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I hadn't seen many Rom-Coms or Tsundere works before Toradora!. Strangely enough, I often had limited investment watching the show, yet it still made me feel both emotional and frustrated. Maybe this casual missed something, but on the other hand, maybe there's value in the first impressions of a casual viewer.
I found Ryuuji & Taiga's dynamic alright. Ryuuji was a solid character, but came off as too much of a Butt-Monkey sometimes. Will everyone give him a break? Taiga sometimes annoyed me, but it was good to learn the why behind her actions. Although I was more irritated than amused by the running gag Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male.
Wait, was I supposed to not point that out, and instead just laugh and say "Haha, classic"?
Minori seemed like a decent character, although her feelings were sometimes hard to parse out. Ami came off as a misguidedly manipulating Smug Snake, which may be a sweeping description, but I wasn't really invested enough to care more.
The biggest red flag I had, though, was Kitamaru. This guy was flat. Really flat. I could hardly discern any traits outside generic nice guy, which is why his outburst over Sumire felt so jarring. And after that, he's essentially irrelevant.
The more the confusion and miscommunication over the characters' feelings piled up, the more I grew impatient and exhausted. It's not so much that the destination was predictable; it's just that I didn't find the journey fun. I guess incessant Will They or Won't They? miscommunication isn't my thing.
The ending where Taiga disappears felt somewhat frustrating, illogical, and pointlessly dramatic. Wouldn't Taiga tell Ryuuji what she was doing directly instead of vanishing without a word? Well, whatever.
If you're into the Tsundere archetype and like Will They or Won't They? drama/miscommunication, maybe you'll enjoy Toradora! more, but for me it was more of a mild rollercoaster between slight investment and frustation.
Alright, so once Toradora got dubbed, I figured I'd check it out. Seeing as it was one of those "tsundere meets everydude" Rom Com animes featuring one of the "Four Tsundere Wonders™", and that I had seen two of those four shows featuring them, finding one mediocre and the other atrocious, I had set my expectations very low.
After watching the first episode, however, I was pleasantly surprised. See, what separates this show from Shakugan no Shana and The Familiar of Zero is that it's actually well-written. Very well-written, in fact. The characters actually have fully-developed personalities instead of just being archetypes. Ryuji, the male lead, despite having the Face of a Thug, is actually a nice guy who likes to clean and cook, and laments nearly everyone at school being afraid of him. Taiga, the female lead, known at school as (The Palm-Top Tiger), would appear to be the usual tsundere character you've come to know and love (or hate) upon her introduction, when she uppercuts Ryuji for accidentally bumping into her (even after he apologized). However, the show then introduces her best friend, Minori Kushieda, who she is really close to, and is remarkably more relaxed when she's with her, so she now appears to be an average short-tempered, bratty teenage girl. Furthermore, as the second episode reveals, it turns out she hates her nickname and the fact that people fear her, just like Ryuji. And this isn't even the full of it; the characters get explored more and more as the series goes on. Character Development is the name of the game here, and Toradora is a star player. This level of depth is something you don't normally see in this type of anime (let alone one featuring Rie Kugimiya in a tsundere role), so it's a great breath of fresh air. I can actually sympathize with these characters; I care about what happens to them, I want them to succeed in their goals, I feel bad for them when they're sad, and so on. These are characters I can get invested in.
Toradora is a very character-driven story, and the rich cast make the show an excellent and very enjoyable watch.
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