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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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In the darkness the trees are full of starlight
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