(and Dr. Dave's gnome)
Toradora! was originally pimped as being "this season's wacky high school romantic comedy, in the same vein as Haruhi Suzumiya!!!!!111!1!31!" Well, you ask? Is it that good? Does it truly stand up to the great, and almost perfect Suzumiya? Not so fast, sunshine. I'll break it down bit by bit and offer you my final analysis a little deeper into this review.
Toradora! is all about a group of kids in high school who become friends and have to deal with their hormones, homework, home lives, and their futures — pretty much the basis for every high school comedy ever written. The cast this time though is made up of Ryuuji (the fairly normal guy who inherited his departed father's shady eyes — which always make him look like he's a pissed off delinquent ready to kill — who's also very domestically-able thanks to taking care of his slutty mom his whole life), Taiga (the midget girl who has the same eye problem as Ryuuji... Well, not really: she actually IS a pissed off delinquent who loves to fight and start trouble), Minorin (Taiga's best friend, and the always bubbly and goofy girl of the group), and Yuusaku (Ryuuji's friend and one of the only people who knows that he's not the wannabe yakuza punk that people initially take him for, and the guy most likely to take his shirt off in public). After a while Ami (the drop-dead boneriffic model babe, and childhood friend of Yuusaku) enters the mix too for some more wacky-zany character interactions, but that's pretty much it.
The main plot of Toradora! is that Taiga (also known as "The Palmtop Tiger" due to her temperament and ferociousness, and ability to beat up men 3 times her size) likes Yuusaku, but accidentally puts a confession note meant for him into Ryuuji's bag at school one day. That night she hunts Ryuuji down in his own home in order to get the note back, and, if he's already opened it and read it, kill him with a bokken in order to contain her embarrassment. During their scuffle in his house (where Ryuuji tries to save his life and Taiga tries to end it), Ryuuji and Taiga come to a mutual understanding of each other's plights as they both reveal some of their deepest secrets: Their biggest being they each like the other's best friend and would like to start boinking them on a regular basis if allowed... but both are pretty cowardly when it comes to love, and so they make a pact to each help the other succeed in wooing the object of their desire.... And if you can't tell how this story is going to end from that, you are a goddamn moron.
Yes, the plot is not too original, oh yeah, Taiga looks like an even chibi-er version of Zero Louise, and you betcha that the genre of the high school rom-com has been done to DEATH in recent years.... But goddammit if Toradora! doesn't knock the proverbial ball out of the fucking ballpark and into a cheapskate tailgater's head in the parking lot who was too scroogey to buy tickets to the big game for his loathsome family. No, I'm not shitting you, Toradora! is good. It's very fucking good. I stayed up till 2AM two days in a row — blasting through all 25 episodes as quickly as I could take them — because I just couldn't stop, and I just had to see how things would work out with all the characters. Never before was I so happy to be so tired in the office than I was on those mornings after my Toradora! marathon sessions.... Yes, I know. I'm not 9 years-old anymore, but fuck you. I can still get this excited about a cartoon if I want to.
The plot in this show (high school kids in love) is old hat, yes, but these characters and how they collaborate, and how they grow from the first to the twenty-fifth episode is something I've not seen the likes of before. I actually lost myself in the narrative and started thinking of these youngsters as real people. At one point I actually wished that I could have been in the same homeroom as them in high school.... Then I beat the shit out of myself before I started making any ridiculously ghey fanfics about shipping me with Minorin or the Palmtop Tiger herself. But then I remembered the Toradora! Christmas episode (the greatest anime Christmas episode of anything.... Ever), and I forgave myself for such faggotry.
What really made this show so fulfilling to me was the terrifying combo of Taiga and Ryuuji (the Tiger and the Dragon... The only two creatures that can stand up to each other). Like Denny Crane and Alan Shore before them, they truly become the best of friends in a few short episodes, and they have each other's backs better than Tango and Cash. Or even BJ and the Bear... Mmmmmm, BJs..... Anyway, from Ryuuji cleaning up Taiga's apartment, cooking her dinner and bento lunches every day, and making pads to stuff her swimsuit with when Ami challenges her to a swimming race, to Taiga saving Ryuuji's life, urging him on and supporting him in his quest to get with Minorin, and her threatening entire classrooms for "making too much out of [their] friendship" (because it was hurting his lovelife), it really made me wish to God that I knew a Taiga myself back in high school. Yeah, the Wolfman, Chi-Chi, Just Kidding, and I had good times, blew up a couple of cars, hid a couple of hooker bodies, and had all-nighter movie-watching sessions all the time, but to know beyond any reasonable doubt that somebody like Taiga had my back would have been the melted wax and nipple clamps on top of the hot whore (if you know what I mean). I love Taiga's filthy fucking mouth, I love how I thought her character would be so one dimensional and dumb at first glance, and yet turned out to be one of the most real fictional people I've ever met, and I worship her viciousness and how she savagely takes down those who hurt her friends. Honestly, that fight Taiga started (and finished) in episode 16 was one of the most brutal, cruel, and beautiful things ever drawn by man. If you don't think that violence can make you emotional (beyond the emotion of nauseousness, you pussy you) you need to watch this show.
Also, Toradora! is funny as fuck. This is most definitely just as much com as it it rom, and like the good shows that have come before it, most of the humor is character driven and not the same lame "set-up, punch line, reaction shot of people falling down" that BAD comedies have unfortunately perfected over the years. I watched the first 7 episodes at Carl's house and we had to rewind quite a few times in order to hear and see things that happened while some of us were rolling around and peeing the carpet in glee (once again, I APOLOGIZE, Carl! I paid for the Stanley Steamer, didn't I?). Once Ami the Instigator enters the fray things stay at a pretty solid level of hilarity all the way till the end (her droll assessment of situations and unwillingness to compromise in the face of the Palmtop Tiger are plainly awesome). Things do take a turn for the serious near the end (as most "comedy" series do nowadays) — the last two episodes especially really lay it on thick — but the difference between Toradora! and crappola like CLANNAD is that the drama here is EARNED, and we actually care a shitload about the people who are caught up in it. Oh, and most importantly, the drama pushes the story to a realistic and satisfying conclusion. Honestly, I didn't even realize the theatrics were getting greased and pumped until the start of the final episode (it's quite hard to miss at that point). And when obstacles are overcome and friends pull together in Toradora! you cheer those who've attained their true reward, you don't groan, roll your eyes, and try to shoot the characters on the TV with a shotgun.
Honestly, just fucking watch it. It's probably the best thing you'll see all year. AND it's got a retarded parakeet in it. Damn I love Inko-chan!
So much super fun! These Toradora anime make Kuni remember love high school many times. Time that midget girl kick with shoe inside Kuni very big penis, time that yakuza kid steal all of Kuni lunch and shit in bag then make Kuni eat bag, and time that Kuni said to very hot girl "Kuni love to sex you up, long time, baby," and hot girl say okay, but then hot girl super Kuni punch and football guy do something bad terrible to the Kuni underpants and all of genitals. Kuni want to go back, like the Eddie Money, and do it all over... But Kuni can't go back, Kuni know. :(
Tora Doctora DAVE
Bah! High school children are the devil. Television shows made about them are laxatives for the eyes and ears... I don't know what that means, I just get flummoxed when thinking about terrif-- I mean annoying things like this. And if any of you high school kids who stole my lawn gnome are reading this, I'm working on a genetically-altered "Death Hound™" to track your scents down and DEVOUR both you and your souls. Beware!