Toradora!, or: A Taiga to Call My Own (and that fits in the palm of my hand)

So, after hearing the news that the highly popular (in Japan, because very few seem to have heard of it over here) light novel series Toradora!, the thrilling and sometimes comical misadventures of one (1) Aisaka Taiga, the Palmtop Tiger (with more bite than bark) and one (1) Takasu Ryuuji, the Dragon (with more bark than bite), I went out and read the first volume of the light novel, and, lo and behold, it was awesome. Clearly from reading that mini-description in the previous sentence, you now know everything there is to know about Toradora!, right?

Wrong. Yes, Toradora! is Yet Another Entry in the long line of series cashing in (or instigating, or otherwise affected by) on the tsundere craze (which, in the light novel industry, are seemingly defined by 2002’s Shakugan no Shana, and 2004’s Zero no Tsukaima; Toradora! hitting the scene in 2006), but, rather than being a hollow clone of our paranthetical examples, it almost seems as if, in just one volume, Toradora! has managed to one-up its progenitors (for lack of a better ten-dollar word). How? Well, we’ll get to that in a bit.

The basic plot setup for Toradora! is quite simple: Ryuuji, your normal, average, everyday guy (who just happens to have these really frightening eyes inherited from his father, who he’s never met, and also a major OCD issue with messiness, and amazing culinary skills) pines after the extremely cute and extremely sweet Kushieda Minori, who has never really paid his frightening appearance much mind and treats him as a human. Minori, however, is friends with the dangerous entity known to her classmates as the Palmtop Tiger, the fearsome bully Aisaka Taiga. Through a series of circumstances best described to the reader of this summary as Wacky Hijinks,  Ryuuji manages to, at 3AM in the morning, while being beaten bloody with a kendo stick, that Taiga has a massive crush on Ryuuji’s best friend, Kitamura Yuusuke. The two exchange crushes, and Ryuuji is roped into helping Taiga acheive her dream of making Yuusuke her boyfriend, and Ryuuji will be set up with Minori as a reward. Many, many exclamations of “Idiot dog!” (sound familiar?) follow.

I know, it sounds painfully generic, but bear with me here. First, the writing (even via translation) is quite good to begin with, as far as I can tell (I managed to read a page or two in the original Japanese a while ago, and it struck me as a quite clever writing style; and, just from looking at the translation, I can tell that it’s stylistic throughout)–it conveys humor, the personalities of the two main characters, and poignancy well.

Yes. Poignancy. I said it. It’s a filthy word, I know, but I said it. And I’m not taking it back.

See, Toradora! could have simply been the aforementioned Yet Another Tsundere Series, except that, instead of tsundere being the selling point of the character of Taiga, it is instead a limited-scope descriptive term, as the author, Takemiya Yuyuko, has taken the concept of “tsundere girl” and, instead of stopping there, used the moetic construct of “tsundere” to develop the character of Taiga around into a fleshed-out character. What I was somewhat expecting to be a fairly simple, lighthearted, enjoyable if forgettable read (which I would have enjoyed anyway, probably) turned out to be something that actually managed to have pathos.

Of course, it takes the whole first volume of the series to fully grasp the varied nuances of both the characters of Taiga and Ryuuji (who are the focal points of the series, virtually every other character is a cardboard cutout at this point), and I’m still not sure if I want to go into specific first-volume analyses of their characters when it’s unlikely you’ve read the first volume anyway, even though I desperately want to. Suffice it to say, Taiga has an actual reason (and a very good one) to be the way she is, and the relationship dynamics, quite similar to those in that favorite of mine, Itazura na Kiss (except with the genders reversed), are handled effectively and realistically (in that way that only anime can make the unrealistic realistic). In fact, I will dare say that Toradora!, after one volume, belongs in the pantheon I mentioned way earlier in reference to the sophistication of moe, because it is happening, mark my words, and this just proves that the otaku of Japan (and America, and everywhere else) may be head over heels in love with cute anime girls of varying physical age appearances, but they aren’t stupid. Not as stupid as some might say they are, anyway.

