I never thought much of anime before I got into it, probably because cartoons are seen as much more childish in western culture. My view changed when I started. I believe my first anime was Death Note, but I viewed that as an exception to the rule. It was when I saw Baccano that I really started to think that there was more to anime than I had thought.
And when I got into anime, I never thought much of the slice of life genre. I had expected it to be full of cliches and cultural aspects that wouldn't apply to me, and to a rather large extent it was. It was after my viewing of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya that I saw the benefit to slice of life anime. True, not action packed or exciting as other genres, it's strength lies elsewhere. It doesn't have to focus on driving the plot forward because the plot isn't the main focus. The characters are, and so the genre lets us see development and interaction in characters. Now, any genre can do this. It works in slice of life because the way the show unfolds the audience begins to feel attached to characters on an emotional level (that is if it is done right). Many slice of life anime both makes me feel happy and sad as the show progresses. The reason I bring this up is because the anime I discuss today, Toradora, has done this better than any slice of life prior. Perhaps better than any other anime.
Our setting, as usual with slice of life in anime, is a high school. Our characters, as you would expect, are high school students. Our story begins on the first day of school.
Our tone is now set. The progression is fairly standard and perhaps obvious. If I'm not yet clear I'm talking about romance. Some students begin to show interest in members of their class. I say interest, for some it seems more like obsession. This is how our two main characters meet.
Ryūji Takasu and Taiga Aisaka have both found themselves 'in love' (excuse my skepticism, that's just the way I am) with other students, and it so happens Ryūji fancies Taiga's best friend and Taiga fancies Ryūji's best friend. Due to a poor accident on Taiga's part their feelings are revealed to each other, and so they agree that they will work together to make their respected pairings work.
The series isn't in an episodic format, so what happens does carry over to later episodes. I'm personally a big fan of this, the return to the status quo after every episode doesn't make a good experience for me. As you can tell, it's a slice of life and romance anime. It's also got it's comedic moments, quite a few of them. Not all of them will hit the mark however, keep that in mind.
There are five characters I want to go over, though you should know that Ryūji and Taiga are the main characters and without question get the most focus
Nearly all the show takes place from his perspective. As MCs go, Ryūji is a pretty good one. Most of the time they're bland, the idea being that the audience is meant to think of themself as the main character. That's just lazy and boring in my opinion. That all being said Ryūji is pretty much a normal person with a few quirks. For one, he looks like a thug. A reputation immediately arises just from his look at school, much to his derision. Another is his obsession with cleaning, and enjoyment of cooking. He also has his dumb moments (what anime character doesn't though?) and occasionall goes over the top (again, it's anime). He also has his moments where he's determination comes through in major ways, making him a very enjoyable character.
For those of you in the know of anime character types, Tagia is often described by fans of the show as a tsundere. For those who know nothing of the term, is means a character that is initially hostile and unfriendly before opening up and showing another side as the show progresses. Taiga is an incredibly violent and demanding person. She also has a reputation immediately at school, but unlike Ryūji she frequently backs it up. I wouldn't describe her as annoying, although it's understandable when people do. To me she's more of a no-nonsense kind of person. She's passionate, and maybe a little more insecure than she often lets on. As you could imagine this personality often causes a few problems for the other characters.
Ryūji's love interest and Taiga's best friend. She's a very energetic character, to say the least. A love of softball, working several jobs just because she can and managing to keep up with Taiga of all people. She pretty much acts as the oddball of the show.
Taiga's love interest and Ryūji's best friend. He's a bit of a nerd, if not a nerd that everybody seems to love and doesn't seem the least bit out of place half the time. It's the other half where you nod and remember 'Oh, this guy has absolutely no clue. Right.' There's really not much to say about him, because to me he was the one with the least amount of focus. He got one episode to really flesh him out a bit more, and that's it. Still, he definitely had his moments.
A later addition to the show, Ami is a little more mysterious than everyone else and somewhat more complex. A model who moves to their school, Ami seems to be the perfect girl. Until you realise that's only an act, and in reality she's more cold hearted and a bit spoiled. She acts as one of the more mature characters, and is unfortunately is put to the side for long stretches of the show, due to bother her own attitude and other characters getting annoyed at her.
Honestly, there's nothing major to say here. The animation is consistently good, but not spectacular. There are moments where I can tell there's a bit more effort put in, though this can range from a fight to a character eating. I do like the character designs a lot, that's an added bonus.
SUB VS. DUB
I, personally, am I fan of dubs. I decided to watch the dub for this show and enjoyed it a lot, it's really quite good. The first time I watched it I wasn't quite sure if I liked it. Ryūji's voice especially didn't seem to fit the character look, until I realised the whole character didn't really fit the look and it was probably intentional as Ryūji only looks intimidating and doesn't act like it. If I had one complaint it's that on occasion there's a background character or two that says something, and it just sounds like they're using a lower quality mic. This draws me out of the show for a couple of seconds. Honestly, that's nitpicking. It's good.
I've also heard it's a good sub, especially the voice of Taiga. So if you like subs, there's your go.
Before I started the show I watched a review. They commented that the soundtrack (bar one song) was bland. I would disagree. It's bar three or four songs that aren't bland.
That may sound bad, only three or four songs were any good. But these songs were so good, so beautiful... Any fan of the show that hears one in particular will have a hard time not getting emotional.
They use the soundtrack well. They play particular songs at particular types of moments, so when one song plays you know it's a nice fun moment. This eventually ends up in the song that was played at the more sad moments being associated with sadness in general. All in all, I loved the soundtrack.
-Comedic moments that work
-Some emotional moments
-Some characters feel like they didn't get enough screentime
-May be annoyed by some characters
-Comedic moments that don't work
-Some moments may make you cringe a little
I included one thing in the pros I hadn't discussed previously. The show's ending was good, really good. Not perfect, but it was unexpected and sweet. One of the favourite endings for an aime. Also, make sure to watched after the credits on this one.
I'm really not sure of what else to say. I understand it's a hard show to sell you on, so if you're not interested by the end of this it may just be because I tried to draw people in without revealing all of the show. It's a nice show, lighthearted most of the time and most definitely worth watching if you have the time.