I was aiming to watch something light and happy when I stumbled across the anime series “ToraDora” on my Netflix recommended list so, being a fan of the Japanese anime, and Japanese dramas, I decided to give it a shot. If I could have finished it in one sitting, I would have, except I had work the following day so I had to break it up into two nights and I’m not sorry for it at all.
Synopsis: Ryuji Takasu is a pretty nice guy underneath his intimidating looks but hardly anyone gets past that first impression other than his best bud and student council vice president Yusaku Kitamura. Taiga Aisaka aka the Palm Top Tiger, has developed a similar reputation but because of her short temper and penchant for violence, only Minori Kushieda seems to be close enough to the pint sized firecracker to call her a friend. When an accident reveals that Taiga and Ryuji actually harbor crushes on each other’s best friends, they become uinseparable as they help each other find true love. But feelings are tricky and before they know it, rumors spread that they are the school’s most formidable couple.
There is only one season of Toradora with 25 episodes in total and even though I am just in love with this series, I think that its the perfect number to tell the story of Ryuji and Taiga with the right amount of funny, emotional and memorable.
I loved that from start to finish, Taiga was the ultimate tsundere (read: a cold character who softens in the end because of love) and while other shoujo (girls anime) would cast the female lead as the more submissive character, there was no doubt that in this series, Ryuji pretty much let Taiga run the show. This is also the main reason that viewers will immediately fall in love with his character.
Ryuji is super sensitive, a natural nurturer and cares nothing about his pride in order to cater to Taiga’s feelings. From the get go, he had no qualms about sharing his failure to express his love for Minori to Taiga to make her feel better. When Taiga gets “rejected”, he volunteers himself to walk together with her as a friend and when the chips are down, he is always there for her to help her, to save her and just be there to ease her loneliness. He is her knight in shining armor but he does it so naturally and without much fanfare that makes him even more of a standup guy. Not only that, he is a good friend to everybody. During Episode 16, when Kitamura Kun was having a crisis, he was conflicted about who to be there for, Kitamura or Taiga. He looked like he was a ping pong ball alternating between the two but still, he was the only one who could contain Taiga when she went off on the president. He is also a good friend and listener to Minori and Ami. No wonder these girls fell for him without him even noticing. LOL. He is precious.
Taiga may seem like a prickly pint sized heroine but there is really no doubt that she would eventually fall for Ryuji. I love it when she let down her guard and staked her claim on him like when she told everyone off and declared that Ryuji was hers when he fell off the pool and almost drowned. Despite her pronouncements that her feelings for him were more of a master and dog relationship, it was obvious that she was falling on love with him, and wanted him to make him happy. Its beautiful to watch her gradual softening towards Ryuji.
I love how their feelings gradually shifted and how Ryuji found it very easy to accept his feelings for Taiga as a truth. While he pined for years for Minorin and found it hard to express his feelings, he immediately understood what he felt for Taiga was something much deeper, especially when she was gone for a couple of days and he couldn’t reach her to ask about how she was doing. One thing’s for sure. When it came to acting on his feelings, Ryuji was pretty dense and slow but he was sure about Taiga. He knew he wanted to spend his life with her and watching it happen is captivating in its sincerity. Because viewers identify with Ryuji, they understand the depth of his promise of love and they root for him because he deserves no less than be happy.
While there were complications along the way brought about by ill timed romantic feelings developed by Kitamura Kun with Taiga (before she fell for him) and Minori with Ryuji (after he became close with Taiga), plus the added complication of Ami Kawashima’s implied feelings towards Ryuji and her general understanding of everything that was happening around her, it made for a very interesting and accurate depiction of young love. Its funny, infuriating and touching and it makes viewers root for the characters even more. It might get a tad difficult to decide which ship to sail because it seemed that everyone deserved to have their happy ending but the series managed to deliver the right ending.
All in all, ToraDora easily climbed up to the list of my favorite shoujo animes because it was cute, light, interesting and truthful, albeit exagerrated on the violence part (It is an anime, after all). I particularly loved the last two episodes on how they closed the journey of the five main characters on a hopeful note. Personally though, I would have chosen a kiss as a final frame for Ryuji and Taiga after all they’ve been through instead of a classic head butt but if you bring a tiger and a dragon together, you have to expect something uncoventional. Two thumbs up for this series. If I had more thumbs, I would raise them all. How’s that for a recommendation?