Toradora!

Ryuuji Takasu is a student who inherited the face of a thug from his gangster father. As a result, the student body is in fear of him, despite the fact that he’s a gentle, likeable, and domestic sort of guy. Taiga Aisaka is a tiny girl, nicknamed the “Palmtop Tiger”, with a ferocious temper that hides deep insecurities.

Toradora!

Ryuuji is in love with Taiga’s best friend, Minori, and Taiga is likewise secretly interested in Ryuuji’s friend Yuusaku. Through a series of accidents, Ryuuji and Taiga learn about each other’s crush, and make an agreement to help each other’s love life.

Over the course of the series, the characters grow to know each other, to get inside each others’ heads, and re-examine their own feelings. The series is a pretty good deconstruction of typical anime character types, from the “cute tsundere girl” (Taiga) to the “alpha bitch” (Yuusaku’s friend Ami), allowing real issues to inform their behaviors and calling those behaviors out when they are harmful.

What works

The strongest part of the series is watching a slow-burning romance taking shape from a friendship. The casual way that Taiga and Ryuuji interact with each other, such as her placing her feet on his back while he sits, are small touches that collectively show a comfortable familiarity. Even before the romantic angle becomes evident to the characters, it’s clear that they are happy with each other in some capacity.

Taiga is one of the “Four Tsundere Wonders” voiced by Rie Kugimiya, but is probably the most developed (in terms of character, ahem). As a girl that’s had her heart broken by everyone around her, not to mention her insecurities about her body, it’s easy to understand why she would lash out at people. When she crosses the line, it’s clear that there are consequences for doing so.

None of the characters stay static. Their experiences through the series change them, usually for the better, and in ways that make sense. Love confessions are made, and generally go awry without totally destroying the momentum of the series.

What doesn’t work

There are moments in the series, such as one character’s father and his actions, where you feel that things could have been resolved more smoothly or less painfully for the characters if they’d showed a bit more common sense. Thankfully, the series takes the time to give them a motive for not asking sensible questions, but it still feels like an afterthought rather than a logical development.

Conclusion

Toradora! is light romantic comedy, but it has a deft hand and a gentle touch. The characters are likeable, engaging, and have surprisingly plausible psychologies for the genre.

If you enjoy deconstructions that aren’t hostile to the characters themselves, and have a tolerance for tsundere shenanigans, the show is well worth your time.