Lately I’ve been “hard at work” on a new video review… but I also decided it was time to watch a new anime series. Now I’m a little nervous because I recently got a couple new followers after getting a shoutout from an Anime blogger…. so I can’t wait to do what I do best and lose people’s respect for giving my crappy opinion.
The first person I’m gonna upset is maybe the one person who reads this that likes Sagrada Reset, was very close to watching that instead but thought it might be boring… If any Reset-heads want to argue why it’s not maybe I will talk about it someday.
Now on to Toradora, a romantic-comedy anime that is widely adored by many. Toradora is the tale of two outcasts, who team up in order to help one another end up with their romantic interest. Netflix can’t make a questionable adaptation of this as Set it Up already exists and that’s vaguely the same plot (honestly probably works as a more faithful adaptation then Death Note). As much as a cold cynic I can be; I had a grand old time watching this show.
I’m a little hesitant to judge the show based off its comedic value because sense of humor is widely subjective and secondly I did watch it subbed and I do believe between: lost in translations, cultural differences, and the importance of delivery that factors could be at play that isn’t necessarily the shows fault. However, I don’t think this show thrives with it’s comedy. Your comedic philosophy often times is to instinctively “chase the funny” and have the narrative discourse dictated by the jokes you want to tell our what setting can render a good joke per minute quota. That or have organic integration of humor and let your characters sort of dictate when to jest or joke or make a fool out of themselves, etc.. Toradora is certainly more so the latter, it can occasionally bring things to a grinding halt to have something humorous happen ( the never once funny ugly bird gag, character is naked all of a sudden, dream sequences, etc.) but for the most part it is successful in either visual comedy or character quirk moments. Some of the off-model character expressions are good examples of the shows shock humor and the characters are well defined that their interactions are very much enjoyable in teasing or humoring one another.
Overall a very pleasing aesthetic, the color really pops without being overbearing. For being a decade old, the animation has really held up, there’s a few spots where the motions can come across very mechanical and during the “action” sequences it is very obvious how less detailed with that cruder sort of motion-blurred look that could have looked better. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought they had some similar character designs which doesn’t come across a lazy or anything and credit for them for making them so full of personality that they’re honestly easy to identify. Can we all agree that the two male protagonists and Sumire Kanô (The Class president) and Ami Kawashima look very close to one another. In terms of the art direction/cinematography I thought the show looked good and there was definitely dynamic lighting designs. Maybe I wish that there was a more exotic location or something that stood out visually. Overall a very pretty show to look at.
All aboard the feels train
I have been willingly emotional manipulated again, and my over empathic nature just had me rooting to see everyone reach some level of happiness or solace in the end. I think it’s easy to at least connect with one of these characters personal plyths as issues of: sacrifice, family, rejection, love, maturity, and societal and personal acceptance are universal and recognizable issues. In terms of execution it’s handled rather well. Personally, I found the metaphoric language very illustrative on some of the points the show was making. The show seemed very well-versed when it came to expressing itself and I certainly appreciated it. It can abuse the metaphors at times and overuses them so that it can seem ham-fisted or devalued by how excessively obvious they make the connection.
Initially I would have hands down said that the best metaphor was the seeing ghosts that was just a beautiful scene to end the beach set of episodes. Yet, it’s a little irksome how it keeps being reused in sort of weaker and weaker context as a quick way to explain Minori’s philosophical standpoint. I think the better metaphor might actually be Ami’s mocking of Ryûji as “playing daddy”. It’s not as impactful of a scene but it’s sort of an interesting red herring that shows how from Ami’s perspective, Ryûji is having more of a nurturing/caretaker relationship with Taiga that’s not necessarily love and she might not be wrong. It’s interesting because there’s a layer to it that Ryûji might act in such a way because of his own lack of a father figure. I’ve seen other critics pan the philosophical approach as being pretentious and I can understand that but I think the show definitely is poetic and even at times incredible in how it presents these ideas.
I think the show is worth it on the basis of it’s peaks. Vague spoilers in this paragraph so proceed with caution. The destination is…….. painfully obvious. I looked at the main thumbnail image on Amazon and that SOMEHOW was enough to spoil who was going to end up together, but maybe that’s just me. The show can feel formulaic at times, almost every episode is going to go like this the fourth, the fifth the minor fall, the major lift. Things get melodramatic often, it kind of reminds me of the one acting class I took in which to create drama you always want to give the most dramatic answer. Despite that, I enjoyed it time and time again. Characters felt motivated to go to such lengths or desperations in the circumstances presented and it does a fine job of being that fantasy for the audience.
The cast and the crowning of best girl
Now my least favorite part of every anime review I do, give out the “Best Girl” moniker to who I thought was my favorite female character. First….. I loved the cast and they’re all winners in my book. Surprisingly well incorporated minor characters, the mom was such a well-written character (I’m coming back from seeing this other review criticize this character as the “prostitute with a heart of gold” troupe and while the character can be seen in such a light; I would rather give her the credit as an “ignorance is bliss” cautionary tale. In that she was someone who fell in love young and didn’t assert her own identity, yet she shows such an appreciating for the little things finding joy in her simple life that she adds a certain charm and layer to the show but sure just another silly troupe I guess) , the teacher was a mess and I found that endearing, and even the most shallowly introduced character that girl with the orange hair, I felt really bad when even she started crying. Ryûji really grew on me as the show went on, I couldn’t connect much with someone passionate in cooking and cleaning but he does show in multiple instances a true caring and kind person that he is. Kitamura was quite funny at times, I loved his implied ability to teleport and his implied happy ending. When it comes to best girl…. it is obviously between the main three.
