Why I’m enjoying Toradora

All that should matter is empathy, and I get that from Toradora.

I am enjoying Toradora, or rather, it’s something more like tainted enjoyment. The show is marked by several moments of evocative character insight, like eloquent sparks of light that flicker briefly across some hidden depths. They are such brief vignettes, beautiful, but they aren’t really enough for me to say that this is excellent anime. The characters spend the majority of every episode playing dumb, acting up to their generic archetypes, only to suddenly pull back, to reveal something different, a moment of insecurity, doubt or confusion. Then, just as rapidly, everything switches back to the same old stupid jokes and harem routine.

With this vague sense that something is desperately trying to break free, I keep on watching. Toradora could quite easily pass for harem anime, with the overriding emphasis on the female characters and their attachment to lead-boy Ryuuji, but it isn’t quite that generic. I suppose I like the characters, I like how they seem to be, on the one hand, so archetypal and monotone, but on the other, so clearly fraught with emotion. In that way, Toradora can be a really sweet story.

Saying something, but meaning the exact opposite, all to avoid being hurt. Minori and Ami are particularly interesting, since both go to such great lengths to conceal their true feelings. The former tries to avoid feeling anything at all by being so energetic and competitive, while the latter’s superficial facade is too nice and cute. Ami sits in-between the vending machines at her school, cramped and alone, but able to drop her facade for a precious few minutes. Gazing into the starry night, Minori tries to conceal the loneliness that forever tugs at her heart. Both seem to be struggling with life, insecure around others, just wanting to fit in, to live a normal life, have a normal love, but what is normal, anyway? Societal expectations can be a bitch.

I still feel like I can’t completely give myself to Toradora, but, in an emotional sense, I think I understand the characters. At times, they are funny and superficial, at others, serious and deep. I want them to be happy, to feel better about themselves. Their whole situation may be a little contrived, but that’s alright. I suppose every story is contrived anyway, all that should matter is empathy, and I get that from Toradora.

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

19 thoughts on “Why I’m enjoying Toradora”

  1. I started watching Toradora! without any expactations and was pleasantly surprised. It wouldn’t have been much of a shock if this anime had turned out to be another cliched harem show Love Hina or Shuffle style with all the girls clinging to the main protagonist like there’s no tomorrow. Luckily, Toradora! is something else and something more. As I see it, there are two major differences between Toradora and typical harem anime. First of all, the characters feel real. Just like everyone else, they act, afraid of showing their true selves. They drop the fake facade for a brief moment from time to time, but they keep coming back to it even though it is sometimes more troublesome than helpful. Because they are just as flawed as any other human being, it’s easy to feel for them and wish for the best.
    The second difference is in the way the girls act. Unlike for example Shuffle (yes, I’ve seen it – don’t ask ;) ), where all the girls are in love with the same guy from the very beginning, in Toradora nothing is as obvious. Sure, all three clearly like Ryuji, but it’s sometimes very difficult to know what they’re really thinking, what they truly want to achieve. At this point of the show almost any outcome seems possible. I just hope it stays that way.

    On a totally different matter, I stumbled upon a True Tears AMV. After reading your review of the anime and seeing this video:
    http://tinyurl.com/565x5q
    I want to get my hands on TT even more…

  2. I think you’ve nailed it pretty well. Although Taiga is cute and interesting in her own way by not being a Louise/Shana clone, Ami and Minori are the two particularly unique ones. Most of the anime is contrived humor and silliness with Minori and Kitamura’s absurd actions and Taiga’s failures at wooing Kitamura, but these parts only serves to highlight these special moments in which the characters show their true selves.

    I simply hope the level of quality (it’s not the best show ever, but it’s still a good show) is at least maintained throughout the remainder of the show with more insight into Ami and Minori.

  3. I’m starting to get bored by this show, every episode is starting to feel the same. Taiga is getting on my nerves. I would slap some sense into her. Ryuji is such a fucking pussy…
    Is it so hard in Japan to tell someone you love him? When will one of them finally get to kiss their beloved one??
    I’m starting to prefer Kannagi much more…

  4. I felt the same as you after watching first episode. There were subtle glimpses of something beautiful, almost as if it started budding from their relationship. Alas, everything else was generic and I never continued to second episode.

  5. This is going to be a short comment. I never thought you’d enjoy this at all – I got halfway through the first one and gave up! Since we seem to overlap in tastes and opinions most of the time, this weekend I’ll give the first few eps a try and see how it goes. I’ll get back to you with a proper tl;dr comment after that!

  6. I’m in agreement about the split personality of the show with sparks of inspiration, and the usual harem fluff. Still, I enjoy Toradora more than I should perhaps. It’s not particularly adventurous with the genre, but it’s solid enough, funny, and occasionally surprisingly emotional. Better than Clannad at least anyway.

    Still Ryugi is a punching bag, I really hope he starts standing up for himself soon, it’s becoming a little painful to watch..

  7. @Johny: Thanks for the AMV link, it really captured the spirit of True Tears. MUST. SHOW. OTHERS. Also, while I’m on an AMV binge (all your fault), here’s a completely random link:

    Kemonozume to ‘Where is my Mind?’ There surely couldn’t be a more perfect combination!?

    Suffice to say I agree with your thoughts on Toradora. Ami and Minori are particularly inscrutable at this point, which makes them all the more fascinating to watch.

