November 26th, 2009

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Tigers and dragons and genki girls, oh my

I've been on a pretty incredibly streak lately when it comes to anime. I've chosen to watch some real gems that have changed how I feel about the entire genre, in a more positive direction. Mai-Hime changed how I felt about magical girl anime and I just finished watching Toradora and it's left what I had previous thought of as an average anime Rom-Com in tatters.



Lets cut to the chase and say right off the bat that I absolutely loved Toradora by the end. I had some hesitation at first because despite looking like a classic nice guy linked up with a tsundere, there were some problems. For one, Taiga (the female protagonist and aforementioned tsundere) was more of a vicious little bitch then I had been expecting from my previous interactions with the trope in a rom-com. Usually, it's pretty apparent from the start that there's more than meets the eye in a positive direction or the humor/slapstick nature of the character's bitchiness takes the sting out of it. There was very little of that to begin with here as Taiga is pretty much an unmitigated nightmare at first and because of the more realistic portrayal of her violence (no happy flying off into the sky and becoming a star for the poor guy), she very rapidly nominated herself for anime character I'd like to see hit by a bus. She is one horrid little troll at the start of the show. In fact, when I read that her character had won this year's SaiMoe vote (A contest to determine which character is the most Moe in all of anime/manga/etc) I was flabbergasted. I was around a third of the way through the anime at that point and I just couldn't understand how she could have won given that the whole idea behind a Moe character is you're supposed to feel endearing and protective feelings towards them, not hope they die in a fire. Suffice to say that given I've already told you how much I loved the anime, my feelings changed.

The real joy of Toradora is that the writing is fantastic and the characters are real and three-dimensional instead of cardboard cutouts. They start as walking tropes: the tsundere, the nice guy, the genki girl, the Libby bitch, the nerdy best friend, etc, but all of them grow and expand in a very realistic manner. The dramatic elements were fantastically done and it was also some of the best dialogue I've ever run into. While you start the show knowing pretty much how it's almost certainly going to end up given the title (Toradora = Tiger/Dragon which corresponds to the names of Taiga and Ryuji), the writers manage to get you there on a dramatic roller coaster. From what I read online, simply mentioning this anime on some forums will immediately spark a flame war since some people apparently got sick on the roller coaster and ended up 'shipping' different characters and were pissed it didn't end up that way. Personally, it all made sense to me and every character's actions seemed to fit their personality.

One of the most impressive characters in the anime was the aforementioned Libby bitch, Ami. She starts out as a completely two-faced and manipulative character but she doesn't get the generic transformation. She doesn't simply get a uni-dimensional character shift ending up with a sweet heart of gold. Instead, she's developed more realistically and she ends up being the character who can see through all the fronts and illusions used by the others to hide what they're really thinking. Fitting considering that her entire life has been a facade to get people to like her. If anyone can recognize that sort of dishonesty, she's certainly the one. You end up guessing at her motivations and ambiguous comments through most of the anime, never sure if she really has people's best interests at heart of if she's simply playing manipulative games. The last few episodes are incredibly powerful as all of this along with the buildup of the drama-bomb resolves itself.

I guess I should also mention one other character that did sort of freak me out a little. The male protagonist, Ryuji and his mother own a 'bird' of some sort. This thing is beyond screwy. It seems to have the bird-equivalent intelligence of a drooling mental retard.



Ryuji has been trying to coax the thing to say it's own name with no success and it twitches and spazzes its way through every scene it's in. The funny thing is that it too plays into the plot when I thought that it was simply a throwaway to meant to amuse and/or repulse. I guess the message when it's finally able to say its name at the end is that we can all find ourselves if we really look.
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Vanilla Salt

As I mentioned before, Japanese songs are pretty hit or miss for me. I got lucky and there was one from Toradora I really liked and I figured I'd link it. It's called Vanilla Salt by Horie Yui, the seiyu who also had the role of Naru from Love Hina and Tohru from Fruits Basket, two of my favorite characters of all time. She also sings Yakusoku, the song I linked to in the other entry. Not only is the melody to Vanilla Salt catchy but I really liked the translated lyrics. It could be the theme song for all tsundere and I can relate to it as a contrarian sort of person. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I weren't so cynical, but then I wouldn't really be me, right? It's like when you ask depressives whether they should go on medication. The pills may help and make you feel better, but are you still really you? If I were an optomistic, cheery person, then I wouldn't really be myself anymore. I'm not suggesting that would be a bad thing especially now, but it's like a form of death if you think about it.

Anyway, here's the video. You can turn on the closed captioning for the lyrics, but I'll paste a version too. It won't match up exactly since they're separate translations but both will give the general gist.



With vanilla salt
With vanilla salt
With vanilla salt
Burning Love

If it’s just sweet
Then let’s put salt on

Because I want you to know more about me
More than anyone else, I want to bare myself
But I can’t do it, I’ve got nothing for experience
It’s too frustrating

The more I try to show my weakness
The more I act tough in vain and everything goes the other way
I’m actually a crybaby
Though I’ve been mum about that

But a love that’s just sweet
Is slightly different from what I’m seeking

If I’m told it’s white
I’d say it’s black
I can’t be honest
I say one thing but do another
If I’m told, “I love you”
I’d say, “I hate you”
I’m happy, but what am I saying?

Like putting salt
Into sweet vanilla…

When I fall head over heels in love
For all the time, 24/7
I think about you continuously
It’s rather extreme

Can it be, that no one ever thought
That I’d be this obsessed with you?
Weather forecasts can’t tell
The whereabouts of love

My memories engraved into the periods of time when we’re together
Are treasures

If I’m told it’s right
I’d turn left
I can’t be honest
I say one thing but do another
If I’m told, “I love you”
I’d say, “I hate you”
I’m happy, but what am I saying?
Burning Love

Rather than the vanilla that’s just sweet
The slightly salted kind
Makes it sweeter
I can’t get tired of it…

It’s the same with the love that’s just sweet
The slightly salted kind
Shrinks the distance between us
And I’m sure
That a future more wonderful than today is waiting

If I’m told it’s white
I’d say it’s black
I can’t be honest
I say one thing but do another
If I’m told, “I love you”
I’d say, “I hate you”
I’m happy, but what am I saying?

If it’s just sweet
Then let’s put salt on

With vanilla salt
With vanilla salt
With vanilla salt
With vanilla salt