Taiga is a surprisingly sympathetic character and despite being the textbook Tsundere, has a lot of growth that she almost becomes a new character. Kind of upsetting her answer to “are you going to college” was literally “I’m rich and have no ambitions in life”. Some questionable decision-making towards the end but despite the abrasive exterior a fine person once you get to know them.
Minori Kushieda is just so very lovable, a very cute well done quirky personality. Steals the show comedically, and steals the show dramatically. I think she is involved in most of the highlights of the show… yet even a surprise to me I did go with her for best girl.
Best Girl Ami Kawashima
Fight me, dang it fight me. From what I’ve seen, Ami seems to be a polarizing character that either you think she was great or an annoying jerk. I’m giving it to her because personally I found this to be a great execution of writing a sympathetic mean girl character which is comparably more impressive then Taiga as a Tsundere or Minori as a goofy comic-relief/love interest character. Ami showed a lot of growth from here introduction as a two-faced ugly personality into her character arc of actually being more mature. Flawed in terms of being hot-headed and selfish she actually is caring and seems to have others best-interest in mind despite maybe having a funny way of showing it. Ami is the squidward of the show, someone with kind of a sour personality but can be widely entertaining as well as possessing a commendable good side.
I feel that people might not value her relationship with Ryûji as much as the other protagonists but her motives are understandable. She sees him as the one person who likes her for her genuine side including here faults and not the front of being an airhead or even an adult. Ultimately she handled her defeat and sort of getting the short end of the stick sort of gracefully. It made me feel even worse when the show kind of shafts her. If she’s squidward then I’m disappointed that she never really got her “band geeks” or “Sweet Victory” moment where we see this character at least get some moral victory. The closet we get is the gym closet scene that kind of got abrupted before it really marinated. To me she’s the most interesting character to follow her facial expressions, mannerisms, and choice of words have a lot more to unpack and you can relate to her frustrations as the show continues to fail to give her a fair fighting chance. Then this might seem WAY OUT OF LEFT FIELD I am only sharing my experiences but as Ami and Minori started spending more time in the last couple episodes…. was I the only one who was like could…. could they….. maybe…. just be….. a couple. I’m sure a showing airing in 2009 Japan was not going to be so open about such a thing but if you read between the lines…. I ship it I guess. Apparently it’s not me and this reddit person will go into greater lengths then I ever care to so enjoy that if you want. Overall I think Ami Kawashima coming to terms with her internal flaws and discovering her inner beauty was the best developed character this show had to offer.
Some General thoughts I want to include
I talked about this show having peaks and by that the episodes I would highlight are: Episode 10: Fireworks, Episode 13: Culture festival part 3, episode 16-20 is probably the strongest stretch of the show which Involves the Christmas Party and parts of 23 and 24 would have some highlight moments. I’m a little surprised by some of the contempt I’ve found for this show, considering how highly rated it is…. but isn’t that with everything popular someone’s bound to disagree. As much as I feel I’m defending the show, I agree that it kind of feels “Marvel-esque” in that it gives the people what they want but admittedly it’s a little cookie-cutter and doesn’t carry a distinct personality that’s going to be a problem with some audience members.
I’m going to talk about the ending, skip down into the Conclusion if you’d like to not be SPOILED. I feel like to obvious pairing of the main characters and their inevitable reunion kind of overshadows an actual well done parting message. In the end you realize the point of the show is that love requires both patience and isn’t a substitute for personal growth. In the end both protagonists realize that repairing their family relationship is more valuable the jumping into things. Ami learns that this was a learning experience that has caused her to really mature and Minori recognizes that she has to “accept what she can see”.
In a sense, I think the characters in a sense “break the loop” as instead of being doomed to repeat the fate of their parents marrying young and failing to build one’s self worth they showing a trust that can only make their bond stronger in the long run. A lot of people discredit this show for being troupe-heavy and I can see how comparable it can be frustrating when you believe you seen it before and seen it done better. However, literary scholars will debate that there’s only two types of stories: David vs. Goliath (An External Conflict) or Romeo and Juliet (An Internal Conflict). Despite being distinct character types, I think there was a level of consideration that went into how each character acts the way the do and whether you think that’s to better to manipulate the audience’s sympathy or to have this aspect of diverse viewpoints and philosophies is entirely up to how you look at it.
I think a show that can personally connect with youn on an emotional level and present a fascinating journey is well worth your time and Toradora was that for me. Admittedly, it can feel like baby’s first Rom-com Anime that I’m sure a more seasoned veteran of the genre can be more annoyed by the cliches and generic or predictable elements. Going in with the right expectations, is very important I think it’s high reception is on the basis of being a general positive people pleaser rather than being an immaculate and daring great thing. It’s difficult because I don’t think it’s as fun as The Devil is A Part-Timer or The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and I’d even say Just Because! was a more genuine and grounded in reality experience. Toradora is a satisfying wish fulfillment anime that shows youthful love in it’s most tragic, and heartfelt in which there’s nothing that feels better than weathering the storm and finally finding yourself at peace.
Images are from Toradora credit: J.C. Staff, TV5
I don’t want to just be constantly shouting people out, but I did stumble across someone who is reviewing this show episode by episode and doing a better job reviewing it than me so go check out “The Moyatorium” for a continued reading on the subject.