Copy-pasting my review from forum :P
This anime shows, that if you take many unoriginal concepts and mix them together you can get something, that feels new (even though it’s essentially reheated food). Girl helping a guy get close to the one he secretly loves? High school student that looks like delinquent but is actually pretty normal? Over-energetic, completely dense girl, who doesn’t notice boys feelings? Arrogant girl falling in love and suddenly switching from ultra aggressive to ultra shy? All of this concepts are really common, and Toradora just merges them into one, coherent plot, that tries to fool you into believing it’s completely original story The key to it’s success would be almost flawless execution. Animation, music , bunch of top-class seiyus, logical and not rushed dialogue lines and good balance between comedy and drama makes Toradora a very good, light-hearted love-comedy. Another very important factor is that it actually abstains from using ecchi theme, which is pretty refreshing for a high-school, shounen romance. So instead of endless, accidental groping, peeping and stripping we get a normal story ( and considering it’s J.C.Staff we are talking about, it’s easy to imagine how fanservice can ruin a similar show just by watching Zero no Tsukaima )
The story, for a most part, is made in very predictable way, so the viewers won’t have to think too much about complicated stuff, and instead just relax and enjoy the show. We have Taiga - a short girl with short temper, and Ryuuji - a tall guys whose responsible but shy. From a first look it’s perfect tsundere couple. The only problem is both of them are in one-sided love with someone else, and since it just happens the objects of their love are the other ones friends, they decide to help each other. And so the high-school life full of comedy and drama begins, and we are showered with typical problems like „What will I do about chocolate on Valentines Day” or „How should I confess”. On the course of 25 episodes the story slowly progresses while the characters learn more about each other and find some answers to the questions of youth. The pace of a story is it’s strong point – not once I felt that they rushed things or done something too early. They managed to find a good balance between plot progression and side-stories (some comedic, some heart-warming).
Oh and one more thing – the ending is pretty disappointing – at least I feel that way about it. In ep 24 we are given one, really good scene, and after that it’s going downhill (well ep 25 also has one brilliant scene, but to enjoy it you have to forget the stupid circumstances ). I was watching this while grinding teeth and thinking about what kind of evil spirit possessed creators while they were making it. Without spoiling much I can say, that anime reaches its dramatic climax, but reasons for the drama are extremely dull and don’t justify characters actions. This kind of behaviour I could expect from middle schoolers, but high schoolers and adults, involved in this mess should already know, that there are better ways of doing things.
This is the series strongest point, - J.C.Staff did and outstanding job here. Average love-comedy would be satisfied with just having good-looking character designs. But Toradora goes further than that – from the perspective changes, body movement up to the facial expressions – everything is top notch. Whether they wanna show anger, sadness, embarrassment or any other emotion, you can see the actual work put into animating that (and can imagine a budget that department got for that :P). They even bothered with keeping the same quality on side-characters, like for example Haruta or Maya Another good point is clever usage of CG from time to time ( for example really pretty glass star).
The scenery obviously wasn’t so important to the designers – while it still is done properly, it doesn’t really catch any attention. I suppose that is due to characters being way more important, but I still wouldn’t mind a few outstanding views incorporated into this anime. Guess you can’t have everything.
