Toradora! – It’s a Christmas Special!
Christmas time is here ~
Christmas is the time for cheer ~
Yes, I just rhymed “time” with “time” ~
Please pay it no mind ~
I try my hardest to do what must be done ~
It just so happens that I occasionally look dumb ~
But I do this all in the name of fun ~
So wait, hold on. Please don’t run ~
If you stick around, I’ll show you good spirit ~
We’ll all be so merry, even the Grinch could feel it ~
Don’t worry, I promise I won’t bore ya ~
So why don’t we take a look at Toradora! ~
Yes, I had actually considered trying to write an entire post in the same vein as that. Of course, I would have tried much harder and not ended up with an abomination like the thing above. Luckily for everyone, I figured it would take way too much work and opted against it. So you’ll have to make do with what’s above.
If you bothered to pay any attention to my carol, you may have noticed I mentioned Toradora! I doubt that will come as a surprise to many of you. When you mention Christmas, there’s really only one anime that will come to most people’s minds.
Fans of the series have created a bit of a tradition – one I’ve taken part in for the past three years. The tradition is simple but works surprisingly well. You begin watching Toradora! on December 6th, and you watch one episode every day until it’s done.
Unless your math is off, you should get to the festive episodes right around late December, with the Christmas episode even falling on Christmas day before finally wrapping things up on the 30th. In my opinion, the better way of doing it is to start on the 7th. This way the Christmas Eve party falls on Christmas, and you end the series on New Year’s Eve. What better way to end your year?
Still, none of that matters because I had to watch it quicker to write this. Point is, you should watch Toradora! in December. Even though Toradora really isn’t a Christmas anime. Sure, it’s about love. That’s in the air this time of year, and the last third of the series takes place in winter, but that’s about it.
It’s kind of like Die Hard, in a way. They aren’t necessarily about Christmas, but portions take place in that season, so people watch them then. Yes, I just compared those two, and no, I don’t regret it.
Regardless, this is my 3rd time participating in this tradition, and my 5th time, I believe, watching Toradora! the whole way through. So there’s a bit of a history lesson for you. Unlike some of the things I talk about, it’s very clear my opinion on this. I love Toradora! It means an absolute ton to me. Not only because it’s a story that really knows how to tug on my heartstrings, but a large reason this website is even here could be contributed to it. I’ll discuss that, and, of course, Toradora! as a whole today.
Don’t worry, I’ll still be fair. I won’t just be singing its praises, I promise. Not too much, anyway.
Toradora! (don’t forget the exclamation point. That also means I need to yell it every time!) is a romantic comedy anime-adaption of the light novel by the same name written by Yuyuko Takemiya (also known for writing Golden Time) in 2006. Toradora!, in basically all its iterations, did extremely well. So well that in 2009, only 3 years after its release, the light novel had sold over 3 million copies in Japan.
Just like the work it spawned from, the Toradora! anime did exceptionally well, and over the past (I can’t believe what I’m about to say) 12 years, that following it obtained has not diminished. The opposite has happened even. I wouldn’t say Toradora! is well-known enough to be common knowledge among non-anime watchers, but it’s certainly closer than most. In terms of notoriety, I’d put it two notches under series like Dragonball and Naruto, with stuff like Death Note and Code Geass in between.
What led it to such popularity? It’s a combination of a lot of things. We’ll be discussing some of them today, but a lot of the credit, I’m sure you’d agree, is owed to its director Tatsuyuki Nagai, who is most well-known for directing the beautifully tragic tearjerker that is Anohana.
Producing the anime is J.C.Staff, a studio that honestly has quite the impressive repertoire to which there are too many notable ones for me to name here. But if I had to try, Shakugan no Shana, The Familiar of Zero, Little Busters, Food Wars, A Certain Magical Index, The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, season 2 of One Punch Man, and they also did Golden Time’s adaption. That covers most, I suppose.
It sounds like you have a recipe for success here, but that doesn’t always mean anything. I’ve messed up when making recipes plenty of times. The question is whether Toradora!’s staff pays more attention than I do.
Just A Normal Day
Ryuji Takasu is a second-year student in high school and a complete, utter delinquent that terrorizes everyone in sight – or so people think. Ryuji is actually the opposite, a very caring and kind person who happened to get the scary eyes of his father. Eyes that not only cause people to run from him but also give him all their valuable possessions for no reason. Despite his eyes, Ryuji wants to live a normal life full of happiness and love. Working on both of those things, he has a crush on Minori Kushieda, an energetic girl in his class. He looks at her like a ray of sunshine and optimism that could rub off on him.
