Archive for the 'toradora!' Category

Toradora!: United They Stand, Divided They Fall

I think this, and the seconds immediately following it, pretty much sum up nearly everyone's final impression of Toradora!, regardless of what that impression might be.

So. Toradora!‘s over, and by this point in time nearly everyone will have settled down into some kind of vague camp regarding the ending (which pulled no punches, as per the norm for Toradora!), which means I can perfectly well ignore the “is the ending good or not?” debate and simply say that the ending is, and then explain exactly what “is” entails.

As I’ve no doubt mentioned at some point before in previous posts [->] and simply forgot in the long intervals between then and now, perhaps the strongest aspect of Toradora! is that no single character can possibly stand up alone. At the beginning of the series, Taiga was the feared demoness, the Palmtop Tiger of the school, whose only friend seemed to be Minori, and Ryuuji was, well, Ryuuji, a mild-mannered guy who just happens to look as if he’s about to run out of bubble gum at the drop of a hat and going all action movie on everyone. Which he would, if you were, say, a dust bunny.

Not even halfway through the series, both of these outsiders have a much wider circle of friends and acquantainces than they had before. Simply by being together and understanding each other, Ryuuji and Taiga mellow and soften each other. By the end of the series, a class that was, by and large, mostly apathetic towards both Ryuuji and Taiga, now cares about their well-being, for selfish reasons at first, perhaps, but by the end they all seem to genuinely care in their own ineffable ways. Their togetherness, however, quickly upsets delicate balances elsewhere in the classroom. Indeed, over the course of the entire series, many of the main characters are shown to have some kind of problem–a dependency, an unhealthy mode of thinking, etc.–and that they are trying to work through that problem themselves, without any reliance upon others to sort their problems out.

What happens, though, is that as the series progresses, the tide of character development [->] tends to ebb and flow like a tide.  Entropy sets in as every character seems to selflessly give their own desires up to fulfill the desires of another (the Christmas episode being perhaps the biggest example of this), and in so doing the situation spirals further out of control. Just when one of them seems to have the ability to stand on their own, something or someone else comes along and topples them. While, strictly speaking, none of the characters are negatively selfish, they are being excessively private about their worries, and when they aren’t, they’re cryptic about it.

Throughout the whole series, even while working at cross purposes without even intending or realizing it, they still manage to pull themselves together, with the convinently timed help of others. Yes, it’s not always perfect; yes, often the teamwork follows a rather nasty period of them trying to do it on their own; but in the end they get themselves together. I don’t think it’s humanly possible to accomplish anything without some sort of discord–I know far too many people to believe otherwise–but the fundamental concept Toradora! presents, from the moment that Ryuuji and Taiga pledge to support each other in their respective quests for love, is that no one can stand without the support of others. Even when they slap each other in the snow, it’s an outburst that might lead to the betterment of both.

A true class act.

A true class act.

The final episode puts this best and ties it up: Ryuuji and Taiga’s sudden elopement prompt Yasuko to reconcile herself with her parents (along with harsh facts about Ryuuji’s father and her pregnancy), and the long-awaited consummation (not that consummation, the one that they can show on TV) of TaigaRyuuji leads Taiga to reconcile herself, at least a little, with her own parents. And, of course, none of that would have really worked had Minori, Kitamura, and Ami not intervened, and had they not intervened then none of them would have been able to overcome their own problems, or at least take a first step towards it. The stability of a single person is not a solo task but a team effort of those around them.

Hence, perhaps, why the ending is so deliciously open-ended even as it is conclusive. Even as Taiga and Ryuuji enter into an adulthood that will no doubt be Fraught With Peril, even as every character, major or no,  has an intentionally ambigious conclusion, the sense is left that no matter what peril might happen in the future, they have each other. And that makes all the difference.

