Inside Pulse 12

Anime Review: Toradora! Premium Edition (Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack)

Toradora! Premium Edition
Publisher; Nippon Ichi
Runtime: 617 minutes
Cost: $129.99
Release Date: 07/01/2014
Get it Here: NISAmerica Store

It’s hard to believe that it was a little over four years ago that I reviewed one of Nippon Ichi’s first two anime releases – Toradora!. If you read through my reviews of Volume One and Volume Two, you’ll see that I absolutely loved it. It was my favorite anime release of the year, and it’s still one of the best anime released since the turn of the century (in my opinion). However, the two volumes of the premium edition have been out of print for a long time, so the only place to purchase them have been via the secondary market or if a store still had some intact. Well, recently Nippon Ichi has re-released the series, much to everyone’s enjoyment. Although it’s still the same anime we’ve all come to love, there are some pretty big changes with this new edition. As you can read my old reviews (linked above) to get information on the plot synopsis and characters within Toradora!, this review will instead focus on the changes in this set. Ready? Let’s begin!

First of all, you’ll notice that unlike the original Toradora!, which came in two premium (and later standard) editions, the entire series is lumped into one big collection here. That means you can purchase it in one go instead of having to wait a few months for the second set like I did. As well, the new release of Toradora! contains not just DVDs, but Blu-Ray discs as well. That’s right – it’s a combo pack. This is the first time Toradora! has ever been on Blu-Ray, so this was the big draw for me. If you remember, the original press of Toradaora! on DVD had some quality issues, so to hear and see the anime in high definition was phenomenal. The series has never looked better. Soundwise too, I was able to notice things I didn’t before. At first I thought they had remixed the opening and closing songs, but I realized I’m just hearing more (and better) than I did with standard definition DVDs. Because this new release of Toradora! is a combo pack, you are getting eight discs instead of four. All all for the cost of what it would take to get the original DVD premium sets. Not bad.

Now, because the new release of Toradora! contains eight discs and both editions in one collection, you’re probably expecting this set to be mammoth in size. Surprisingly, it’s actually much smaller than either of the original premium edition sets! How is that possible, you might ask? Well, the new release of Toradaora! has been scaled down in size. The previous releases, like all of Nippon Ichi’s anime release up until now, came in an oversized reinforced hardcover cardboard case which contained DVD thick-pack cases, along with a coffee table style artbook. The new release comes in a regular sized plastic DVD case with two discs per side (which can cause scraping if you are careless or klutzy since the discs overlap) and a MUCH smaller artbook, the size of a standard western manga release. These then fit into a much smaller hard slipcover, similar in material to the usual ones NISAmerica puts out. I have to admit, I was actually surprised by the size of the package since it is so much smaller. I’ve included a picture that shows the new release compared the original too. I can see some people being upset about the size difference, but at the same time, the previous releases, like all Nippon Ichi animes, were very hard to find room for on your shelving. Sure they stood out, but this new version of Toradora! is so much easier to find a home for without a good portion of the cases jutting out. It’s really just opinion here as to which looks better.

Another area where there is a big difference between the sets has to do with the artbooks. As mentioned, the previous releases all contained coffee table style books. They were long both in size and content. Not so with the new release version. This book lacks the episode synopsis and all the wacky side information, like the cell phone decoration competition between the voice actors of Ryuji and Taiga. Instead, this new artbook has a lot less content. You get an interview, some character biographies and a lot of art. Some of the art book is completely new, while other bits are recycled from previous versions. The artbook IS a bit of a disappointment compared to the amazing job done with the previous versions, but there is only so much they could do with the new size of the packaging. Basically, you have to decide what is more important – Blu-Ray or artbook. If the visual and audio quality of the anime is more important to you, then get this new release. If the artbooks are more important, then stick with the old versions you already have or find them on the secondary market. For me, while I’m happy to own both, I’m the exact opposite of a pack rat, so something has to go. In the end, it will be the old versions. This isn’t just because of new high definition product, but because of two more aspects of the new Toradora! release we haven’t covered yet.

The first is that the new version of Toradora! has an English dub. Until now, all Nippon Ichi releases were in Japanese with subtitles only. Now, you have a choice between English with partial subtitles, English with full subtitles, English with no subtitles and Japanese with full subtitles! This is great, as there will always be a portion of the anime audience that wants to hear the characters in their own language and not to have to “read” a cartoon. I thought the English dub cast did an excellent job. I still hear the Japanese voice actors in my head, but that’s the version I have had for four years, so that is probably why. Everyone did a fine job, especially Minorin and Ryuji’s voice actors. Taiga was a little more high pitched than expected, but she was still great. I think you’ll find both casts are good in their own way, and now having an English version of Toradora! just opens the series up to a whole new audience. That’s awesome. In the end I don’t think Toradora! will be joining Tenchi Muyo!, Slayers, Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Vampire Hunter D and Robotech in terms of animes where I think the English cast actually does a superior job acting wise (not necessarily script translation-wise) compared to the original Japanese cast, but the English dub certainly won’t disappoint those who have long clamored for such an option to exist. This new dub might make the new release of Toradora the go-to choice for many anime fans over the original sets.

Finally, we have a brand new episode in this set. This OVA takes place between episodes 13 and 14, but it is positioned after the full series. It’s great to get some new content for Toradora!, even if it is only a single new episode. This episode features a bento competition between Ryuji and Kitamura’s grandmother. While Ryuji is renowned for his cooking amongst his peers, he can’t seem to accept an older woman with more experience appears to be better than he is at his trademark skill. This makes perfect sense, as teenagers are both a bit egotistical and defensive about their skills, and Ryuji handles this very similarly to how most teens would in a similar situation. The episode also ends with some foreshadowing towards the ending we all know is coming, so it works as a wonderful flashback without being a retcon. Again, this new episode is reason enough to choose the new edition if you somehow haven’t picked up Toradora! yet.

Overall, the $130 price tag for this new version of Toradora might seem like a lot, but you’re paying for the Blu-Ray AND DVD discs in addition to a new episode, a brand new English dub, an all-new, all-different artbook and a new case style. All these changes add up, and the sheer quality of the series makes the price more than acceptable. I’m extremely happy with all aspects of this new version of Toradora!, and if you haven’t purchased the series yet, now is definitely the time to get it, as it is one of the best anime releases in the past decade and a half. Yes, it’s that fantastic. Now, if you already own the original standard or premium releases, paying $130 for a new episode, different artbook, Blu-Ray discs and an English dub is probably a harder sell for you. If all these additions sound like it’s worth the extra expenditure, then you should just bite the bullet and purchase the set. If you’re fine with the version of Toradora! you already have, though, then there is nothing to be lost by not picking this up. Either way, as long as you experience Toradora in SOME fashion, you won’t be missing out on a truly full comedy-drama that any member of your family or friend group can really fall in love with.

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