Tigers and dragons are considered in the Chinese zodiac as fierce strong creatures. They are also a play on the names of Ryuji Takasu and Taiga Aisaka, the main leads in Toradora. For every school romance series out there, Toradora fits the fan service variety. This appeal to viewers who want to see recognizable characteristic presented in a different manner. Toradora has its origins from ten volumes of light novels, and three spinoffs novels.
Physically, Ryuji looks exactly like his deceased father who was a thug. He is complete opposite to how he looks though, so it should be stressed that appearance is quite deceiving. He lives with his hostess mother, and was quite shocked when he discovers that he lives directly next door to Taiga who is nicknamed the Palmtop Tiger, due to her personality and physical size.
Both Ryuji and Taiga started out helping one another in pursuing other people in their class, but is pretty much hopeless in confessing their attraction. Instead, people around them pegged them as being the mismatched couple, thus bringing in some hilarity. Other read-alikes that people can check out are; School Rumble, Ranma1/2 or Lovely Complex for situations where love is definitely misplaced, but something would happen.
Below: A two page spread from the Toradora manga — to see it in full size click here.
Reviewed by Linda Yau, November 2012
One of the most interesting things about Toradora! is that in many respects, it couldn't be less original. As a high school romantic comedy, the show hits up all of the relevant tropes and cliches: love letter shenanigans, a beach day, a school festival, a class trip and botched love confessions galore. If you've ever seen an anime in this genre, you've seen a lot of this before. But, as we smiled nonstop at the developing relationship of Taiga and Ryuji, we found ourselves asking each other if we had ever seen it done quite this well.
Toradora! has two of the most memorable leads we've seen in a long time, which is particularly notable in Ryuji's case; all too often, the main male character in romantic comedy anime is rendered intentionally dull, meant to play second fiddle to the more charismatic female leads. In this case, Ryuji stands out with his unusual combination of a high intimidation factor and domesticity; while even adults are scared of him due to his "intense" face (the legacy of his absentee gangster father), he's perfectly happy cooking and cleaning for his lazy mother, Yasuko. The gap between the hardcore thug people assume Ryuji must be and his gentle, nurturing personality endows the character with a lot of charm and for once, we understand why several girls would be drawn to him.
However, Taiga, the tiny but tenacious female lead, is no slouch in the personality department either; she's a spitfire, or as we like to call her "The Cure for the Common Tsundere." We were getting tired of the spoiled, holier-than-thou persona that is so common among female anime characters these days, only for Taiga to come along and remind us why this type of character became popular in the first place.
While she has the typical tsundere hair-trigger temper and nigh-delusional sense of entitlement- calling Ryuji her "dog", and treating him more like a pet than a friend at first- it's made clear early and often that these tendencies are coping mechanisms she's developed to deal with her disappointing family life. Furthermore, unlike most characters in this mode, she actually deals with her problems, becoming more and more likable as she gains more courage throughout the series, without ever losing her fire.
The two initially team up to help each other get closer to different romantic interests: Ryuji has a crush on Minori, Taiga's best friend, while Taiga is smitten with Kitamura, student council vice-president and one of the few people who knows that Ryuji isn't actually a thug. We were afraid it would be frustrating watching Taiga and Ryuji help each other pursue different loves, oblivious to the fact that they're so obviously perfect for each other, but it's a credit to the strength of the cast that we didn't mind watching the other relationships play out. Minori and Kitamura are almost as interesting as Taiga and Ryuji- especially Minori, who has to be one of the quirkiest romantic interests ever. You may find yourself yelling at the TV for Taiga and Ryuji to get together anyway, but in a good way.
In terms of storytelling, the writers have a deft touch; the whole show is characterized by an unusual feeling of restraint. Humor is abundant, but the show never goes overboard and drives its gags into the ground. There is plenty of drama, but excepting the last few episodes (and more on that below), it doesn't descend into melodrama. There is some fanservice, but not enough to detract from the show and make it feel less than classy.
Interestingly, the show is practically devoid of malice. Even the one character who seems like she might be there just to stir up trouble proves herself as one of the gang very quickly. The only "villain" on this show, to the extent that there is one, is the difficulty teenagers have dealing with their feelings. If all the characters could be honest with each other up front, this show would probably be about four episodes long. Much drama is created due to the fact that the characters both misunderstand each other's motivations, and try to make decisions for each other that they have no business making. While this can be frustrating to watch, Toradora! manages to walk a fine line by letting its characters do some stupid things without ever appearing stupid. These kids may act like whom they choose to confess their love to is the most important decision in the universe, but hey- isn't that what it feels like when you're 16?
Sometimes though, the drama might get to be a bit much; in the last third of the series, some of the plot twists felt rushed, and a few of the characters actions seemed to be more motivated by the writer's need to create yet more drama rather than logic. Still, most will probably find the resolution heartfelt and satisfying enough that these are minor complaints at worst. Another weak point of the series, again minor, is the fact that the supporting characters outside of the main five could have been better developed. Some of the other students who had lingered in the background for half the show became much more important in the latter half, and we suddenly realized that we really didn't know them very well.
Of course, more time spent on the supporting characters would mean less time spent with Taiga and Ryuji, so take that criticism with a grain of salt.
Reviewed by Karen Gellender, January 2012
Below: Scenes from Toradora!.