Love triangles are a strange thing, aren’t they? Love triangle are also a thing that is common in slice-of-life anime dramas as well. However, Toradora! is not an anime series that explored a love triangle, instead it explores a love square, and then a pentagon, love shapes should be the more adequate term. In this series the, main cast each has their own love interests that all reflect on characters that are interested in other characters themselves. This seems to be the central theme of the series and it approaches the topic with mostly humour, but also a little pinch of seriousness. Toradora! is based on the light novel of the same name and is released by Hanabee here in Australia.
Toradora! follows the love shape of a few students in highschool. The main character, Ryuji, is chasing a girl named Minori, but faces the problem of being socially ostracised by having the face of a serial killer. Meanwhile, his neighbour Taiga is chasing his best friend, Yusaku. The main plot of Toradora! starts out with these characters in a situation where they want to win the hearts of their chosen crushes, however you get the feeling that things can begin to change and may even change during the chase. Even more, as the series progresses, even more characters are added, further confusing things along.
One of the more interesting things about Toradora! is how each of the characters interact with each other as the story progresses. For example, the two main characters, Taiga and Ryuji start out as almost enemies after a small misunderstanding involving a love letter and a couple of bags. However soon after this, Ryuji finds that she is living along and so he begins to cook her meals and the like. From here, things don’t really play out as you’d expect. Ryuji becomes more of a slave to Taiga than a friend. However, as the show progresses, you can start to see that she really does care for Ryuji a lot more than she’d intended. The same also works in reverse too, as the characters grow closer to each other through their goals, Ryuji does start to develop some kind of connection with Taiga.
As Toradora! progresses, you’ll find that the relationships between the characters become more and more complicated. This is especially true when additional characters are added into the mix. For example, there is this model girl that is friends with Yusaku. When she joins the cast, she shakes up the dynamics just a little, but ultimately her addition only serves to strengthen the bonds between Ryuji and Taiga. There are other characters that serve other purposes, but she is a main character and has a bunch of her own character stories herself. Like, for example, her confrontation with a pervert stalker. This character, Ami, is definitely a lot more mean that she initially seems, even as she gives a terrible first impression.
One of our biggest disappointments with Toradora! is that it is a series with a lot of potential, especially considering it feels like it was trying to shake up the initial love-triangle formula by changing the shape and complexity of the system. Ultimately things settle down a fair bit fairly quickly and you get a good sense of where the series is heading even after 3-4 episodes into the series. While knowing where the series is heading may not be a bad thing, we found that it was disappointing that the two main characters go down predictable patterns.
Conversely to this, one of the strengths of Toradora! is the comedy built up on the tension of having characters that are not sure on how to approach the people that they have an attraction towards, while also managing their own building feelings with each other. There are a lot of moments in the series where characters will be thrown into situations together, like when early on in the series Ryuji finds himself locked up in a alcoholic storehouse with his crush Minori. If this was a normal Anime show, or an ecchi-er Anime series, things would have played out less awkwardly than they did. But also, we got a good sense of the characters personalities and a whole lot of humour as well.
The artwork in Toradora! is something that leaves a really nice impression on the home viewer. While it is pretty simple and definitely not movie-level budget, the characters all have their own unique visuals and charms. However, viewers expecting something extravagant may be dissappointed as the characters generally don’t change out of their school uniforms too often unless it is a specific outfit for a job or outing. Fortunately, these are particularly plentiful, so there is a pretty reasonable mix of costume designs. This decision makes sense considering that this is a highschool comedy/drama, and so it fits in with the overall theme of the show.
Toradora! has a lot of Japanese style jokes in it, but they’re pretty easy to understand. The English dub, in our opinion, does a poor job at adapting the humour in some ways. Not only that, the dub changes the entire feel of the show. What I mean here is that the characters are clearly highschoolers, yet it is a bit strange when they sound like they’re in their mid-twenties. Even stranger here is that their teacher, a character that is actually older than the cast, sounds a lot more younger than the cast themselves. We know that you can’t have something perfect, but it’s like anime dubs don’t even try anymore. Stick to the Japanese dub where characters actually sound kind of legit.
Overall, Toradora! is a fun series that we would watch while it is on. The series has some fun moments, some emotional moments and tries its best to shake-up the love triangle trope in storytelling. A fan of slice-of-life series would love this, while fans of action or mystery might be a little left out. Which is fine, considering this is a standard slice-of-life series.
Toradora! is released by Hanabee here in Australia. The series is ~24 episodes in length and comes in both Blu-Ray and DVD formats. Toradora! was reviewed on Blu-Ray and can be bought from the Hanabee Store for ~$80.