“Since ancient times, the dragon has been the only beast to equal the tiger. Even if you’re not by my side right now, I will leap through space and time and always be by your side. These feelings will never change.”
Toradora! follows Ryuji Takasu who’s frustrated at trying to look his best as he enters his second year of high school. Despite his gentle personality, his eyes give him the appearance of an intimidating delinquent. He is happy to be classmates with his best friend Yusaku Kitamura, as well as the girl he has a crush on, Minori Kushieda. However, he unexpectedly runs into “the school’s most dangerous animal of the highest risk level”—Taiga Aisaka—who just happens to be Minori’s best friend. Taiga has a negative attitude towards others and has a habit of snapping violently at people. She takes an instant dislike to Ryuji, and it turns out she is living in an apartment facing Ryuji’s house. When Ryuji discovers that Taiga has a crush on Yusaku, and Taiga finds out about Ryuji’s affections towards Minori, they make an arrangement to help set each other up with their crushes.
Review: / 5
This series hits it out of the park with authenticity. It’s a slice of life about some salty tsundere characters who fall in love in high school, brimming with the confusing feelings of adolescence. Whoop.
There’s decent character development here, specifically in relation to Taiga. While I was annoyed with her nature initially, I began to wonder if Taiga had a mental illness concerning distress intolerance. Her intense emotions, violent outbursts, and apparent fear of abandonment were enhanced with heartbreaking moments of vulnerability. And Tiaga, our fierce warrioress, definitely cannot tolerate feeling vulnerable.
I’m not condoning her abusive actions by any means: this is in no manner of speaking a balanced or healthy relationship. What I am saying is that her character makes sense. Isolated from an early age, devoid of real paternal love, she created a persona of toughness, one which would instill fear into the hearts of her peers, keeping them away, and ultimately, keeping her free from hurt. Her inability to trust, process her feelings and communicate them transforms into tender appreciation and gratitude.
This duality of her nature is what makes her so endearing. As a person who suffers from BPD, this was really resonant with me. We can see her internal struggle, her frustrations with herself and her situation because she wears her opinions and feelings on her sleeves. Her candid nature, though childish, is greatly refreshing in the high school genre.
Apart from Taiga, there isn’t a ton of character development. Sure. Ryuji will admit he’s wrong about Taiga and her dad’s relationship, but I’m not convinced he develops personally from these discoveries. Ami’s character would have been the easiest to develop and it was set up to be so by the plot. However, she does continue who dual-nature: while she does reveal her true nature to those closest to her (namely Taiga, Ryuuji, Minori and Yusaku), she refrains from doing so with the rest of the class. Her feelings for Ryuuji seem genuine enough, but I was expecting greater change from her–to have those feelings transcend to action. Minori shows character roundness, at least, and represents a space with which many of us can empathize. When asked about girls who take pride in being ditsy, she gives us this meme-worthy response:
This is particularly effective when we consider that she is very similar to Ami, hiding behind a mask of positivity and enduring optimism.
Now let’s talk about pacing and plot. The plot is alright, centering on romantic interests but delving into family drama, friendship and mental frailty. The plot elements make sense, are entertaining and not too far fetched. One particularly impactful moment is when Ryuuji loses his temper at his mother, essentially calling her a failure, one which was forcing her own insecurities on to Ryuuji:
BRB, my heart is breaking.
It’s true that Yasuko is a ditsy mother who we consider more of an irresponsible sister figure than a highly functioning adult. But she’s trying. Throughout the series, her work ethic along with her love for Ryuuji is so apparent. She wants nothing but the best for her son, but she does not consider he has a different opinion on what that best looks like. Their relationship oozes authenticity and realism. Well done, writers!
Pacing, however, is a bit worse for wear. There’s nothing wrong with Ryuuji and Taiga hating each others guts initially, all of that is really fine. Rather, my concern lies with the realization of their feelings and their ability to act on them as quickly as they do. These are two people who were absolute messes when they were even in sight of their respective crushes. Now, suddenly, they’re okay with jumping straight into elopement without even kissing? That’s a bit much. Taiga up and leaving to be with her mother? Also far fetched.
Ultimately, the series was good. The middle bits were particularly nice and well-executed while the exposition and resolution seemed a tad stressed and forced. However it satisfied my need for some high school rom-com, so it’s a win in my book.
Watch on, Annieme-niac!