But because of his nerves, he never gets anywhere. To make matters even worse for the poor soul, Minori happens to be best friends with Taiga Aisaka – a girl notorious around the school garnered with the nickname “The Palmtop Tiger” for her short appearance and even shorter temper. If Ryuji ever wants a shot he’ll have to get past the tiger. Already getting thoroughly beaten by her once was enough for today, so Ryuji goes home.
Later that night, he discovers a pink envelope in his bag that seems to be a love letter. Ryuji holds it up to the light and notices that there’s no letter at all. Just an envelope. It was from Taiga, of all people, and meant for his best friend Yusaku Kitamura. “What a klutz,” Ryuji thinks as he goes to sleep.
Shortly afterward, noises can be heard from the house. Was it a ghost? Was there a thief? Was somebody trying to make Ryuji’s poor household even poorer? What monster would do such a thing? Turns out The Palmtop Tiger herself, Taiga, would as she breaks in with a wooden katana. Fortunately, she isn’t there to steal Ryuji’s possessions, but instead to kill him.
She does this in a fit of embarrassment-fueled rage that’s a danger to everyone in sight. After realizing she had forgotten to put the actual love letter in the envelope, Taiga spares Ryuji’s life for another day just as she’s about to behead him. The two eat a meal together because that’s what you do with an intruder who attempts to kill you gruesomely.
Taiga is noticeably upset at the whole ordeal, and to make her feel better, Ryuji shows something even more embarrassing. Ryuji’s box for his crush. Filled with love songs for her. Filled with mixtapes they’d listen to on the road in his fantasies. All sorts of creepy stuff that would make somebody get a restraining order.
Taiga discovers her friend, Minori, is the girl Ryuji likes and is repulsed. Ryuji, fed up with his intruder, tells Taiga to leave the house, but she only accepts bribes. He agrees to help her get closer to Kitamura if she would just leave his house. She agrees, and eventually, Taiga helps Ryuji get closer to Minori in return. And so the love square about two people trying to set each other up with their best friends begins.
A Simple Tale
Toradora! is a rom-com and, as expected, a love story. That is both its biggest boon and bane. Toradora!, right from the getgo, knows the kind of a tale it wants to tell. It has a plan. A plan that it follows and is a plan it never deviates from. Toradora! tells a love story from start to finish. Beginning to end. With little to no fluff anywhere in between. It tells it for every single second of its 25 episode runtime.
What this means is it likely won’t turn you. If you don’t like these kinds of young love stories, chances are you won’t like Toradora! It knows exactly the type of story it wants to tell. If you aren’t a fan of the kind of story, you likely won’t like it. But as I said, that is its biggest boon.
Toradora! knows it wants to be a love story – so that’s all it has to do. It doesn’t have to compensate by trying to be something it’s not. It can focus everything on being a love story, and that’s exactly what it does. For 25 episodes, that may sound like a lot. How can you keep this kind of story interesting for that long? Well, there are quite a few reasons it can. One of them is that the pacing in Toradora! is fantastic.
I was baffled as I watched it this year just how quickly things happen. End of episode one you get the gist of the story, and it takes off from there. The length of Toradora! somehow manages to feel like an eternity by the end, yet no time at all. You feel like you’ve just witnessed something grandiose, yet you feel like you were just getting started.
But, of course, the pacing doesn’t matter unless the story it tells is a good one. Truth is, you’ve heard the type of story Toradora! tells before. You’ve heard it a hundred times, I’m sure. It’s been repeated for centuries. Boy meets girl, some conflict happens, they fall in love, the end. That’s exactly what Toradora! is. It tells a very traditional story of young love.
However, it is anything but traditional.
The story it tells may be just that, but the way it tells such a story is where it comes into its own. Love stories are fairly straight forward. There’s, as I said, conflict – something threatening to break the couple apart – but they work it out, and fall in love at the end. Nobody gets hurt. Everyone smiles, everyone’s happy. You feel warm inside. You feel fulfilled. You feel thankful you just witnessed such a joyous thing. But the truth is, this often isn’t how falling in love goes. Love isn’t always a beautiful thing. It can be ugly. It can make you feel ugly. Rather than lifting you up, it can crush you – it can crush others. This is the ugly truth that Toradora! tells.