This part is done properly, but I wouldn’t call it brilliant. The music is there to help establish the proper mood for the scene, but it’s not doing anything more than that – it stays in the background. There aren’t any amazing tracks that I would like to listen outside of the anime. But I guess if I have to choose I prefer this over what for example .hack//sign had to offer ( tracks were really great, but they were overused and dominated the scenes, sometimes even covering dialogues ). The openings and endings are typical j-pop songs – fitting the theme, but not special in any way (well the first opening was catchy I admit it – but it was „I won’t skip past it” and not „I want to get that song now” type of catchy )
The voice acting was done splendidly, though people may argue about that. Well if you like the voice of „The queen of Tsundere” Rie Kugimiya ( mainly known from the role of Louise in „Zero no Tsukaima” and Shana in „Shakugan no Shana” ) than you will enjoy it in „Toradora” as well, since it’s pretty much the same character (well ok., Taiga is less annoying than the previously mentioned two). If it annoyed you before, than you will have to suffer another show with her as seiyu of main character. I like her voice acting, so I had fun times listening to another tsundere girl stuttering :]
This part is really uneven. Taiga is brilliant. She is probably the best tsundere J.C.Staff created so far (since she isn’t bitch like Louise nor is she inexperienced like Shana). She is believable character, even with her emotion swings, has nice background story and is totally likeable. Her insults towards Ryuji sounds more like friendly teasing, and often creators show her kind side – even though she is easily embarrassed, she gets things done when needed. Seeing how her character grows is the most enjoyable part of watching Toradora. That said, she is really cliché “Rie Kugimiya style” girl. She has typical worries (size of breasts, embarrassment in talking about feelings, inferiority complex due to failures in many areas) typical attitude (for example how she calls Ryuuji a dog) typical looks ( long haired loli, banzai :P) and typical reactions (stuttering, violence or tears).
Ryuuji is already one level beyond Taiga. It takes him quite a few episodes to become an interesting character I could care about. At first he is presented as a “normal boy with delinquent looks”, and we are shown a few scenes in which people on the streets are scared of him. Yet it takes just a few eps, to completely erase that feature – once his classmates no longer fear him, the entire world stops fearing him as well and he stops brooding over the issue. They recall it once or twice over the course of the show, but it already feels artificial. Once his main characteristics is gone we are left with a few quirks (like his unnatural addiction to cleaning everything he can clean) and his resentment towards his father (which was so insignificant, that I thought it was there just to provide some background for a plot development about Taigas parents). It takes few eps for his over-protectiveness of Taiga to surface and that, combined with his shyness, turns out to be his main feature. So yeah, he isn’t character you will dislike, but he seems to be a little undeveloped for a leading male role.
The other 3 heroes of this love polygon are, frankly speaking, boring. Sure, J.C.Staff hidden enough small hints, to make some of their behaviour believable, but they still seem very poorly made. Ami, after her 2 episodes of introduction, provides mainly comic relief in duet with Taiga. Creators try to fool us, that she acts mature and notices more, which makes her keeps her feelings suppressed. But the effect is that she just brings some useless comments that are supposed to sound deep, and apart from that does pretty much nothing. Kitamura is supposedly Ryuuji best friend, and supposedly he rejects Taiga at the beginning of the show. That doesn’t stop him from taking advantage of her feelings anytime he needs it, and the so called “mans friendship” surfaces only for a moment in the middle of the show, and even then sounds fishy. He seems like a character, whose main purpose is to be Taigas object of affection, so the scriptwriters didn’t bother much developing him. And lastly Minorin – she acts as if she had ADHD (who knows, maybe she does?) which instead of being cute is extremely annoying. So the creators tried to make her a little better, by adding “workaholic” and “horror love” quirks, and then justify her actions by hidden, deep emotions, but in my opinion they did awful job on that. Still, in comparison to one-pattern, boring characters, that some love polygons have to offer, Toradora cast looks really good.
Lastly the side characters are people that can be identified by their one, and only quirk. Like “that girl that loves Kitamura”. Or “that guy who is utterly stupid, but funny”. Well I didn’t expect anything more from the background roles, since they are only supporting cast for the main actors. They work fine the way they are.
Even though Toradora has it’s faults and isn’t really original I can still recommend watching it to anyone who likes love polygons. With it’s awesome animation and lack of fanservice it is a level above most of the standard shounen romances. And some scenes are “must see” pieces of win (this is probably first time I’ve seen serious brawl between woman in a love-comedy, that doesn’t incorporate any fantasy theme in it). Generally speaking, unless you are looking for a really dramatic and deep story about the purpose of human existence, you should enjoy this show.