Anime review: Toradora! Volume 2
November 02, 2010

When the second volume of "Toradora!" finally reached my apartment just recently, I tore into the packaging, tossed aside the deluxe episode guide that comes with the limited edition for just a moment and stuck in the first of the two discs. YOu'd think I'd just brought home the latest blockbuster video game or something, to look at me.

I doubt anyone would guess that "Toradora!" would appeal to me. My wife calls it my "cartoon soap opera" because she prefers anime with swords and sorcery or possibly big explosions. There's none of that masculine sort of thing in "Toradora!" and she dismisses it for that reason.

I feel a little bit like a girl as I watch "Toradora!" and blame moist eyes on allergies to the salty ocean air that blows through our apartment (that could be the cause, right?), but there's something about the story of Ryuji Taksu and his friends that resonates with me and prevents me from caring that I'm a 31-year-old male watching a dramatic cartoon about high school kids in Japan. I suppose it's because "Toradora!" gives me the chance to remember what it felt like to be in high school, only without the personal heartache.

Volume 2 provides plenty of heartache, though. That seems to be the primary goal in most of the episodes contained within this second and final volume, actually. While the first volume contained a lot of comedy and warm, fuzzy moments of fan service, there's precious little of that in the second half of Ryuji and Taika's story (though a scene in a closet has some real comedic value even as the words that are overheard lead to new complications). From nearly the first of the new episodes, it's clear that this is a story that can't possibly end happily for everyone. Too many of the girls like the same guy, and it was hard for me personally to decide who to root for. Broken hearts were a given.

In a general sense, the story now sticks more aggressively to Ryuji and Taika and the relationship that the two of them share. They're still trying to help one another with other conquests, but the sense quickly develops that neither of them are being honest with themselves about who they really want to pair up with. So the light-hearted social events that they embark upon--a Christmas party, a class trip and such--don't have the same casual air about them that you might anticipate after viewing the first volume. The students are growing into adulthood and that's clear from the way that they respond to everything. It's clear from the heavier drama. "Toradora!" is less "fun" to watch now because it feels less like a fantasy and more like life, but that's a sort of payoff and hard to criticize.

Though the content itself has taken on a more serious tone, though, NIS America's presentation hasn't changed much at all. The two discs included this time around still are accompanied by an episode guide, like I already mentioned. As before, that episode guide includes interesting interviews with the voice actors (actresses, mostly) and there are some neat photos and plenty of artwork that depicts the characters in different attire. The hardbound book still feels like it belongs on a coffee table, with thick pages and a spine that crackles as one opens it to admire the lovely artwork.

As NIS America has noted, anyone can head online and find free anime. Anyone can download episodes--probably with subtitles, like those available here--and enjoy free cartoons. "Toradora!" as presented by NIS America, though, is a special treat. It's a shame that it had to end so soon.

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zigfried zigfried - November 02, 2010 (04:38 PM)

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honestgamer honestgamer - November 02, 2010 (11:31 PM)
Thanks for those recommendations. I'll be limited by finances when it comes to what anime I can check out next, but I'll try to keep those in mind. I also want to try Lain, which just has always struck me as potentially interesting, and I'd like to see Paprika and possibly Grave of the Fireflies.
zigfried zigfried - November 03, 2010 (02:18 AM)
Viz and Crunchy Roll both offer free (legal) viewing services on internet, although I haven't checked the availability of those series.

Honestly, I think NIS is behind the times by trying to horn in on the physical media market. The key to making money in the future is based around providing anime for free, or extremely close to free. As a physical media purchaser, I can appreciate NIS's efforts to make their products feel deluxe, but I expect them to exit the anime business within a year.


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