Despite getting frustrated by self-imposed handicaps, scheduling, and the fact I just don’t like proof reading my work more than once, I absolutely adore doing this. Not only do I feel accomplished when consuming media, but it helps me understand it a lot more, and what exactly make something good. In addition to working on a large backlog of media, while revisiting old favorites simply due to how I enjoyed them years ago when I first heard of them. And now I am, at least I hope, able to adequately explain why I like them. With ToraDora being one of the later, and I have to say, it holds up pretty darn well.
Studio: J.C. Staff and NIS America
Length: 25 Episodes + 1 OVA
Availability: Sub only DVD release, First 6 episodes for free at CrunchyRoll, with the other 19 for Premium Members only.
The show is about a group of high schoolers going through life and trying to hit their marks, which if you have read some of my previous works, you’ll know that I am not all too fond of the premise. Yes, goals are important, but I am very picky when it comes to getting me to care about characters, which this story, that I believe has been classified as romance or romantic comedy/drama by most, delivers notably more than most I’ve seen in recent memory. In other words, as someone with very little natural empathy, or so I’ve been told, I find the cast of five to be well worth caring about.
We follow Ryuji, a very responsible young man who, in any other situation, you would not be surprised to see rolling with a gang. Yet avoided that life by needing to take care of his single Mother who works at a Hostess Bar. Taiga, the Palmtop Tiger who most likely suffers from a condition that prevents her from growing or aging past a certain point. Seeing as how she’s less than five feet tall and flat as a washboard. While making up for that, along with her very doll-like appearance, by being all sorts of rash and violent, but never exactly grateful. All of which has a very simple and understandable reasoning for it, which most can be differed from the fact she lives in an apartment by herself.
Through means of having blackmail against each other, the duo ended up coming to a compromise where they’d help each other out, seeing as how they have a personality based crush on each other’s friend. While Ryuji takes care of Taiga, who’s presumably been making instant dinners for about a year. Resulting in a relationship that can feel a bit hostile at times, only to, well, the title means something like Tiger and Dragon, with Ryuji meaning “son of dragon”. And Taiga, well, having a nickname where she’s called a tiger. Needless to say, the end up forming a relationship that, without getting into detail, I found to be both genuine and completely adorable.
Acting as Taiga’s love interest, with the reasoning being that he is a kind young man, is Yusaku Kitamura. He is also the Student Council Vice President who regularly places himself down while maintaining the responsible and diligent nature of being involved in… I dunno, planning the Culture Fair? Ami, Kitamura’s friend since childhood, who works as a model and is currently struggling in forming a personality after juggling so many in order to fit in and receive the admiration she craves. Whilst offering up relationship advice to the cast, seeming like she’s done this dance too many times, and provides much appreciated drama at the same time.
Along with Minori, a fiery fun loving redhead who finds ways to make me have a wide variety of emotional actions, all of which I consider to be positive, whenever she’s on screen. Either due to her very emotional portrayal, cheery persona, or how she can delve into being deep at certain inter holes. She exemplifies what I like about this show more than a great deal of stories, the characters are all fun!
I’ve said it before, there is not a single thing wrong with creating a serious story. However, it is far easier, based on what I’ve seen, to make something that is lighthearted and centered around good characters in a set formula that might have a unique twist. Still, here they do manage to juggle around both. Much like my description of Ami, every character does have a bit of a more depressing side, keeping it sealed away, and balancing the two in order to keep up a very nice flow of contrasts. Never feeling too jarring to create an very noticeable tonal shift, or at least never an immersion breaking one.
Despite how I can view the scenes of the show in two ways, the methods and actions the characters use to enter all of them does seem inherently human. They mess up, they get over it, they try agian, and they all get to know each other while going through the whole cycle of living it up before you are done with high school, but never in a way as obvious as, say, Angel Beats. Instead, the show maintains a very steady pace in order to properly characterize everyone, so it made sense to get attached to the main five near the end.
Even the side characters grew on me despite not knowing their names. From the students in the classroom, the struggling homeroom teacher in her mid thirties, and Ryuji’s “lovely” pet parrot, Inko-Chan. I am willing to go on record and say that it is the little things that make up a show, and ToraDora is filled with them. Originally starting out as scratching backs show, it ends up being a very entertaining look at family, friendship, maturity, and just growing up in general. By the end, every character grows in some way, even some of the background fluff characters are touched by the actions of the main five.
I still cannot quite find what key aspect makes this show so enjoyable, other than everything in it is at worse, good. Well, that is not entirely true. Perhaps due to the stream I used being “Illegal” with there being no legal alternative, the translation was kinda iffy at some points, presumably due to language subtleties, or just not ideal wording. Sure, I watched the first few episodes legally, but I get the feeling that the script is just overall a bit confusing for certain aspects of the last few episodes.
Thankfully, I am able to say equally nice things in regards to the animation. Utilizing character designs that are relatively simple, they all seem to pop up when we see them. Perhaps owing to some very good choice in coloring, with everyone having a “stylized interpretation” of hair color, meaning that Jet Black is code for very dark green, and blue hair is just as common. Along with their faces being notable in terms of expression quality.
There are a few times when the style seems to shift into something more expensive looking, while still being sketchy. It is only during about three or four scenes that I can recall, all of which were action scenes, or rather fight scenes, which bring the already very smooth and polished animation to a fever pitch in terms of quality. Yet, if I had to decide what make it different, it would need to be how the show does not look like it ever intended to reuse non-background assets outside of scenes. All while keeping a very natural looking sense of flow between the characters. I do suppose that there are a lot of scenes where the animation is minimal as the characters merely talk, but that is when the audio starts to shine.
I know I keep on saying this, but there is just a very engrossing sense of atmosphere that is reinforced by the soundtrack and vocal performances. Utilizing musical shifts to change the tone that I started to count them at some point, but they all work so well. Even beyond atmosphere, I love the intros and outros as songs, and the Christmas song done by Ami and Taiga in the absolutely excellent. And the entire heartfelt Christmas arc is now something that I made into my own tradition to revisit to some extent since I first watched the show in the winter of 2009. I’m serious about this, that entire arc made me love the holiday as a young adult!
Through a review that in itself is not unlike the clumsy and honest Palmtop Tiger herself, there are not enough nice things I can say about ToraDora. It would be enough if they made a romance story that I actually liked because it was personality before anything else. It would be enough if they just had good characters. And it would be enough if it kept the little bells and whistles, removing the biggest quality aspects. Yet, put all together with such a polished presentation, and I have an infinitely harder time pointing out things wrong with the show, than I do pointing out the good things. Sure, I’d have liked to see the characters living years later, but what is there, is pretty darn close to being as good as it gets.
Oh, and New Score System! It is now out of 7, because of streamlining! I can summarize my thoughts into just Seven, so I’ll do just that!
An exceptional product that suffers from very few issues, to the point where they are barely worth noting for this superb title. Definitely worth both your time and money.
(Oh, and the DVD is $53, at least as of right now, via here. I guess it is kinda THE anime/manga buying place. I dunno, I only own one series, which I’ll get to before Christmas as if anyone was curious.)