—-

As far as final non-final words go re: Toradora! as a series, I can safely say that it is the purest recent example of a series that is mostly about the journey and not the destination. You know, from the first minute of the first episode, that Taiga and Ryuuji would eventually be a unit, but the fun is in getting there. And the getting there was delightful–Toradora! tended to take the twisty, winding scenic route rather than the straight causeway that passed by all the flashing lights and glitz. It arrived at its conclusion via the road less traveled by, and that made all the difference.*

* yes I know it’s the same road both ways I am quite aware of this and took account of it when I made the reference thank you Zombie Robert Frost go back to being dead now and take your infinite layers of irony with you

Toradora!: Christmas on Valentine’s

Tears of a Tiger

Tears of a Taiga

It seems so strangely appropriate to catch up with Toradora! on Valentine’s Day, despite the fact that the three episodes I caught up with revolve around Christmas Eve–yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is The Christmas Episode of Toradora!, but, keeping with the standard Toradora! tradition, it does The Christmas Episode correctly but backwards. In fact–although I am no expert on Christmas Episodes, this one might just be my favorite yet–that might be afterglow, though, or an utter lack of remembrance of the other excellent Christmas episodes in the heat of the moment of NOW, or, most likely of all, me making things up.

And yet I cannot help but be impressed by how perfect the sequence of episodes leading up to the Christmas Eve dance played out–if this weren’t Toradora!. The fight with the outgoing student council president practically put Taiga and Kitamura together into happy matrimony in one fell swoop–hardly a day has passed before people start talking about how perfect a couple they are, and start instinctively finding excuses for them to be together–even driving Kihara, the loveable-yet-woefully-underused Ai Nonaka character’s mad drive to set Ryuuji and Taiga up so that she can steal Kitamura for herself. (Have I said lately that I love Ai Nonaka? I love Ai Nonaka). Taiga, meanwhile, simultaneously plays the part of Santa Claus and Cupid, fulfilling her end of the long-forgotten bargain they made at the start. It takes time, and even some heartache for Taiga herself (that poor star ornament…), but she manages to pierce though Minorin’s shroud of gloom long enough to get her to meet Ryuuji at the dance.

Everything went perfectly, which meant that it went  (as the patient viewer understands almost immediately) horribly wrong. Taiga only realizes Ryuuji’s sheer dedication to her after she’s sent him packing to meet Minorin–who, in turn, seems to sacrifice her own as-yet-unspoken feelings for Ryuuji after inadvertently seeing Taiga’s breakdown. It’s possibly significant in some small, minor way that we never actually seem to know whether Minorin likes Ryuuji in that way or not–after all, her entire personality is couched in studied ambiguity and a self-defeatist attitude that causes her to place others before her, not because she’s selfless, but because she feels them more worthy than she feels herself. We explicitly know so little of Minorin, and yet the fact that we know so little explicitly tells us much implicitly; she reminds me more than a little, somewhat jarringly and unexpectedly, of me, except I have much more normal-colored hair and I don’t have a voice nearly as awesome as Yui Horie’s (did I menton I love silky heart? I love silky heart, and I want to dissect the OP sequences at the end of the series if only to listen to it and pre-parade over and over again), and I suck at pitching. But then again, Taiga, and Ryuuji, and Ami, and Kitamura all also remind me of  me, in large and small ways, either as I am now, as I was in the past, or as I might be in the future.

Does she have feelings for Ryuuji? Hard to tell, exactly, but it’s certain that if they Became an Item, there would be feelings involved in short notice. I leave the interpretation of “feelings” up to you, dear reader, but whether they exist or not, they’re tossed aside–casually, almost cruelly to both her and Ryuuji–simply to keep Taiga from the anguish that Minorin feels she deserves more than Taiga does. And, simply by that, the perfect Christmas Eve is ruined, dreams dashed and feelings laid bare, much like a certain Christmas tree ornament. It can be reassembled, and it really isn’t a bad thing–but it’s a team effort, and it’ll be different than before, maybe more beautiful, maybe less–but they do it, because it’s what they have to do.

Its like were in some kind of romantic comedy!

"It's like we're in some kind of romantic comedy!"

Now that I have a somewhat-grip on what will possibly happen in the next seven episodes, watch Toradora! take what I think is going to happen and upend it again. It seems to be quite fond of doing that lately; this is not a bad thing. Quite the opposite.

