Ryuji Takasu may look like a mean guy, due to his small fierce eyes, but in reality he is a kind-hearted teen who loves to cook and is maybe just a bit OCD when it comes to cleaning. Unfortunately, his classmates are to frightened by his appearance to realize what a nice guy he is. It’s the start of his junior year of high school, and on the first day he runs afoul of Taiga Aisaka, a short but cute girl nicknamed “The Palm-top Tiger” due to her ferocious attitude and temper. After a series of misunderstandings (and KO punches from Taiga’s fist into Ryuji’s face), the two learn that each has a crush on the other’s best friend. A pact is formed as they team up to help each other attempt to win the hearts of their respective love interests and, obviously, shenanigans ensue.
While the series starts off a bit slow, the main plot is established very quickly. We learn that Ryuji is in love with Taiga’s BFF Minori Kushieda, and Taiga is in love with Ryuji’s best mate and student council VP Yusaku Kitamura by the end of the first episode. After that, the series drags along for a few episodes, playing the tired “I love him/her, but I can’t just come out and say that!” anime cliché we have seen many, many times before. Thankfully, this is overcome by episode five where we also get the introduction of Ami Kawashima. A famous fashion model and childhood friend of Yusaku’s, Ami transfer’s into school and this is where, in most anime, a love triangle would begin. Not the case in Toradora, because right off the bat most of the cast learns that Ami isn’t as kind and innocent as she seems. The show also treads into some standard anime territories (a pool/swimsuit episode, a school cultural festival episode, etc) but it does so in fun ways that feel fresh and are very entertaining.
This is NIS America’s first anime release, and they did a pretty good job. Overall, the DVD is awesome, but it does have one fairly big hiccup. The video transfer has some noticeable image ghosting and fuzziness, especially if you are watching the DVD on your computer or on a HD television. It is less obvious if you are watching on a standard television, and you probably wouldn’t even notice it unless someone pointed it out to you. It in no way makes the DVD unwatchable, but it is a flaw and should be mentioned in a review. Luckily, NIS America has already taken steps to fix this problem with a replacement program. The show itself is wonderfully animated with great character designs for the main cast, and the quality of animation remains on par throughout the first 13 episodes. One interesting thing about the DVD I liked is that it automatically starts playing once you pop it in the DVD player. No forcing you to wait for the menu to load up or making you wade through what seems to be endless amounts of previews before you can get to your Toradora fix. This was a much welcomed change of pace from most anime releases.
My biggest issue with the DVD is the English dub, or more so the fact there isn’t one. This DVD release is only in Japanese with English subtitles which made me sad. I loves me some English dubbed anime and I know NIS has a great localization staff based on the quality of their video games, but I understand the costs involved in dubbing anime and I can’t really grade a DVD on what I WANT to be there and isn’t can I? So all that said, the Japanese cast is fantastic, especially Yui Hiroe as the energetically frantic Minori and Eri Kitamura as the “not quite as she seems” Ami. Rie Kugimiya and Junji Majima also do great jobs as Taiga and Ryuji respectively. The audio quality on the DVD is also quite good and the subtitles were well done and easy to read.
Remember a few paragraphs up when I said NIS did a good job? That goes double for the amazing packaging and extras of this “Premium” Edition. Premium being the optimal word here, because that is exactly what it is. The DVD comes in a gorgeous art box, proudly featuring the main cast and measures a huge 8 inches by 11 inches. The DVDs are in slim cases that lay flat inside it, on top of a collectible episode guide art book. The book is hardback, full color and contains an episode guide, character designs and cast interviews. This is a must have if you are a Toradora fan. On the second disc, special features include two cute Toradora SOS! cartoons and text-less opening and closing credits.
So congrats to NIS America on a very solid first anime release. I had not seen Toradora before watching it for this review and I am happy to say I am now a fan. I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the second set which should be out later this month. Now if I could just figure out a way to fit/display this awesome art box on my DVD shelf…
Story – 4 Visual/Anime Quality – 3 Audio/Subs – 4 Extras/Packaging – 5
OVERALL – 4 stars out of 5
Released by: NIS America
Release Date: July 2010
Episodes: 1- 13
Running Time: 307 Minutes
Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
5 – Perfect
4 – Great
3 – Good
2 – Sub Par
1 – Yuck