    @IcyStorm: I’m sure it’ll maintain this standard until the end. If nothing else, the execution/direction of Toradora has been really consistent so far. I suppose my only concern is that with this being an adaptation of an on-going light novel series, they might suddenly run out of source material/be forced into an open end?

    @Ryvius: I’ve steadily come to accept Ryuuji’s passive personality as more of an asset. I was really bugged by the manner in which Taiga treated him at first, but he isn’t such a blithering idiot in the vein of someone like Keitaro of Love Hina, rather, it’s almost as if he’s trying to help her by shouldering the worst of her insecurities/issues. We’ll see where it all goes, I guess, but there’s definitely more to Ryuuji than the typically spineless harem lead.

    @gaguri: Oh well, I can’t really argue with that. Toradora is kind of generic, whether or not you continue with it depends on your attachment to the characters. I think I was hooked by them almost immediately.

    By the way, it’s always nice to meet an eloquent new anime blogger! You can’t do much better than by starting with an entry on Honey & Clover too. So, I hope to read more from you, gaguri.

    @Martin: Half way through the first episode? Sounds like you’re almost as jaded as me! My own record for this kind of thing will forever remain Black Cat, which I stopped watching after around 30 seconds of the opening theme of the first episode!

    @Kairu Ishimaru: A reason that is short and simple, much like Taiga :)

    @Wildcard: It’s weird how opinions change over time. I started out really loathing Taiga’s attitude, but I’ve warmed to it over time, while on the other hand, you’re obviously tiring of it. I think I’m probably more forgiving right now because I’m expecting some kind of climax to their relationship sooner or later. Of course, I’ll definitely change my tune if nothing happens between them and Ryuuji’s fate is simply to be the ‘dog’ forever.

  8. Must admit wasn’t really going to follow this one to start with. Dislike harems series due to their predictability and lack of any kind of plot, grasp of real human emotions. WHat first got me about this series (after the first few episodes) was that i wasn’t sure who whould end up with who. Normally you can tell after often the first 5 minutes, but after 11 episodes still unsure. Even with Tagia’s failurific confession, Kitamura didn’t flat out reject her but neither did he say yes. Likewise it’s unlikely Minori is oblivious to Ryuji’s attention, may not be sure herself about how reciprocated it is. There are a lot more greys in this show than the standard black and white of standard harems.

  9. i can’t believe i missed you make a post on Toradora!

    i find sort of a guilty pleasure in the show. You say that their character types are archetypal – and that it’s a bad thing – but i don’t think this stereotypical-ness is a bad thing. rather, i think it makes the show. but let me back up and explain myself.

    after a few years out of the high school, i think i can look back and say that, regardless of how mature or immature i may have been, i and everyone around me were half-formed people: because we were so young, and due to the nature of high school, sheltered from the world, we only had limited resources from which to paint a picture of “who we wanted to be”. for some this was anime, for many, television or books. That’s why, i think, even in reality, high schoolers lend themselves to fitting into stereotypes: the jock, the nerd, the drama kid. very, very few people in high school have enough experience as people to really have a defined, individual and rounded personality. at that age, we’re all stereotypes, with little glimmers of something more – sound familiar? this is what the characters in Toradora show us. they are their stereotypes, but that’s only because they haven’t fully figured out how to balance what they want to be and who they already are. thus, we get someone like Ami, or even Taiga.

    the beauty of Toradora, for me, is how well they handle this: by playing up the stereotype and the thoughtlessness of the characters, they can play up the conflict within them. in the end, the show is about silly little crushes, but the simplicity of the characters in most situation is exactly how high school is: simple, mindless and usually stereotypical.

    (i’m making toradora sound much more profound than it really is, i think.)

  10. @Celeste – I think you’ve nailed it, and that sense of ‘hidden depth’ is probably the best thing about Toradora, and is why, for me at least, it is (mostly) superior to its more generic peers (of which I’m including the likes of Love Hina). Your ‘half-formed people’ is a particularly eloquent turn of phrase phrase, by the way. I never really looked at it like that, or at least, not with such evocative clarity. As an actual study of youth, then, Toradora is riveting.

  11. I haven’t watched much anime.I like this one but am a bit frustrated with the characters at times.I don’t want to spoil the ending for those who haven’t see it .I wouldn’t say I was unhappy with it just somewhat dissatisfied.It seems a very different outcome could have been reached if some of the main characters had just said what they wanted to say(but then again there wouldn’t be a show then).The end kinda leaves all the series of events that transpire to be a bit pointless,and we reach what was at one point an obvious end to the story.Having said that I did enjoy the series.

  12. I’ve watched it all. The story was great. As johny said, “They felt real” which is true. You’ll feel what Highschool really was. You are inlove and you cant tell them. Some got problems with family. . and you’ll see them in their characteristics and actions especially taiga and ryuji. Most of us can relate to this anime because the story really happens in real life.☺

  13. This anime really hit me like a ton of bricks, now I’ve watched quite a lot of anime in my time and this flipping tops the charts for me personally

  14. I really enjoy Toradora. its has very similar acspects of other shows with a laugh or two here and there. but it shows the real human connection that the viewer can relate to. like being hurt. or feelin jealous or not having a dad or parents at all feeling distant. But i just finished watching all the episodes. an its not the best show ive seen but its on my top ten. some parts of the show were super relatable and the characters are very similar to alot of people you know. (haha hate to say but in some parts i cried) im not one to cry too. its weird for me too! but something must have been good!

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