Going into Toradora, I wasn’t really expecting too much from it. I thought it would be your standard school life love story we have all seen so many times before. But low and behold it came out to be surprisingly good, and has quickly become one of my favorite 2008 airing anime series.
The story revolves around Ryuuji and Tiaga, two ordinary students that end up working together in order to help one another end up with the ones they love. It stays pretty true to the "love story" formula. What makes this anime really good is the excellent pacing it takes with the story. In many "school life" anime we always end up watching filler style episodes, only to have the end of the series be the only thing good about it. Not so for Toradora however! It manages to keep the anticipation between the potential couples high, all along weaving together a pretty good in depth story that really shows the heart of the characters. A lot of times we have scenes that show the characters trying to get the words out to express their feelings, and others offer more side story scenarios-- which usually end up going in conjunction with a certain character’s inner turmoil and struggle. Each episode flows nicely into the next, and you get some pretty clever comedy along the way. Now that is not to say that Toradora's story is without fault; not every episode is particularity interesting as others, towards the end the story tends to drag on a bit and feel somewhat rushed, and the characters start to get in a sort of "pity party" mood with their situations, which can get to be a bit of a downer at times. Still though, haven’t all of us been there at one point in our lives, where we really want to say what is in our hearts, but end up holding back for risk of getting hurt? Or even worse, hurting another? Overall the story is filled with enough drama and guess work to keep the audience into it! Though it should be said that hardcore romance fans may be able to predict some of the twists and turns the plot takes. It does come close to becoming a bit of a harem anime, but just never quite reaches that category. The anticipation of "who will end up with who?" --is the stories strongest feature, and the ending doesn't disappoint!!
The art really isn’t anything too special. You get a nice mixture of bright colorful characters and environments. The characters are sharp and well animated with their facial expressions, but the backgrounds can look a bit washed out at times. And some of the action scenarios can be a bit on the stiff side. Again, the character’s faces are what stood out for me the most with the art, you really feel like you can read them at times.
Like the visuals, I wouldn’t go on par to say that the music can be anything more than "appropriate." You do get some pretty nifty opening and closing songs, and they change mid way through the series. The BG music was nothing--if not forgettable. Even while writing this I can’t really think of a piece that stood out for me. What does make the soundtrack so good however, are the character voices! All of them were matched perfectly to a "T, " and I could not find a single voice actor to be out of place with their role. I especially enjoyed Taiga’s voice. She has this tough girl tone and attitude, yet you can tell that deep down inside she really does care about those around her. Something that the viewer will indeed discover while making their way through the anime.
Definitely the heart of Toradora! While going through this anime I really felt that I started a "virtual" style bond with them. I actually cared about the problems they had, and wanted them to end up happy in the end. Towards the beginning, viewers may find a character or two that they either dislike or even despise. But trust me when I say this: "stick with it!" They end up evolving and have many twits to their persona! Taiga is really the one who stole the show for me, she has so many layers to her personality that it can be hard to figure out just what is going through her head at times. A character named Minorin can be drop dead funny when she wants to be, and Ryuuji is a great guy that is always there for his friends. The best compliment I can say about the cast? They act very human (ie: realistic), maybe a bit exaggerated at times, but mix the two together very well! Which can be hard to do in an anime. My only real knock against the characters was, since there are multiple romance skits going on, at times it felt like some of them were a bit too discreet with confessing to one another; which in turn can make the story slow paced at times. I almost felt like I wanted to jump inside my computer screen and yell: "Oh just say it already!!!" That aside, there really isn't much to complain about, great cast!
Toradora makes us contemplate what is more important in life; love or friendship? This anime really turned out to be a great surprise for me. Sure its got some flaws and all. But this series has it where it really counts; character chemistry and development! If you are a fan of romance anime, complimented with a great cast of characters and funny anecdotes. Then I highly recommend giving Toradora a try! It may not do anything new with its romance formula, but it does indeed do it right!