Today, I'm looking at the romantic comedy/drama Toradora. It's got the (alleged) son of a Yakuza, a bunch of romantic sub-plots, and the palmtop tiger Taiga. So, does it stand up well against the tons of romantic dramas in this marathon?

Header retrieved from here.

Well, there's certainly one thing happening that I haven't seen anywhere.

PLAY NO TROPE STRAIGHT. EVER.

The tropes are all being applied for deconstruction or are played straight in a way that runs contrary to the usual conventions of use. There's a bunch of trope subversion and inversion happening too.

Long story short, Toradora is the story of two unlikely platonic (we think) friends: Ryuuji and Taiga. They meet out of coincidence and become friends (or what we can only call friends for simplicity) for mutual benefit.

Ryuuji is the (alleged) son of a Yakuza and it shows on his face. He's very much evil-looking in many ways, but underneath of that exterior is a completely harmless house husband.

Anime Trope: Inverted.

Taiga is a girl that looks younger than she actually is. You'd expect someone of this stature to be a nice girl wouldn't you? Wrong. Taiga is a combative Napoleon complex sufferer. She isn't feminine at all.

Anime Trope: Inverted.

What follows is a series about both of these friends finding their place in the world.


The Good:

There's a lot of real-world problems getting tackled by the characters in this series. Taiga is on the receiving end of family issues, Ryuuji is on the receiving end of having no father, and everyone else has a swath of problems that they have to deal with. It gives them a degree of depth to the characters that they otherwise wouldn't be able to achieve.

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You can tell this show was made by some smart writers and directors. The dialogue and direction for the show is well-conceived. There isn't much to say other than that they knew what their vision was and they carried it out to the end.

The Great:

As I said, this series loves messing with its tropes. This is probably one of the biggest things that sets it apart from the other romantic drama/comedies out there. Most of the characters don't play the tropes they're normally assigned straight at all. It makes everything pretty new and difficult to pin down for the viewer.

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That aside, the plot of the series focuses a lot on family. Both Taiga's and Ryuuji's families are broken and the show explicitly uses this to enter a discussion about what makes a family... well a family. It's a pretty poignant subject and it comes across very well.

The characters of the series are pretty good too. They're ridiculously complex creatures that get deconstructed over the course of the series. From the alleged son-of-a-Yakuza Ryuuji to the teen idol Ami, no one is safe from the deconstruction and character development. They all get a piece of the pie.

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In the same vein, there's a love polyhedron going on here. It certainly ramps up the tension with so many arrows shooting between the five main characters (implicitly or explicitly).

The Bad:

One thing that really bugged me? Taiga's character development. We see a lot of it in the series, certainly, but I was a bit confused by the hard left at the Christmas arc. She almost seems like she changed overnight and I couldn't let it go. It might be justified in that I'm not sure there was a way to quickly resolve the development anyway, but it felt wrong.

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The pacing of the plot can leave something to be desired at times. We drag our feet a lot while getting to... the point I guess. It takes a while for the audience to get an inkling of what the meaning of all this is supposed to be.

This probably has a lot to do with the plot being somewhat weak for most of the series. It has to resort to comedic elements to keep things going in the absence of any sort of literary tension.

This improves considerably when we actually find the plot. If you can last until the last arc, then all my complaints with the plot evaporate because it just got good.


The Verdict:

I've got say, I'm sitting on top of a fence here. Toradora does a lot right, but it also has some problems that I'm not sure I can overlook entirely.

The plot has its share of problems and the pacing is a little slow for how little is going on, yet it also has some great plays on the character tropes we all know. The character development of the series is pretty good and everyone manages to get at least some of it by the end.

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This series is best for someone that wants a different kind of romantic TV series. It screws around with the tropes that we all find predictable and it tells a story of two unlikely friends. There's a lot to love in the themes that it tackles.

This series is watchable. It's comedic but serious. I think everyone looking for a romantic comedy/drama should pick it up.


Information:

You can watch Toradora on Crunchyroll (premium members only).

As usual, I claim no ownership of the images herein.

I'm having a bit of a problem right now, my review backlog has grown exponentially in the past week as I finished many of the anime that I had started in 2013. There are roughly 12 reviews in the pipeline with at least four more rapidly approaching completion. Myself; Yourself might be next since that series connected with me on a level that I haven't had in years, mostly due to personal experiences.

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This is part of Anime Marathon 2014, a continuation of Anime Marathon 2013 by popular demand. I'm on a mission to review every anime I can for the TAY community and anyone else that wants to read it. I can never guarantee when these reviews will be posted, but I'll do my best to keep it consistent.

You can see all my articles on Dex's Corner.