Why I started watching: So that it would be three shows in a row that end with an exclamation mark. No, seriously, I had heard of the show as being a classic, and one of the more famous early examples of several common anime tropes, and it came highly recommended by a couple other online acquaintences as well. In addition, after plowing through so many Slice of Life shows, I really wanted to start getting into the Romance genre.
For a 10 year old show, Toradora!’s art certainly held up, the character and scenery art was nice. I was relieved, as that tends to be my biggest worry with “older” anime. Though there are a number of other side characters, the main group of protagonists involve three girls and two guys and their struggles to deal with unrequited love and difficult family situations, and help each other out to try to achieve their goals. The relationship dynamics between each pair of characters is so complex that people have drawn up really complex per-episode flowcharts just to try to make sense of it all. That album is a thing of absolute beauty (I love charts and spreadsheets, in case you couldn’t tell).. and it still doesn’t tell the whole story! Ami in particular had an air of mystery surrounding her actions and speech that I’m not sure I fully understood even at the end of my viewing binge. The most annoying character, however, had to be the parrot, who was even worse than the cat from Aria. But at least the parrot didn’t ever get an entire episode of its own to ruin.
Plot-wise, the two main characters do go through pretty big character development through the entire story, even if they truly embody the term baka by completely messing up any early opportunities to get with their crushes. I especially liked the scenes early on involving Taiga and Ryuuji where he has to help her cook and take care of the house because she’s so abysmally bad at everything. I did dislike parts of several plotlines, however, including the resolution of Taiga’s father’s arc, and the Santa scene, as they felt weak and unrealistic. However, those are few and far between, and were surrounded by fun and memorable scenes overall.
Until the end of the story. While the ending isn’t bad at all, and is generally liked, that isn’t a universal sentiment and I found myself in the camp that considered it really weak. It looked like they rushed the last episode or so and just needed to come to some sort of lacklustre conclusion. Apparently both the LN and especially the VN have much better endings, however I definitely don’t have the time to sit down and play that anytime soon! Still, that did appease most of my frustration at the ending. The ending also really highlighted how much of a disservice the show did to the main cast outside of the two main characters, as a lot between the other three is left unexplained and they never really get their chances for significant character growth. It really irked me, but that’s because I had fallen in love with the characters and wanted to know so much more of them, especially Minorin. Visual novel, again, is apparently great for that. One day.
Still, at the end of the day I immensely enjoyed the show. I also really enjoyed the first OP (Pre-Parade by Rie Kugimiya/Yui Horie/Eri Kitamura) and ED (Vanilla Salt by Yui Horie), though the second ones didn’t catch my attention at all. I enjoyed the constantly changing styles in the first song, which tends to be a musical technique that I like, as well as the melody and symbolic visuals in the second song’s video. I also really enjoyed that they had the lady seiyuu do all the songs, because they sound incredibly harmonious together!
Final Score: 8/10