Toradora! [13]: Mr. and Ms. Oubashi High School

If there is a man, woman, or androgynous non-gendered person amongst you who was not moved in the slightest by Toradora! episode 13, let ye be cast out of Canann and turned into a pillar of salt and plagued by frogs and all that other Biblical stuff.

It’s vaguely kind of fitting that I topped off Christmas Day by watching 12 and 13 of Toradora!, considering that I spent Christmas Eve Day and the free moments of Christmas Day that were not consumed with Christmas Business and Family Togetherness channeling Takasu Ryuuji like nobody’s business and attacking the mess of my room that looked kind of like Taiga had passed through. I was only able to channel a small fraction of the God of Cleaning, Ryuuji, as I was unable to complete cleaning before breakfast, but I did, however, bake awesome cookies. Doubly fitting that the mid-series point is one of the most satisfying Toradora! moments thus far.

The main focus of the series, or at least of its viewers, myself included, has been the relationship between Ryuuji and Taiga, in all its more-than-friends-but-less-than-lovers glory, but integral to that seems to be dragging Taiga out of her aggressive Palmtop Tiger shell and giving her a desperately-needed self-confidence boost. If nothing else, what binds Ryuuji, Minorin, and Kitamura to Taiga seems to be a shared desire to bolster her confidence and tame the Taiga. Ami, too, plays the integral role of serving as Taiga’s foil (and Taiga as hers), forcing the two of them to drag out new shades of personality and development as the series goes on.

If anything, the events of 13 in particular serve to heighten contrasts: Ryuuji makes a dress for Taiga to compete in the Miss Macross Oubashi High School competition, causing the entire student body to suddenly remark at how cute the Palmtop Tiger is–and, even after her outburst after discovering that her father has failed to show–devoted more to work than he is to his daughter–through the efforts of Ryuuji and Minorin (who have, of course, Had Words) still manages to win the contest. Meanwhile, in order to win the Mister Oubashi High School contest (apparently a free-for-all race around the city) to show his support and devotion to Taiga in lieu of her father (reasoning that since it’s his fault for trusting her father to show), Ryuuji forsakes his usual easygoing, casual self for a determination that lives up to his genetically inherited eyes and a savagery quite atypical for him. Or, at least, a savagery more generally reserved for polishing tables and sewing clothes.

And yet, even after Words with Minorin, even after all the various disasters that befell our intrepid protagonists, things work out as they find it impossible to actually care properly for the more-fragile-than-she-seems Taiga without actually working together. I noted with some poignancy that Ryuuji found Minorin outpacing him towards the finish line, figuring that the conclusion to this episode would involve a resolution to the Words via Ryuuji outpacing Minorin to the finish line, proving to Minorin that he was better able to care for Taiga–and to himself that Taiga was more important than the elusive goal of Minorin. And then he gets pulled down, and then she gets pulled down, and then she gets back up with a baseball and clobbers the leaders in the race, and then she bowls over the people trying to overtake Ryuuji.

And then Ryuuji, ever Ryuuji, acknowledges her assistance, gets up, heads back to her, takes her hand, and off they go to the finish line to crown Taiga, for a more poignant moment than the one I envisioned. It’s strange that a moment in which Taiga is most happy is when the seeming romantic point of the series–the relationship between Taiga and Ryuuji–seems to give way to the respective stated goals of both, Ryuuji with Minorin and Taiga with Kawamura. It’s perhaps a sign that the relationship between the four is much more complicated than it might seem on the outside, and made even more complicated by the presence of Ami. No matter how the relationship cards fall, it’s evident that the only way they will all truly be happy is if they stick together. Or if Minorin’s lesbian joke is actually not a joke at all. But I don’t think she’s that weird. Yet.

Toradora!: The First Fight

Now they have a lover’s dispute of sorts, and they still don’t realize things! Of course, Taiga actually, genuinely mad at Ryuuji is a frightening thing to behold…

I’m not for sure what, exactly, transpired between Taiga and her father (and I don’t think we’re supposed to know that right now), but he doesn’t seem like the bad sort. Then again, sometimes the bad sort has the nasty habit of looking like the good sort, so it does get hard to tell. My guess is a communication error between father and daughter, but it could be any number of things.

