Toradora! started out as a light-hearted slice-of-life anime with good comedic moments and turned into a darker dramatic slice-of-life anime with good comedic moments. That is to say, even though the tone in the series turned much more serious sometime after episode 17, it did its best to retain the original comedic feel. The show did a good job of telling the story and showing us how the characters grew.
Since this is a primarily character-driven anime, I feel that the season review should focus on the main characters themselves. So let’s begin with the most static main character in the series: Kitamura Yuusaku.
I don’t know whether to be annoyed that he remains virtually unchanged since episode 1, or happy that he’s such a well-adjusted, happy boy who doesn’t get seriously involved in any annoying high school drama shit. He had only one real character arc where we get to see his heart get broken. Afterwards, for the rest of the series, he gets demoted (or promoted?) to a comic-relief character.
Kitamura may actually be the happiest and most satisfied of the five main characters. From the beginning, we can see that he’s a fairly confident person who can handle most situations thrown at him (i.e. Taiga’s confession). He also has the guts to make the two most awesome confessions in the series. (Sorry, but Taiga and Ryuuji’s confession was just awkward-cute. Not really awesome.) And he’s a good support character: someone always willing to help out his friends, usually by forcing them to face the situation.
Though he’s a static character, at least he’s a happy one. And I couldn’t help but feel the warm fuzzies when he follows his love interest to America. Needless to say, Kitamura is one of the characters I love in this series and it’s good to see someone who can chase after his own happiness. Good luck, Maruo, and fare thee well.
Kawasaki Ami, on the other hand, has probably changed the most since when she was introduced. Though I wouldn’t say that her core personality changed, she is a much different person than the fake, air-headed, “oh-I’m-such-a-klutz” Ami who we were introduced to. (Imagine if that was her actual personality! I would have wanted to fling her across the room!) Much of Ami’s early development centered around being more open about her true, dark personality. That was mildly interesting, of course, but things got much more interesting when she started hitting on Ryuuji.
After she starts revealing her non-ditzy self to the world, Ami somehow steps up to the plate as the ‘most mature’ character on the show. She certainly does seem to know more about what’s going on in the group than everybody else. But at the same time, she’s a very…jealous character. When I say jealous, I don’t mean that she wants Ryuuji all to herself (though she probably DOES want that). I mean that she’s jealous of the other girls in the group. She mentioned several times that she envied Taiga’s ability to be violent, mean and rough and still be loved by everyone in the class. And she was jealous of Minori’s position because Ryuuji and Minori both liked one another (a position she herself wished to be in), yet Minori refused to act on these mutual feelings. Because of this, Ami became very catty around Minori…not a very mature action from my point of view.
In the end, I’m not sure what kind of person Ami has ended up as. It seems to me that her thoughts are obscured to the viewer more than the other characters. In a way, this makes her the most complex character on the show, simply because she has so many different changes and facets. It’s not obvious whether Ryuuji ever figured out that she liked him (though he’s probably not that dense), but that may be because she never admitted it directly out loud. And her maturity level is probably extremely debatable. (It’s interesting how in the last episode, she talks about how she’s just a kid and that people expect too much from her.) In any case, Ami often sheds new light onto a situation and helps the plot move along. And she’s quite a fun character to try to figure out.
Ahh, Kushieda Minori. Such a fun character. You could say that she’s similar to the old Ami, since she uses a fake personality to hide her inner self. But to tell you the truth, I don’t think she actually has an inner self. The happy, energetic, zany girl we see is the real girl. One could say that she developed this personality to deal with her fears, but that’s only true when she has something to be afraid about. While Ami’s ditzy self was never who she wanted to be, Minori’s energetic self is her at her happiest.
Of course, she grows as a character when she shows her other sides later on in the season. As she gets closer to Ryuuji (and Ami as well), we begin to see her other emotions: her anger, fear, sadness and disappointment. Mostly because she’s pretty bad at hiding them. But despite that dark time where she goes emo about Ryuuji and Taiga, she bounces back to her old energetic self, leaving us with the Minori we met at the beginning of the season, albeit one who may be wiser about love and life.
