickname is “The Palm-Top Tiger” and on the first day of school, the two accidentally collide in the hallway, starting a chain of wacky events. You see Ryuji has a crush on Taiga’s best friend Minori Kushieda and Taiga has a crush on Ryuji’s best bud, Yusaka Kitamura, so the two team up to help the object of each other’s desire. Of course, because the two are seen together so often, people start to mistake them for a couple. More wackiness ensues. Of course from the get go you know the two characters are eventually going to hook up ala Keitaro and Naru from Love Hina, but where Love Hina is mostly padding to keep the two characters apart as long as possible, Toradora! has a really solid and realistic plot filled with shifting relationships and believable sidetracking due to things like low self esteem, potential rival love interests and of course, the shifting of one’s affection from their original goal to the one they are meant to be with. Basically Toradora! is about how the two main characters are perfect for each other and everyone sees it but them.

I found myself laughing throughout the series. The stuff that happens here is pretty grounded in reality, unlike a lot of other anime, but it still holds to a lot of clich├ęs like the uber violent girl that eats more than everyone else around her combined, the loveable idiot character in Koji Haruta, and many more. I was really surprised at how fun this series was and happy to see a realistic anime for a change, devoid of mascot characters, people getting punched into orbit, harem situations, or giant mechs fighting alien monsters and what have you. It had me hooked from the first episode, and I’m just sad I have to wait for the second box set to be released in order to see how things revolve! Also, I want to add a side note that I love Ryuji’s creepy mentally disabled parrot.

Toradora! is currently only available directly from Nippon Ichi’s website and rightstuf.com, but hopefully that will change and we will see this series on Amazon.com, or at your local retailer. Oddly enough, there is an announcement on Nippon Ichi’s website regarding the visual quality of the DVD in this set, as well as Persona: Trinity Soul. I have to admit, this took me back, because the quality of both my sets were excellent and it was on par with any other high quality release I own. It appears that there are ghosting/aliasing issues, but I’ve put both sets in my PS3, my PS2 and even my HD DVD player (Remember those?) and everything looks great channeled through my 42 inch Toshiba LED TV. Either my setup is tres awesome, I got really lucky with my set, the people complaining have poor DVD players, or some fourth thing. Either way, Kudos to NIS America for offering to send out remastered discs for free. Now if only they had handled that issue with Rhapsody DS as wel…

Toradora! retails for $47.99, which is an amazing deal for 13 issue set, an artbook, and one of the nicest cases I’ve seen an animated series come in since Shout Factor’s complete G.I. Joe and/or Transformers sets. As a comparison, both the fourth and fifth season of Slayers that came out this year retail for more than the cost of Toradora!, and you just get 13 episodes each there. The only real downside to Toradora! is that has only a Japanese vocal track. I know some people like their anime to have a dub as an alternative, or prefer to watch it in English entirely, so if you’re one of those people, you might have a problem here. As for me, it all depends on the series and since I know enough Japanese to get by, I was able to watch this series rather than “read” it.

Out of the two sets, I strongly prefer Toradora! over Persona: Trinity Soul, but I’m just happy to have both available in a North American release and with such awesome packaging. I can honestly say I’ll be counting the days for Volume 2’s release. Of course, there’s also a video game based on the light novels/manga/anime that Namco Bandai put out for the PSP in Japan back in 2009. Maybe Nippon Ichi can localize that as well?

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