It isn’t about cute, innocent kids falling in love with each other, it’s about kids who have no idea what they want, acting like they know everything about everyone when in reality they don’t even know about themselves. They spend their time aimlessly chasing what they believe love to be, all the while denying what’s right in front of them. They lie to everyone, even themselves. And as would be expected with emotional teenagers, this leads to the characters hurting the ones closest to them.
Nobody can make up their minds. They think one thing but say another. They act one way but feel another. They pretend to know everything about everyone. They act like they know what will make someone happy more than the people themselves do. But they can’t even make up their mind about their own lives. They flip back and forth, back and forth, over and over again, repeating the same things. “I feel this way.” “Wait, no, I feel this way.” “Why am I feeling like this?” “What do I want?”
But this isn’t a game they’re playing. Hearts are on the line here, hearts that can – and will – be broken. In the genre, this is an often-overlooked truth of love. Toradora! doesn’t pull its punches, and isn’t afraid to give time to the negative parts of love and the pain and sadness it can bring along with it. You’ll have lots of moments that make you truly realize the weight of what these characters are doing. It’s a bunch of kids trying to find love and unintentionally hurting other people along the way. They all want happiness, but that happiness conflicts with each other’s happiness. Not everyone can be happy. Someone will get hurt. It isn’t a matter of if, it’s a matter of when and how badly.
Fun for Christmas time, isn’t it?
Well, don’t worry, Toradora! isn’t all ho hos and oh nos. While everything I just said is the story of Toradora! At its heart, it is very, very sweet. It has that trope of love stories. The only difference is instead of many rom-coms that will put a smile on your face, Toradora! will just put you through the emotional ringer at the same time. You’ll have just a many “awwwwww” moments as you will “how could you!” moments. And you’ll likely need a box of tissues a few times between. This many times through it, and I still get hit hard. Either way, that smile will still be on your face, in a way at least. It may just have a few more emotions attached to it than normal.
Which is Real?
Toradora! has a much more realistic, albeit pessimistic, look on love. The characters in the series were made to reflect that. They are flawed. They are fake. They were masks. They hurt people, be it intentional or not. They are selfish at times. They are irrational. They think they know what’s best for each other. They are indecisive. They can’t figure out what they want for themselves in life. They are all of these things and more.
That isn’t because they are poorly written, or unlikeable even. In fact, it’s the opposite. Again, Toradora! is about a group of teenagers that try and find love. Love is messy. Being a teenager is messy. Put these things together, and you get an even bigger mess. All of the characters are trying their hardest to be the best they can be, but sometimes they trip up. Maybe that hurts someone. Maybe their indecisiveness causes problems for others. Maybe their meddling in on their friend’s lives hurt each other rather than helping.
Sometimes in trying to figure out who you are in life, you may try different things – wear a mask, be different than normal. Maybe you learn that that mask is the only way you can survive. It’s a very difficult time in anybody’s life and the characters in Toradora! reflect that perfectly.
None of the characters are bad people, by any means. They may be selfish, and they may hurt people, but that’s not their intention. They’re trying to find the best way to make everyone – including themselves – happy, and in doing that, they start to learn that it’s an impossible task. No decision makes everyone happy. As painful as it may be, what makes you happy may hurt people you care about. It’s hard. The characters make mistakes because it’s hard.
Toradora!’s characters just want happiness, but along the way, they learn that that happiness comes at a price. Do you claim your own happiness at the cost of someone else’s, or do you sacrifice it for theirs? These are the thoughts that plague the characters and is a big reason they act the way they do.
Another big theme of Toradora! is misconceptions – having a preconceived notion you believe in so strongly that you refuse to look at anything else. Do you ever daydream and get your head wrapped up in an idea? I think we’re all guilty of getting lost in our heads at times. There isn’t inherently anything wrong with dreaming about something or imagining an ideal situation. You can do that just fine.
The problem lies with not realizing what’s around you because you’ve blinded yourself by your “Ideal” vision of your life. You can want happiness and want love, but if you get so wrapped up in your head about what those things are and how they’re achieved, you might not even realize when those things are staring back at you. They may not look the way you imagined, but they’re still there all the same.
Taiga and Ryuji as our main characters are lost in their misconceptions. They’ve blinded themselves by their own “ideal” love, and only when they can see past that do they become happy. Ultimately, they both want love. They want to love and be loved, but they want to love themselves most of all.
They don’t love their flaws, so they choose a partner that is their “ideal.” One that will rub off on them and maybe even get rid of their flaws. They believe they can’t love themselves with their flaws, so they try to erase them when they should be finding someone who will accept their flaws and help them grow past them instead.
