Toradora is an anime I wasn't originally planing to watch. It wasn't on my list of things I wanted to do and it just didn't interest me. It aired sometime in 2008 or 2009, around the time I was really enjoying anime but because it wasn't dubbed I didn't give it a second thought. Hell, even after it got dubbed I was so put off by the insanely large price tag that I didn't want to watch it. It wasn't until I became a CM that I watched it. I had downloaded it to upload here. I had it all encoded and ready for upload when I saw that someone else already did it. After a few months of it just sitting on my HDD, I finally gave it a try and I loved it.
Now then, one thing I want to admit is that I have a bit of a soft spot for this type of anime. I'm not gonna let that get in the way of my review though (well hopefully). And honestly I can see why some people wouldn't like this. It is kind of generic and not everyone likes romance. Plus it does have it's problems.
Toradora follows the lives of Taiga and Ryuuji, two students who bumped into each other (literally) by accident. They don't seem to like each other too much at first, but if you've seen this kind of anime then you'll know what happens with them by the end. It starts out with Ryuuji trying to help Taiga get together with his best friend Yusaku, and Taiga trying to help Ryuuji get together with her friend Minori. Throw in some comedy and it sounds pretty basic, but as the series goes on it gets more complicated and kind of depressing to be honest, but for the most part it doesn't deviate too much, which is a good thing and I love that, though that's not to say I think it's perfect.
When the show has good pacing, it has good pacing, but good lord God when the pacing is bad it is bad. It also likes to have things develop and change off screen, which is either due to budget or the series not being long enough to fit everything in. A good example is when we see that Taiga and Ami, who don't like each other, have suddenly become friends (kind of) off screen, which is something that should have been shown. There are a few other moments, but I think that was the most glaring. However, the problems in the plot don't detract from the characters in any signficant form. It feels like the author (it was a light novel first) wrote the characters first and the plot was of less concern. Like he wrote the plot around the characters and didn't insert the characters into a preconceived scenario. Speaking of characters...
The part that I think the anime excels at though is how it wrote the characters. All of the major characters go through development at some point and it shows. It's not like minor development either. The characters start out as generic tropes that you would see in this type of anime. Minori being the happy character, Taiga being the tsundere, Ryuuji being a neat freak, etc. The thing is though that they grow out of these tropes by the end, which is great. It shows how the characters affect one another in which ways. A good example would be Ryuuji and Taiga. Ryuuji starts taking care of Taiga who doesn't seem thankful for it, and as the series goes on you start to see it affecting her. She starts out hotheaded and abusive (like a tsundere) and by the end of it, she grows out of it and starts to take care of herself. All because of the influence that Ryuuji had on her. This is sadly something that I don't really see happening in a lot of anime.
Take for example Infinite Stratos. You've got your idiot, your tsundere and other character types and they never change. No matter how much they interact with one another, they stay exactly the same. Sure, they might show development in an episode or two, but come next episode they are back to square one. It's not like that in Toradora. Toradora feels like each episode connects with one another in that way. Also unlike IS, the characters in Toradora feel more life like. They don't constantly shout out “I'm the Tsundere!” or “I'm the idiot!”. They feel more like characters then character types. One problem with it though are the minor characters. While they get a bigger part later on, they still don't really get any development. Though that's really not too bad in my opinion since they aren't major characters, but I felt that I should still mention that.
I watched this dubbed so I don't really know what the Japanese voice acting was like. I've heard a bit of it and while the Japanese actors were good I still prefer the dub to it. I thought the voices fit for the most part. My only problem was Taiga's voice. I though she sounded good when she was being a tsundere or snobbish, but when she wasn't acting like one she sounded off and forced. When you think about it, its kind of appropriate that it would sound like that because it's new for her. She's not used to being nice and stuff like that, but I get the feeling that it wasn't intentional. Other then that I thought that the dub was solid.
The animation wasn't anything special. Nothing breakthrough for it's time and solid enough to where I didn't notice any errors. It was generic and basic animation for the most part. That's all I can think of to say really.
As for the openings and endings, I didn't watch the endings. When I watch anime I tend to just watch the opening and stop once it gets to the credits. I might watch them once or twice just to see what they're like, but usually I just skip them. I enjoyed the first opening quite a bit, though the second one was a bit bland both music and animation wise. The background music was okay... I think. I don't really remember it but then again I wasn't really listening to it. The background music in anime tends to blend in for me and this was no stand-out.
In closing I thought that Toradora was a great series. Yes it has it's faults and I can see how this wouldn't be someone's cup of tea. It's one of those anime that if you don't like the genre then you probably won't like it. While the plot is solid for the most part, it's pacing can be off and it misses a few things. Where the series really excels is in the characters. Anyway if you think you'd like Toradora then you probably will. If you think you won't then you probably won't.