Of course, the anime version is airing this October, and, like Shakugan no Shana and Zero no Tsukaima before it, it will be animated by J.C. Staff, and our dear friend and pathological phenomenon Kugimiya Rie will (PROBABLY, REPORTS INDICATE) be providing the voice of Taiga, to the immense satisfaction of Toradora! fans all over. I knew something was up when I saw Okada Mari on tap for Series Composition (side note: I am now declaring myself the first and probably only member of the Okada Mari Fanclub. I am going to have to go watch Kodomo no Jikan just for you, Mari. Just for you!) (well, okay, more because I have always meant to, beyond the not-really-too-hot-for-TV OVA episode and the couple volumes of manga I read, just to see what exactly is Up With It. That and to spite all the drama around it), and it’s quite nice to see that her talents are going to be used effectively.

Yes, I know, she looks like a brunette Louise. You can blame Yasu for that. No, really. It’s all his fault.

So, uh, yeah. Now I can add Aisaka Taiga to my list of “really awesome characters who happen to be cute girls.” I hope somehow this gets popular enough to merit someone bringing the novels over here. And I hope the anime gets it right, but it probably will.

8 Responses to “Toradora!, or: A Taiga to Call My Own (and that fits in the palm of my hand)”

  1. 1 blissmo 1 July 2008 at 11:05 pm

    I didn’t think this series looked or sounded too good until after I read this. So thank you!

  2. 2 OGT 1 July 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Your mileage may still vary, as this is only the first volume of a series that is still going on and has six volumes out already, and it still might not be for everyone anyway. This article is for the first volume, which is all I’ve read–so it’s still a mystery from here on out. It’s managed to maintain its popularity, though, so take from that what you will.

    Also, not judging a book by its cover and all that jazz.

  3. 3 lametastic 1 July 2008 at 11:22 pm

    Okada Mari… oh, she had the same staff position in True Tears! That sounds really good.

    I loved the novels and, as you say, the relationship between Taiga and Ryuuji is really well done. The development is really subtle. I dare to say that they’re set to become one of the most beloved couples of anime this fall season.

    BTW, Yuyuko Takemiya (the writer) also did a pair of books called Watashitachi no Tamura-kun. I’ve been reading the manga adaptation (scanlation by SCX, who also do the Toradora manga), and I must say that while I think it’s not as good as Toradora, it has the same… umh… ¿good feeling? I got from reading Toradora. You should check it out.

    PD about volume 2: Ami Kawashima HAS to be done by Houko Kuwashima.

  4. 4 rroknedaj 2 July 2008 at 4:15 am

    I read the manga and I thought it was awesome. Although I was hoping for a female lead with a normal body for once. Also, yes, I did get Zero no Tsukaima vibes when Taiga started calling Ryuuji her dog. I hope it gets anime-fied soon! =D

  5. 5 squishybrownies 2 July 2008 at 8:32 am

    Yeah, I haven’t been hearing much about this series at least in the English speaking community. Glad to see it get some attention, especially good attention.

    I want to read the novels so badly. If only I could read Japanese…


  6. 6 Jamesu 29 October 2008 at 6:53 pm

    The manga is quite a bit better than the anime, imho. The anime has shortened the plot and made the characters more extreme, especially in case of Tora, making her a bit too violent a tsundere, whereas in the manga she is just right. A bit slower pace in the anime would also have improved it’s quality, but i guess these days you can’t have everything. I recommend the manga over anime, but the OP music was nice, voice actors top notch and no other complaints here.

  7. 7 digital meat thermometer 8 August 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Depending upon the size and type of a ship, the numbers of Marine Engineers vary.

    – Heston Blumenthal Precision Analogue Meat Thermometer
    The Heston Blumenthal Precision Analogue Meat Thermometer
    has a gradient of red which indicates the higher temperatures.
    They don’t impart enough flavor as they mingle with the juices.
    Weber is a respectable company based in United States.

  1. 1 Toradora!: Episode 1 Report « Anime wa Bakuhatsu da! Trackback on 3 October 2008 at 12:46 am

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