Strangely, too, Ryuuji is the one who is actively seeking out his father’s identity, whereas Taiga is rejecting her father. Ryuuji has no father figure, and his mother’s effectively useless for all intents and purposes; hence, then, his propensity for household chores. Yet the same lack of a father figure prompts him to berate Taiga violently–this is the first time in the entire series that Ryuuji has actually acted like anything resembling a “dragon”–until he realizes he’s doing it for him and not for her. Even after he apologizes, Taiga goes to actually talk to her father, leaving us with everything but the subtlety of a “TO BE CONTINUED…” placard.

Contrasts seem to be the name of the Toradora! game: Taiga projects strength externally but is weak internally, whereas Ryuuji is weak externally (in the sense that he doesn’t live up to his fearsome appearance–and is it just me, or does no one else really care about how he looks anymore?–and his lovably non-masculine habits) but strong internally. Minori acts like a lunatic, yet the lunacy is a cover for her own insecurity (of a different nature than Taiga’s, I believe); Ami is aggressively outgoing because she’s spent her life at the whim of other people, leaving her essentially lonely; and Kitamura…well, okay, he’s as dense as a brick.

The actual series itself follows the contrast: the comic situatiuons the characters find themselves in frequently lead to not only immense mirth but a nigh-obligatory episodic Downbeat Intropsective Moment, and the Moment is made all the better by its genesis in and divergence from the silliness. The bright colors that dominate most of the episode tend to turn from bright and cheery to moody hues tinged with black during such a Moment. Even the name of the show is a contrast: とらドラ, “tora” written in hiragana and “dora” written in katakana.

Contrast is, more or less, the blood upon which a romantic comedy (or even just a romance) thrives. It’s the law of magnetism: opposites attract. It’s kind of hard to say why, exactly, there’s an emphasis on contrasts–not knowing the ultimate outcome, and the ultimate outcome is not likely to come with episode 25, depending–I can’t really make a definitive statement on why the deliberate focus on contrasts both inside and outside characters, if there even is one. Perhaps it serves merely to accentuate the ambiguous nature of the main relationship: they’ve great chemistry but seem completely oblivious to this fact, and pursue their own interests while at the same time supporting each other. Yin and yang: one cannot exist independent of the other. For all intents and purposes, it seems Ryuuji didn’t really “exist” as he does now (he was distinctly aloof before Taiga had her way with him) before the start of the series, and Taiga was busy being sulky in her messy apartment to actually have a life.

I’m going to start spouting silly romantic platitudes any second now. Instead, I’ll apologize for the lack of productive activity lately, as my productive activity has been turned towards trying to graduate (three days!) and also to not go insane before then. This involves copious amounts of doing things I keep forgetting to do, like “have fun” and “exist” and also “what kinds of nonsensical conclusions can I derive from the sources provided to make a paper that will enable me to not fail?”

Toradora!: Aim for Love! (even if it’s not where you think it is)

Okay, so, she’s not got her arms crossed like she’s the Gunbuster rising from the Excalius (which still would have been totally in keeping with Minorin’s character) and she is, in fact, pointing at a supposed UFO, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take the screencap out of context and apply my own meaning to it!

I have just gone through episodes 8 and 9 of Toradora!, both quite good episodes and focusing on the strengths–the bold characterizations and the energetic pacing, while dabbling a bit in the more introspective sides of various characters–that continue to turn Toradora! into a powerhouse juggernaut of military proportions that is steamrolling over everything in its path and taking a decidedly Minorin-esque pleasure in said destruction.

As pointed out by Author before he jumped ship because he liked Ami too much (a bizarre proposition; not an unfair one if one’s enjoyment hinges on the character, perhaps, but certainly a bizarre one) and by several people thirsting for information on the blue-haired vengeful vixen of Toradora!, Ami, I felt it only proper to at least belatedly address the concerns brought up by my usual method (i.e. completely making everything up, or stating the blatantly obvious, and/or both), and, perhaps, episode 8 will serve my purposes nicely.

