Anime Review: Toradora! Volume Two

Toradora! Volume 2
Run Time: 295 minutes
Studio: J.C. Studio
Publisher: Nippon Ichi
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: 09/28/2010

Four months ago, Nippon Ichi mailed me their first two anime offerings to review. I was pretty happy with Persona: Trinity Soul, but I was surprised by how much I fell in love with Toradora!. I’d actually never heard of the anime before Nippon Ichi announced it (I’ve fallen off the anime bandwagon for the past few years save for the occasional email from RightStuf.com or talking to voice actors I know about their latest localization project), but I was hooked from the very first episode and having to wait more than four months for this second box set to finish the series drove me nuts.

In the first thirteen episodes we were introduced to Ryuji Takasu, who looks like a stereotypical bad guy, but is actually very sweet and kind, as well as an excellent chef. His next door neighbor is Taiga Aisaka, AKA, “The Palm Top Tiger.” Taiga is known for being as violent as she is petite and although the two start off the series in a somewhat confrontational tone, the two quickly become allies when they realize that the other is best friends with the person they are crushing on. Taiga agrees to help Ryuji woo Minori Kushieda and in return Ryuji will help Taiga capture the heart of Yusaka Kitamura. Or at least that’s the plan anyway. Nothing goes right from day one and when teenage model and childhood friend of Kitamura, Ami Kawashima, enters the picture – things get even weirder.

In this second volume, the events and characters take a much different tone. Sure the core of Toradora! is still a romantic comedy, but the characters mature, the core five characters all make their romantic intentions known, things get complicated and people get hurt. Sure you know who is going to end up with each other from the first episode, but thanks to incredible writing, superb voice acting and some beautiful animation, the journey to the inevitable conclusion is more than worth it. I should also add that the way last two episodes resolved themselves threw me for a loop and I found the overall ending to be wistful and melancholy but I still loved it. Everything was done quite realistically compared to a lot of other anime series, and you could really visualize the cast of Toradora! as real people. There’s not a lot of situation comedy in this volume as the emphasis is definitely on the emotions each character feels for one another. The core events revolve around a Christmas Party, a ski trip (since the original class trip to Okinawa “went up in smoke…) and two characters attempting to elope!

I also loved how the music changes on the 17th episode to really reflect the change in direction and tone that the anime takes. At first I was a bit worried because I adored “Pre-Parade,” to the point where I was wishing Nippon Ichi would release a Toradora! soundtrack, but I found “My Silky Love” to be just as catchy and charming as the original opening. The ending theme for the anime also changes from “Vanilla Salt” to “Orange,” and the change is just as enjoyable here. Even the background scoring to each episode is done exceptionally well and I’m probably going to have to hunt down a lot of the music on Itunes or Ebay one of these days.

Like the first volume, Toradora! Volume 2 comes in a beautifully illustrated hardcover box. Each side depicts the supporting cast of the anime with one side being in full colour and the other in grayscale. The box is easily one of the sturdiest I’ve seen for an anime series and the high quality of the product is apparent from the first glance.

The collection also comes with a fully illustrated hardcover episode guide. This book not only includes a summary of each episode, but it also shows relationship charts for all the characters, explanations of expressions that still might be unclear after the translation and interviews with cast and the crew of the anime series. The book is just as high quality as the box the entire volume comes in and it’s a wonderful supplement to an already incredible series. The packaging and episode guide are so far above and beyond what you normally get with an anime box set that it’s not even funny. You’re paying a little more than you would for a lot of other 13/12 episode collections, but when you flip through the art book or see the dvds in their package sitting on your shelf or DVD rack, you know you got your money’s worth and then some.

You can pick up Toradora Volume 2 at RightStuf.com or directly from Nippon Ichi’s website. The MSRP is $47.99 and trust me when I say each volume is worth every penny.

This has been a really great year for anime. Slayers Revolution and Evolution-R came out, the Golgo 13 T.V. series finally hit American shores and there were a lot of new releases I found myself picking up and enjoying. At the end of the day though, Toradora! has not only been the best anime I’ve seen this year, but I can honestly say it’s one of the ten best anime series I’ve ever seen. You would be a fool not to pick both volumes up. It’s hard to express in words how much I enjoyed this anime series and I’m ecstatic that the Manga is going to start showing up here in North America in March 2011. Now if only Nippon Ichi would bring over the Toradora! video game for the PSP…