Ryuji is a teenage boy in high school. He isn't exactly well-liked, due to the physical traits that he got from his father, which makes him come off and dangerous and hard to approach. In spite of this, he has friends, one of whom he's had a crush on for a long time; Minorin Kushieda. He's far too shy to tell her, and never really plans to, until he meets the "palmtop tiger" Taiga. After accidentally receiving a love letter that Taiga had planned on giving to her own crush; Ryuji's close friend, Kitamura, she breaks into his house and tries to steal the letter back. In the end, they strike a deal: in exchange for not killing Ryuji, he'll help her confess to Kitamura (as well as supply her with free meals), and eventually, Taiga also helps Ryuji confess to Minorin.
On the surface, this is a fairly simple concept. It's been done a million and one times, and it's easy to guess the rough outcome from the beginning. Toradora, however manages to evolve into a very different and quite frankly, downright adorable show. The characters all grow in a believable manner, the humour is well-done, and overall, it just has a lot of heart, and that's what really makes the series work. However, like I said before, this story has been done again and again, and in some ways, Toradora does not stray too far from the typical romantic comedy formula, and can be a bit predictable, but it really makes up for it with all the things it does right.
Another thing Toradora does from time to time is try to be dramatic. Now, in a lot of romantic comedies, this means instant failure, but this isn't really the case here. For the most part, the drama is actually really well-done. Some scenes miss, but for the most part, they are genuinely heart-warming.
This brings us to the art and animation section of the review. The art in Toradora is very good. The character designs are simple, but fit the characters well, their character designs are perfectly suited to their personalities. The animation is well done, but not exactly exceptional. When it tries hard, though, it's evident, and the series does have it's moments where it looks absolutely phenomenal, particularly in some of the more dramatic scenes later in the series.
The music is Toradora tends to be rather downplayed. It's easy to miss if you aren't paying attention, save for one track in the whole thing that is quite memorable, but other than that, the music used in the series is rather forgettable. This can't be said about the two opening themes, though, which fit the series extremely well. The first one "Pre-parade" fits the characters, and how they are portrayed in the first half of the series perfectly. The second opening, "Silky heart" isn't quite as adicting, but is still catchy enough. Furthermore, both will be stuck in your head for days on end. The endings are pretty standard, and nothing to write home about.
As per usual the casting in Japanese is strong. Each actor plays their role well, the main cast capturing the multiple layers of their character well. Kugimiya Rie does an exceptional job as Taiga, especially. Overall, it's just a solid listen.
The characters are the heart and soul of Toradora. Each of the five main characters are developed well, and are quite complex. The best example of a multi-layered character in this series is probably Ryuji's crush, Minorin. She at first comes off as quite the stereo typical little character, happy, energetic, athletic, but soon starts to show her true colours, and some of the things she ends up doing for her friends' sake is rather heart-warming. The protagonist, Ryuji is a nice guy who cares a lot about his friends and family, and likes to keep his problems to himself. He's also a bit thick when it comes to other people's emotions, and as much as he tries his best, he ends up failing a lot when it comes to dealing with other people. Taiga is also very well developed, but for sake of spoilers, I won't dive too much into that. Kitamura is probably one of the funniest nerds in fiction, and he doesn't even appear to be trying. He's also nearly as thick as Ryuji, but that usually just ends in hilarity. The final main character, Ami, comes in a bit later, and again, I won't get into her character, as not to spoil too much. The supporting characters are mostly just gag characters, which are funny, mind you, but not much more than that. The funniest one is probably the main character's teacher, Yuri, whose middle aged and single, and the ways she reacts to some of the things the kids do is just hilarious. Another main character I would like to mention is Noto, who can't seem to decide what colour his glasses are. They're always changing. One second they're yellow, the next they're green, then red. I guess that's the animator's fault, though.
Toradora is a good, and even great show, despite the fact that the basic story has been done a million times before. It leans on the predictable side sometimes, and the ending will disappoint a lot of people, but its flaws can be easily forgiven for all the series does right. The characters are loveable, the jokes are genuinely funny, and even pulls off drama well for the most part, and for that reason, it's highly recommended.