Episode 8, of course, is the SPORTS SHOUBU which is, of course, a swimming match between Ami (who can swim) and Taiga (who can’t). This leads directly to Ryuuji training Taiga in the fine art of failing to drown, and, of course, giving and entirely misleading pep talk in a rainstorm. It’s the misunderstanding (or, rather, the effect it has upon Taiga) that perhaps points to the incredibly obvious role of Ami in Toradora!: through her own machinations, witting or not, she brings out Taiga’s jealous side with perfect ease. Ryuuji suggests, by way of encouragement, that he’d really like to go to Ami’s summer home and how deplorable a situation that would place Taiga in during his absence, which Taiga instantly assumes means he really does want to go to Ami’s summer home with just the two of them and that he certainly isn’t trying to give her an extra incentive to win the contest.

All is made well (sort of) before the Moment of Truth, and after throwing insults and innertubes at the bikini-clad siren, Taiga takes the lead, only to suffer from Anime Character’s Leg Cramp at Inopportune Moment in a Swimming Pool-itis, leading a concerned Ryuuji to step in to save her from drowning again (interpreted by Taiga as “I really want to go to the summer home so please stop winning”), releasing her to make a furious last-second attempt to win, only to be foiled by a horrible and as yet unknown desire for her to save Ryuuji from drowning himself (turnabout is fair play, it seems), leading to tearful breakdowns of presumed emotional complexity.

And, while the insinuation that Ryuuji might get to spend an intimate vacation with Ami at her summer home is enough to send Taiga into fits of rage, she seems to have no qualms over the bond shared between Kitamura and Ami. The fits of rage could be explained away by the fact that Ami has a knack for showing up Taiga, forcing the two of them into a one-upsmanship contest, no doubt Taiga’s own internal explaination for these events. Of course, from her own assertions, Ryuuji is merely her “dog”, so, therefore, people who are not Taiga or Ryuuji wonder just why she’s so worked up over Ami putting the moves on him in a very not-subtle way.

I’m fairly certain, then, that Ami is the catalyst for the entire series, or, perhaps, the foil–without her, it’s entirely likely that a good deal of the relationship progress between Taiga and Ryuuji would not have been made, leaving them stuck in limbo where, for all their understanding of one another, they’d still be essentially stuck at the launchpad, lacking an external impetus to actually press the “launch” button (which, of course, is the hardest to find button on the massive control panel) for the rocky ride out of the atmosphere. WIth Ami, however, we start to see the shades of complexity arise in this strange love pentagon. The more Ami pushes Taiga, the stronger the bond between her and Ryuuji seems to become. Which is all as it should be, as that which does not kill only makes one stronger.

Other interesting note: it just occured to me that the creation of the relationship between Taiga and Ryuuji is, more or less, how many strong relationships in real life are formed: you don’t go out hunting for love, for love is insane; it shows up, instead, when you least expect it, in your apartment late at night, clobbers you with a kendo stick, and demands you to return its love letter to someone else. And it most certainly doesn’t look like you thought love would look like. The pursuit of happiness is a tricky one indeed.

Toradora!: Takasu Ryuuji Is My New Hero

I am dead serious. Every man should aspire to be him. He can cook! He can sew! He isn’t a total jerk, or even a jerk at all!

No, really.

Taiga might steal the show with her infinitely endearing nature, and there’s no doubt that, for the intended audience, Taiga herself is a large part of the series’ success, but Ryuuji himself is nothing short of amazing. Perhaps it’s just the simple fact that I find it incredibly easy to identify with him, given his menacing appearance counterbalanced with his own soft, gentle nature that reminds me of a self-description on a good day (on a bad day, or in a bad mood, I’d place myself more in step with Taiga, and then there are the occasional extended lapses into Minorin behavior that I have to watch out for), but despite the fact that he does nothing that would traditionally be designated “awesome” by masculine standard, he nevertheless manages to be awesome.

