Romantic comedy anime isn't exactly a rare thing. What is rare, however, is when a show gets it right. I mean, really right. Toradora! is one of the finest examples of the genre and it's successful on so many levels. I was glued to the TV from the moment I put the first disc in, and that simply doesn't happen all that often.
Toradora! is a 2008 anime produced by J.C. Staff. It's based on a series of light novels and manga created by Yuyuko Takemiya, which has actually been around since 2006. NIS America has handled the release of the show in the States and up until now a Premium Edition boxed series was the only way to get the show. Finally NIS America has made Toradora! available as a standard edition DVD release. The first volume (of two) features thirteen episodes on two discs.
Toradora! starts out innocently enough with a young man named Ryuji Takasu diligently cleaning his bathroom. Shortly thereafter he leaves the apartment where he lives with his single mother and walks to school. Along the way everybody reacts poorly to him because he always has an intimidating expression on his face and his eyes are all crazy-like. Deep down Takasu is really a good guy, but those around him, aside from a select few, consider him a delinquent.
On the flipside there's Aisaka Taiga, who is a pipsqueak girl with an explosive temper. She's a little barrel of TNT that exudes fear in the hearts of those around her whenever she casts a dirty look their way. Both Takasu the delinquent and Aisaka the Palm-Top Tiger collide on the first day of the new term of school. They bump into each other in the hallway and the incident ends with Takasu laid flat by a massive punch. As the episode progresses one event leads to another and to make a long story short Takasu winds up being Aisaka's "dog" (though really he becomes her bitch).
You see, Aisaka has a thing for Takasu's friend, Kitamura, and Takasu has a thing for Aisaka's friend, Minori. The delinquent and tiger join forces to help each other conquer love. As the plot unfolds it becomes clear to everyone around them that the two are quite smitten with each other, even if they themselves don't think so and deny it at all costs. The running assumption is that they are lovers because they spend every second with each other, live next to each other, and Takasu even cooks for Aisaka every day. They are good friends though and it's easy to see the misconception.
As the show progresses there are more characters thrown into the mix. The rest of the students in class 2-C really step forward as time moves on, but the best introduction is that of Amin, who is a model and all around beauty. She clashes with Taiga right off the bat and she's really a nasty sort deep down. At the same point, however, it's clear that she lashes out the way she does due to her own vulnerabilities. The dynamic that forms between the core group of friends and potential lovers once she's involved is quite entertaining to watch.
At this point I've watched the second volume as well, so I don't want to spoil much for those coming to the first. All I'm going to say is that the show is totally worth your time. Romantic comedies typically aren't my thing and I was utterly smitten with Toradora!. The characters, story, artwork, and jokes here are a cut above the rest and it stands out as one of the best of the genre, in my opinion. If you haven't seen it before consider NIS America's Standard Edition totally worth the monetary investment.
Toradora! is presented on DVD with its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is quite vibrant with lots of light and bold colors, which create a nice contrast. In addition to that black levels are strong and the lines are clean throughout. NIS America's transfer is certainly better than most anime DVD transfers and there's hardly any grain to contend with. No line-noise, no cross-coloration, and no artifacting make this a stellar looking release.
For audio there's Japanese 2.0 stereo as the only source of audio. It's not surprising in this case because all NIS America releases do not include an English dub. This is perfectly fine in my book, however, since I'm a stickler for Japanese tracks on my anime anyway. Just keep that in mind if you prefer English with no subtitles. What's here is good for the show though. Toradora! being a romantic comedy it didn't need a bombastic 5.1 spread and powerful LFE. Sure there are the occasional bits of fighting that would have benefited from it, but for the most part the show is dialogue driven and somewhat subdued.
For bonus features there are clean animations and mini episodes of "Toradora SOS! Hurry for Gourmands" episodes one and two.
Toradora! is simply a joy to watch. The way Aisaka and Takasu play off each other really drives the show and makes it absolutely entertaining. The support cast that surrounds them reacts wonderfully and the writers really utilized the secondary characters to their fullest. In terms of comedy you're going to get mostly slapstick or awkward reactions, but there are a few witty lines scattered throughout that don't lose their effect in translation. Overall this is a wonderful anime that left me impressed and exhausted because I watched all 26 episodes in the span of a few days. That almost never happens. Highly Recommended
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