Title: Toradora Volume 1
Published by: Nippon Ichi Software America (North America) Hanabee Entertainment (Australia)
Based on: Based on the light novel series by Yuyuko Takemiya under the same title.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Audio: Japanese Dubs
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Runtime: 307 Minutes
Cost: $35.99 for Standard Edition from NIS America Store
Blurb: The first of two parts in the Toradora! collection by Nippon Ichi Software America. Whilst it carries itself like many other romantic comedy animes with the obligatory “pool” and “beach” episodes, it does a good job of utilizing the characters and plots to put across a rather enjoyable storyline, which is however overshadowed by the second volumes episodes. Some strong design features and solid sound makes this an overall enjoyable watch – especially someone who does not necessarily enjoy the Romance genre…..
Special Thanks: Special thanks goes to Nippon Ichi Software America for providing me with a review sample of this title.
This is the first of two reviews I shall be doing on this series – with the review of the second and final volume hopefully to be released tomorrow. Toradora is one of those anime series similar to that of Shakugan no Shana or perhaps even Azumanga Daioh, where it is a name brand series that most should have heard of at the very least. Thankfully, NIS America has decided to release the anime series over two parts – initially as a premium collection similar to that of Arakawa Under the Bridge and now as a cheaper standard edition which I shall be using to review. Are you after a new romantic comedy in your life? Sick of a series in the romance genre that one character spends most of the time stalking or kissing his/her significant other? Then Toradora! might be the series for you! Want my opinion? Read on for it.
Ryuji Takasu is unfortunately cursed with his father’s threatening face and is labeled a “delinquent” because of it. Since this makes it difficult for him to meet people, Ryuji falls in love with Minorin, the one girl who does not run away from him. Taiga Aisaka is a notorious girl with the nickname “Palm-top Tiger”. Ryuji bumps into her one day and learns how a true delinquent acts. She is also Minorin’s best friend and happens to have a crush on Ryuji’s closest friend.
An unlikely duo, the two form a shaky alliance to assist one another in stealing the hearts of the ones they love. They will face many hurdles along the way, only to learn true love may be closer than they think.
A scary looking young man who is actually kind and a clean freak, a scary looking girl with a child-like appearance, a model who has both friendly and revengeful personalities, a cheerful girl who looks out for her friends sometimes scarily and a friend who for the most part, tries to ignore or doesn’t realize one of them has feelings for him. This is the cast set for the series Toradora!, your typical romantic comedy series with elements of the slice-of-life genre throughout it. Having watched both volumes already, I will say that this is definitively the more generic one of the two – with your obligatory pool episode, beach episode (Yep, you get both) and a three-part Cultural Festival which descends into the abnormal. The overall setting of this series surrounds the two scary-looking students Tyuji and Taiga, who just so happen to have a crush on each others friends. So what do they do? Why they work together to get each other with their friends…. of course, Taiga isn’t the easiest one to work with….
Looking over the listing of the first 13 episodes in this volume, I would say most would be pleased with the first six or so episodes if you are after purely storyline driven content. The first half is dedicated to introducing all the characters and setting the plot for the rest of the storyline through introducing all five main characters, giving them some backstory and showing the feelings of all the characters towards each other at the start of the series. The other seven episodes cover the Pool, Beach and Culture Festival arcs in quick succession – but despite this, they kept everything to an above normal level.
The storyline does maintain an above normal level of comedy, generally through the reactions of Taiga’s lack of abilities at everyday tasks and failed attempts to confess her love to Kitamura, alongside Minorin’s upbeat attitude that whilst not being “Generically Stupid” funny, did give me a few chuckles now and again. Outside of the school environment, they attempted to make the living situation between Taiga and Ryuji a bit different by having the balcony of her apartment back onto the window of his bedroom which given their different living conditions – allowed more socialization between the two of them (+Ryuji’s Mother +Parrot). This also allowed the story to have viewers questioning the relationship between the two from the get-go, with Ryuji (Who has a cleaning fetish) becoming a pseudo-maid for Taiga whilst bringing into account a unique view on her family relationships.
I feel that this comedy was needed, as whilst it is fun to watch confession attempts going wrong or seeing the characters pull off the perfect prank against one (or more) of their own, the storyline also holds a more dramatic side to it. In the early episodes it is not so prevalent but as the episodes continue, issues surrounding the characters actual feelings towards one another, Taiga’s perception of her size, Taiga’s sense of family alongside Ami’s fears and the cause of her temporarily pulling out of modelling are some of the issues that are investigated during the first half of this series and honestly, I thought there were the better written segments then the comedic ones. These were effectively used throughout even the “generic” storylines – especially that of the Culture Festival set which allowed for both a more solid storyline and differentiation from similar series.
