Good high school romantic comedies can be a lot of fun to watch. The bad ones, on the other hand, have the tendency to annoy viewers with tired clichés and are often neither romantic nor funny. Without a doubt, the anime title Toradora! falls into the first category. It not only contains some touching romance and hilarious comedy, but is also beautifully animated and cleverly scripted, making it a highly energetic and entertaining series.
The show starts off only mildly interesting, with the first few episodes serving to introduce the majority of the characters, who may seem like stereotypes initially. Firstly, we have Taiga, whose nickname is 'Palm Top Tiger' because she is petite but fierce. Then there is Ryuji, a young man who looks tough with a pair of "killer's eyes" but is actually an expert in doing domestic chores and a "genius in the kitchen". There are also the very weird and excitable Minorin and the "four-eyed" student council representative Kitamura.
In the early parts of the anime, there are only occasional glimpses of the show's wonderful qualities, and it is not until the gorgeous but manipulative character of Ami is introduced that things get really interesting and the anime starts to reveal its full glory. As viewers learn more about the personalities and backgrounds of each of the five characters in the love pentagon, the story becomes more and more engaging. In no time, the show turns into a completely joyous ride filled with fun, laughs and bittersweet teenage love.
While some of the ideas and plots are not entirely original, the makers of the anime have done extremely well in bringing all the elements together to create something really awesome. One of its strongest elements is the script, which features some great lines like "I don't want to get so caught up in searching for what I can't see that I lose sight of what I can". The characters grow, develop and mature over the episodes, and all the triumphs and heartbreaks associated with adolescence are masterfully portrayed in the coming-of-age tale.
The animation is colorful and the characters are mostly well drawn and designed. The most attractive is Taiga, who looks incredibly cute with her thick brown hair looking like something one would see in shampoo commercials. Once her vulnerable side is revealed, it will be hard for viewers to not fall in love with her. A couple of the other characters are not quite as loveable, however. Ryuji's mother Yasuko appears incredibly immature for all the things she has been through, and their pet is the most annoying parrot ever. The characters' movement is fluid and the occasional action scenes (including one of the best girl fights in anime) are nicely choreographed.
Toradora! has appeals that extend well beyond its obvious target audience, and provide solid proof that you don't have to be a teenager to enjoy a good high school romantic comedy. Its success lies in the fact that the characters drive the plots and also how honest and heartfelt it feels. It is quite simply one of the best anime from the genre, and a pleasant reminder of what it is like to be in love for the very first time.
Toradora! is the first release from Australia's new anime distributor, Hanabee. The beautiful box set consists of the entire anime series on 4 discs, with an additional disc containing some bonus material. The quality of both the video and audio is fantastic. This is a superb release that deserves to be checked out.
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