I really would have liked to see Minori and Ryuuji end up together. First of all, it was because I never thought Ryuuji and Taiga’s relationship could become that of lovers. And second of all, I knew that if Ryuuji and Minori ended up together at the end of the season, the story wouldn’t end there. It would mean that there would be a second season, where most likely Ryuuji and Minori would be a happy couple for the first bunch of episodes, and then break up when they realized they weren’t right for each other. Then Ryuuji and Taiga would consider going out, but realize that they DEFINITELY weren’t right for each other, which would propel the series into an entirely different direction. Yeah, seriously. I was predicting all this in my head. But in the end, Ryuuji and Minori just didn’t end up together, and even if they did, I don’t think they would do anything as cute as Ryuuji and Taiga would have.
Aisaka Taiga is, by far, the artists’ favorite character to draw and pretty up. With good reason too: she’s the main character. Dozens of time during the series, I would sit back and think to myself “This character is really detailed and well-drawn.” and then realize that once again, ‘this character’ referred to Taiga. Forget the background characters. Forget Ami and Minori…they only get to look pretty when the plot focuses on them. Heck, forget Ryuuji too. Taiga gets to wear a maid costume, a gorgeous Christmas dress, enhanced swimsuits with mouse-ear hair, and we even get to see her as a gosh-darned adorkable nosebleed-inducing little toddler girl. By the end of the series, she even gets to wear a better school uniform than the rest of the female cast (see above.) No doubt about it–the artists played favorites with the Palmtop Tiger. (Not that I’m complaining. *wipes up nosebleed*)
As one of the main characters, Taiga is one of the most developed characters in the series. Her advancement as a character comes from learning to be with a family, starting with her becoming a regular member of the Takasu household and ending with her leaving the school to live with her mother and repair family relationships. Along the way, of course, she spends considerable time trying to gain Yuusaku’s affection and hook Ryuuji up with Minori, but none of the matters at the end because Ryuuji and Taiga fall in love with each other in the process.
She makes for a not-so-original character who’s overly violent and treats the male lead like a worthless dog. But I have to admit that the chemistry between Ryuuji and Taiga, whether they’re friends or lovers, give off a warm, funny and interesting vibe. Having the two main characters click well together? That’s a good thing. And of course, overly violent is always funny.
Finally, Takasu Ryuuji: the man who could have picked any of the female leads in the show and would have ended up happy at the end of the season. Ryuuji is warm, caring and a good boy. He likes taking care of others, especially if their house is messy and they can’t feed themselves. And I swear he has an Oedipal complex, because multiple times, the artists have occasionally drawn in blatant similarities between Taiga and Ryuuji’s mom.
Sometime early in the series, Ami mentioned to Ryuuji that he needed someone equal to him to be his partner. And even though Ami was referring to herself, the same logic can apply to Taiga. In the end, Ryuuji ended up with Taiga because she was someone he could understand, someone who was close to him, and someone who needed him. Meanwhile, if he had ended up with Minori, there wouldn’t be any of that understanding or dependency that he would have with Taiga. Maybe Ami was right; maybe Minori’s the sun, and if Ryuuji got too close to her, he would burn. Well, who knows, they never gave the relationship a chance.
The end of the series had theme involving the future and the path one will take. Before the final episode, Ryuuji was uncertain about everything in the future. He was still mulling over Taiga’s confession to him, and he also didn’t want to go to college and become a burden. Of course, everything fixes itself once he makes a firm decision and he ends up with Taiga. (And since she’s rich, he can just bum off of her for the rest of his life as a house-husband. ^_^) The show doesn’t really go into the details afterwards, but I suppose he finally decides to go to college after all the drama.
Ryuuji enters the series with only one friend in his class (Kitamura) and leaves it with a whole class full of friends and a tsundere girlfriend. Not bad, man, not bad.
All in all, Toradora! had a wonderful cast, decent drama and good comedy. The quality of the art usually varied with the pacing of the scene and the importance of a character, but never really got bad enough to be distracting. At the very end though, the plot got extremely rushed, and the developments just didn’t feel natural. It seems very likely that the creators realized they had run out of time and simply threw together a happy ending. Despite this, I very much enjoyed the series. I’m going to give it a
SERIES RATING: 9/10
~eNamorD (with Toradora)~