Mayhaps the same feeling also stems from his own particular relationship with Taiga. Although Taiga intitally pseudo-bullies Ryuuji into assisting her land Kitamura (by withholding a similar setup with Minori until she is successful), the “bullying” phase lasted for, essentially, less than an episode, as Ryuuji seems to be dealing with and caring for Taiga less because she bullied him into doing such, but more because he actually cares for her, and, true to form, selflessly gives himself over to assist her in her goal of bagging the ever-elusive (and decidedly weird) Kitamura. Selflessly to the point that, in order to prevent Taiga’s poolside embarassment, not only does he sew her some fake breasts, he actually has the guts to save her both from drowning and mortal embarassment by slipping the escaped falsie back in without really recognizing what it was, exactly, that he was doing. It didn’t occur to him to be “lecherous” or even fretting about what might happen if he did such a thing, he simply did it to save Taiga’s face. And he didn’t even bat an eye afterwards. Now that’s what I call manly, and you don’t need sunglasses for that.

Perhaps, in part, it’s because neither Taiga nor Ryuuji (consciously) consider each other as “candidates” for a romantically involved relationship that leads them, unwitting, into a relationship that is a romantic one in all but acknowledgment as such. Of course, we the viewers know that, most likely, Taiga and Ryuuji will become an “official” couple by series end, but the fun (and the tension) is derived from the fact that they haven’t realized it yet, and persist in failing to realize this. We already know from the shocked expression on Taiga’s face when Ami is putting the moves on Ryuuji that while it might not really be a conscious thought yet, she seemingly already can’t bear the thought of Ryuuji getting entangled with someone else, although whether she was concerned more for Minorin (who still thinks that Taiga and Ryuuji are going out, despite their protestations to the contrary) rather than herself remains to be seen. It’s possible, too, that she rationalized away her concern for Ryuuji possibly being taken away from her and foisted it upon Minorin, since, if she truly isn’t cognizant that she likes him in such a way, then she’d have to rationalize it away somehow.

I have the sneaky suspicion it will take Minorin acting like this:

to get Ryuuji and Taiga to realize what’s actually going on. For all her, uh, Minorin-ness, I’m pretty sure that she and Kitamura are the only ones who really know what’s going on while Ryuuji and Taiga are stumbling blindly down the path to…whatever it is they’ll get in the end. Maybe it’s not a plot by Ryuuji and Taiga to set each other up with Minorin and Kitamura. Maybe it’s Minorin and Kitamura’s plot to set Ryuuji and Taiga up! Exactly as Aeolia Schenberg planned two centuries in the future!

TAKEMIYA YUYUKO,. I HAVE FIGURED YOU OUT!

Toradora!: In Which I Am Reduced to a Bucket of Pudding

What I wouldn’t give to be that bucket of pudding. I hope it’s free of high-fructose corn syrup, though…

I have just watched Toradora! 4, and it was glorious and awesome and pudding. As a side note, it’s probably best to mention that I’m watching the series raw, explicitly on purpose, for listening practice, something which I do not normally do. It’s fairly easy for me to understand at my level of comprehension, whatever that level may be, so if something weird comes up, it might be that, although I try to make sure I’ve gotten the mportant stuff down right.

At this point, I no longer particuarily care how “accurate” the anime is in comparison to the Takemiya Yuyuko novels. The anime might be different, but that doesn’t make it worse. In fact, it might make it better–yes, I quite like books, and, yes, I quite liked the novel, but the anime seems so much more lively than the novel. It’s partly because it’s a filmed medium–visuals, voice, and music combine to form an experience that is more engrossing than a textual one–but also partly because of the exuberance the anime oozes. I did like the novel, but it wasn’t exactly exuberant (in the way the anime is) in the way I generally recognize exuberance in textual form, which is entirely my fault for a) being a native English speaker and reader and also for finding P.G. Wodehouse hilarious b) not reading the novels in their native Japanese, since the page or so I did read (“read”) in Japanese had a certain exuberance in the language that might not carry over in translation well (or, at least, the translation I read) and c) perhaps I just forgot since it’s been months since I did.

I think it’s this exuberance that’s winning over fans from places it might not have won fans over from, especially from those predisposed against the series due to Kugimiya Rie’s casting as Taiga. The very story about why I elected to watch the series raw demonstrates this effectively, I think: my intention was to get the raw of the first episode and skim through it to get a glimpse of the series in action. I started off intending to skip through large portions of the episode, but I never actually skipped parts of the episode because I found myself mysteriously engrossed in what was going on. In short, my Toradora! watching experiences thus far have resembled this:

except I’m not a cute girl (OR AM I?).