The issue is with this type of approach is that if they over-balanced the drama then they would have had an over-emotional romance series whilst if they chose to go with a more comedic and potentially violent (My original thoughts on what I was expecting) storyline then it would have failed in the romance genre entirely. Thankfully, I think they did a good job at balancing the two, making it an overall enjoyable storyline with both serious and comedic moments within it. The set of five main characters were a diversified group of different personalities that made for some interesting friendships and rivalries, however a number of the secondary characters that they introduced throughout the series were only infrequently used. As well, some of the plot elements such as Ryuji’s “scary” appearance were dropped after a couple of episodes without any explanation on why people were not longer afraid of him.
They say a picture is a thousand words, and in the case of Toradora, there is some solid visual designs that are used effectively in setting the mood of the episode. This series does not in my opinion, attempt to put across any form of realism to their characters designs but instead put across a very well-designed anime-style characters. The best component of the designs were the facial designs/expressions, which whilst catering for a widest range of emotions, also in the case of Taiga specifically allowed her to switch into more of a chibified facial design when sorrowful or well adapted to the many times when she acted stubborn or angry. Generally whilst most shows in this genre would by the first episode made an attempt to show off every characters goods in a fanservice extravaganza, even in the episodes that generally are infamous for scenes like this, the actual fanservice is on the down-low. Sure we had Ami “The Model” flaunting off her bust-line every few minutes in the occasional episode, they were more used to enforce Taiga’s opinion of her self-image more then anything…. and I suppose yes, for the home viewer. Environmental Designs are another strong point for this series, as whilst they do not have anything overly fancy – as it is a normal everyday town in Japan – it is what I would consider a fair representation of what I would expect whilst maintaining a strong emphasis on the trees or the cracks on a road or even the lighting effects used, which were appropriate.
Pre-Parade by Rie Kugimiya, Eri Kitamura, and Yui Horie
A song different from what I am used to – sporting more of a techno oriented track, but none-the-less still an enjoyable song with lyrics that I feel are appropriate for this series. The singers for this song are the voice actresses for the three main female characters in the series and I felt they did a great job at doing it. Animation was also well timed with the music, consisted of all unique animation and all-in-all, an enjoyable watch that I didn’t skip over even once.
Vanilla Salt by Yui Horie
I like Yui Horie both as a voice actress and a singer, and her performance in Vanilla Salt is no exception to that. I am aware I am rather tough when it comes to ending sequences, especially as their main purpose is to promote the team involved in the completion of the episode – but this is an example of what to do – nothing fancy but something more then just having the names scroll down a screen.
In terms of overall music performance, I would not call it anything special. There is a nice variety of songs suited to both dramatic and comedic aspects of the storyline – alongside a variety of different styles of music, but I didn’t feel that anything stood out and remained as what I suppose is expected from it – to act has background music to set the scene. Voice acting on the other hand was very enjoyable sporting a number of quality voice actors and actresses. Junji Majima (The Japanese voice actor responsible for the Prinny voices in Disgaea) takes the leading role as Ryuji and considering the varied moods displayed by this character, he did a very strong performance. Rie Kugimiya (Persona 4, Shakugan no Shana) takes the role of Taiga and puts forth a similarily strong performance as she did in the Shana Japanese dub, alternating between the Yandere voice she is so good at and the more shy voice that Taiga takes a majority of the time. Minori voiced by Yui Horie, Ami voiced by Eri Kitamura and Kitamura voiced by Hirofumi Nojima were also very strong voice roles. Overall, I have no qualms regarding the quality of the voice acting.
In terms of packaging quality, it is very similar to that of Wagnaria!!. As I stated above, I am only reviewing the standard edition of the series therefore it has no art book or anything similar with it. However, the DVD cover is of normal size in comparison to the slim cases I see more frequently in North American anime releases (Or at least the ones I have purchased previously). Inside the DVD case you do get a Story Guide with some cute artwork of Taiga and Minori as well as brief blurbs on each of the episodes. The disc artwork is nice as well, featuring outline artwork of the different characters on them with a white backdrop. In terms of overall extra content, there is some content on the disc including:
- Toradora SOS! Hurry for Gourmands #1-2 – I shall leave these two episodes as a surprise – but the art style is pictured above and is chibified. Overall though, it is an enjoyable watch.
- Clean Opening
- Clean Ending
Whilst I would like to leave my full personal opinion until tomorrows review of Volume 2, I will say that this was a great set of episodes to introduce all the characters as well as showing bits and pieces of what Toradora has to offer to the viewers. I would recommend everyone who is after a romance series a bit different from the norm to consider picking up Toradora.
Storyline/Character Development: A-
OP/ED Sequences: A
Music/Voice Acting: B-
Personal Opinion: A
Overall Score: A-