It’s that very exuberance and forthrightness on the part of all the staff involved. The main cast does a spectacular job on everything: Kugyu as Taiga is astounding, Horie Yui turns in an amazing performance as the delightfully loopy Minorin, and Majima Junji is probably doing the performance of his career thus far right now. The animators’ choice of a bright, vivid palette, and the near-constant motion contribute a great deal to this feeling; so, too, does the overall direction and writing, which guide all the previous elements into the completed product that is Toradora!

I think it’s this very feeling of exuberance–of giving everything your 110%–that contributes to the observation cuchlann made about episode 3: the show has the uncanny ability to make you forget (or, at least, not really care) that you’re in the middle of a “cliche.” Cliches exist because they’ve withstood the test of time, and they work, and the difference between “hackneyed” and “originality” tends to be less how few cliches one uses, but ratherhow one uses said cliches. The writing of Toradora! itself can deftly dodge cliches, as I learned from reading the novels, but the penchant of the animation staff to revel in (rather than restrain) the almost over-the-top mechanics of Toradora! means that the series’ true power is able to shine through.

The sad reality of Toradora!’s excellence is that I’m now left with a horrible, horrlble problem: a resounding affection for Taiga, because how can one not like Taiga at this point (that’s rhetorical, don’t answer that), and a bad case of Minorin love, because she’s the exact kind of the excessively-genki type of girl who reduces me to a quivering blob of pudding. In a bucket. Being consuimed by Minorin herself.

I am conflicted and torn. I just hope it doesn’t end up becoming some kind of crazy wacky Civil War, except Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant are actually cute girls.

I need a hug. And an お~は~ or something. Please?

A Quick Conglomerate Update

Since I haven’t had a chance to do so all week due to either being horribly busy or horribly sick*. Or, on Friday, both. So here’s a (highly hasty) rundown of what I might have said, if I had had the energy or time to do so. Which I didn’t.

Toradora!

Despite any naysaying, I maintain that the Toradora! adaptation is quite good–yes, they may have crammed the first novel into two episodes, but quite a lot of the first novel was either descriptions of actions taken by characters, or descriptions of emotions and such, so, even if they were to stretch things out a bit, it’d still have only filled another half and episode or so. More importantly to me, however, changes made have only accentuated the Toradora! experience, as my much beloved lamppost scene (complete with affront to community values) was handled quite effectively. The series definitely has a certain kind of energy and vigor to it, different from the sort of feel I got from the novel (that may have been the effect of the background music I was listening to as I read the novel, though) but not necessarily one that is bad. In fact, the vigor of the earlier moments where Taiga and Ryuuji are being played for laughs only accentuated the melancholy, emotional mood of lamppost angst and later moments of the episode. The balance, at least so far, has been struck extremely well, and flows effectively from mood to mood without feeling jarring. I’ve faith in Okada Mari and Nagai Tatsuya, and they’re living up to it so far.

Kannagi

I had the chance while sick and miserable and alternately freezing and burning up on Tuesday to catch the first episode of Kannagi, a series which I didn’t expect much going into but found myself highly amused and entertained by a surprisingly solid comedy. It’s directed by the infamously fired Lucky Star 1-4 director, Yamamoto Yutaka, whom I never really had a problem with, and it’s obvious that he’s got his sense of comic timing down right. The whole first episode had a quaintly amusing charm to it that I found much more to my (admittedly hyper-refined) comedic palate than Kemeko DX, which was extremely Mizushima Tsutomu from start to finish (and I’ve still no idea how this Mizushima Tsutomu is the same Mizushima Tsutomu who directed Ookiku Furikabutte and XXXHolic). Nagi is horribly cute (and much more effective for me than that other Nagi from a comedy series, may Kugyu have mercy upon me…) and played perfectly by Tomatsu Haruka. There’s also great comedic chemistry between Nagi and Jin (and Jin’s voice actor, Shimono Hiro, who has a great voice for these kinds of comedy roles), and the whole thing is rather well-done. Color me impressed (which can be both an easy and a hard thing to do, apparently)

HIgurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai

It’s only been, what, a year since the series finished airing? Kai somehow got lost in the shuffle (this happens fairly frequently, unfortunately, even to things I quite like) and, since I’m getting geared up to watch Umineko na Naku Koro ni whenever that airs (I was under the impression it was starting soon, hence my sudden, hasty decision to plow through Kai. It, of course, isn’t starting soon at all) and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed Higurashi. Granted, there’s a lot more of the “silliness” in Kai than there was in the first season (possibly due to the longer run time Studio DEEN was able to give the arcs), but the silly parts are still amusing, and the deadly serious mystery/horror parts are still pretty darn chilling. I liked Higurashi more for the psychological horror aspect (the Distinction scene from the first season is one of the most terrifying things I’ve seen, and I had to purposely not pay much attention to the episode during some of it, even though it’s not really all that gruesome), but the balance struck between “taking it home” and the nervous breakdowns of various characters makes for a fun combination. I’ve made it through the second arc, “みんな殺し変”, and now I want to do very bad and very violent things to Takano, and, I’m sure, so does most of the cast. I’ve no clue where Hanyuu came from, but I approve of Horie Yui no matter what, and Hanyuu is pretty cute anyway, and the episode previews are a delight. Does it have problems? Yeah, but so did Higurashi, and I don’t particularly care, so there.

And that is pretty much that. I hope I have time this week to do something not-important-to-living.

* Some kind of nasty 24-hour stomach bug thing, followed in close succession by a horrible cold brought on, no doubt, by the hilariously malfunctioning thermostat in this house. It’s like the time I spent in the horrible dorms on campus, where I couldn’t figure out if the giant air unit in the side was actually supposed to give out heat, or if Housing & Maintainance expected me to slowly freeze to death. No wonder 2002/03 sucked.

Toradora!: Episode 1 Report

Astute followers of this particular corner of the information superhighway (all two of you) will probably remember that, some time ago, I read the first (translated) volume of Toradora! and issued a report on my findings, namely, that Toradora! was, in a bizarre and shocking development, deserving of its own popularity!

Of course, the light novel being good is one thing; whether or not the anime adaptation will be good is another matter entirely. I was able to check out the raw version of the first episode earlier today, and was suitably impressed by it. I hadn’t actually given much thought as to how they’d adapt Toradora! for the small screen, but I can say that they did it amazingly well. This may, of course, simply be first-episode budget-blowing audience-catching aftereffect, but I’m happy, and that’s what matters.

What got me (and, apparently, everyone else) is that Kugimiya Rie is, rather than resorting to her Shana/Louise/Nagi-esque voice, using one that’s different, thereby deflecting the cries of “TYPECASTING!” that has seemingly plagued the pre-airing discussion somewhat. Even Horie Yui, as Minori, is putting on a different voice than her usual (I knew it was her, yet I still needed some time to make sure it was, in fact, her).

Aside from acting, the episode itself was very well done, in comparison to the novel. I did not, however, read along with the novel in one window and the episode in another and record snide comments on a piece of paper, so my judgement might be a bit flawed. I was satisfied, and, at this pont, that’s all that matters. Fully animated Taiga was appropriately cute in a very Taiga-like way, and, in particular, the slight introduction of her brand of dere (the complete and utter inablity to move or speak when confronted with something involving the object of her affection) mixed with her being, well, Taiga, was pleasing.

As for how good the series is, in terms of the novel? I’m going to withhold judgement until I’ve seen the lightpost scene animated, which will be the litmus test for the series in that department. WIth Okada Mari as the lead writer crossed with Nagai Tatsuya (who has directed things well which would assist in the matter of the lightpole scene, even if he isn’t a Name To Watch Out For yet), however, I’ve got very few doubts as to whether it will be handled right.

In short:

Minori approves. Taiga, presumably, approves, but she’s too prideful to show it. For now, anyway.

Expect a better, more lengthy, and somewhat more interesting post when the lightpole episode does roll around! Shouldn’t be long now!

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.


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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