Unless they stop blinding themselves and get rid of their “ideal,” they’ll never realize that their happiness has been staring them in the face the whole time. Every other character realizes this, some of them attempt to help them see. Some may try to mess things up for their own selfish wants, but everyone can see, the characters can see, even the audience can. Everyone except the two who have blinded themselves.
Worth a Thousand Words
There are lots of ways to tell a story, and art is certainly one of those ways. No matter how your story or characters are, we see everything through the art. Up to now, we’ve seen how Toradora! shoots for realism in their story and characters, even if that realism ends up being ugly as a result. The question is whether or not Toradora! can do the same thing with its art. Surprisingly, it does.
Anime, TV shows, fiction in general, is often filled with very dramatic moments. Moments that may not play out the same way in real life. A character may shout another’s name out to the heavens, they may proclaim their feelings in front of hundreds of people. Things that look good, and get you excited, but are likely more dramatic than what you’d find in the real world when real people interact with one another.
Toradora! has its moments like this, but it also knows how to convey things without any words at all. In ways that are far more realistic. In fact, if you had me point to my favorites moments in Toradora!, a good portion of them would be scenes where little to no words are spoken at all. Scenes where words aren’t necessary. Scenes where you can look at a character’s face that is capable of telling more than any words could.
It’s a very difficult and impressive thing to be able to create characters that feel real, but it’s even more meaningful when you create ones that look real. And I don’t mean they resemble real people, I mean you can look at their eyes, mouth, body language and see subtle changes that tell you what they’re thinking. When you can create characters that you don’t hear how they are, you can see how they are. Even when their words don’t always match that.
To give a very vague example, there’s a part near the end where emotions are running high, and one character grabs another’s hand. They struggle to wiggle their hand out – they want to run from their problems – but can’t and eventually accepts it and holds tighter. Such a powerful scene with few words spoken. It only lasts for a few seconds but is beautiful.
Another of my favorite scenes is when Ryuji is up late at night making something for Taiga. He tells her it’s fine for her to sleep, he can do it himself, but she refuses and just plays a game on the TV next to him. Ryuji doesn’t respond, just smiles, and not a single word is spoken for the rest of the scene. Just dead, total silence. Because there’s no need. They both understand each other. There’s no need for words at this point.
Or more subtle parts where two characters will just stare at each other for a little too long, or just shoot a quick glance. Or you can see a character thinking of something snarky to say before they put their mask back on and finally let it out. It’s done in such a way you feel as if you can read their minds.
“A Pictures worth a thousand words.”
This adage is something Toradora! took to heart, and it’s clear every episode you lay your eyes on.
However, that is all more the way the art conveys the story, not how the art actually looks. As I said earlier, and can hardly believe, Toradora! is 12 years old. I wouldn’t say that is noticeable in the actual art.
While Toradora! has its problems, it has a bit of the zoomed out syndrome (where characters are drawn far away so it’s not noticeable, but zooming in shows they look horribly drawn) now and then; certain times characters will do an animation that lasts a little too long, though it doesn’t happen much; there may also be times where things just aren’t drawn in as good of detail as it should be and is obvious if you pay enough attention
Still, these problems are few and far between. For something more subjective, I think Toradora!’s art is a little too dark for me. A little too dim looking. As in the colors are more washed out than I generally like.
To get an idea of my opinions, the anime I always point to when I think of the kind of style I adore is Love Chunibyou and Other Delusions. That’s a fairly different looking series. That’s not to say Toradora looks depressing or anything, but I like stuff with very over-saturated colors that punch you in the face. Toradora! doesn’t really look like that, and depending on who you ask, that could be thanks to its age. A lot of older series tend to have that look.
Despite those issues, Toradora! is a beautiful looking anime that can easily put up with nearly any middle of the row to higher-end anime produced today, and in terms of how it conveys the story, wipes most series ever produced out of the water.
Feel Your Emotions All Over Again
You can do everything else right, but how well you can covey certain themes – generally sad ones – ultimately comes down to the music in one way or another. It has a strange effect on us. It can make us cry, laugh, get angry. It can make us relieve anything and everything we felt when we first heard the tune. Toradora! is in no way short on good tracks. The entire soundtrack is worth listening to at least once. It’s the perfect combination of upbeat and happy, mixed with anxious and sad. It’s a soundtrack that summarizes the series quite well.
I usually don’t mention openings, but in Toradora!’s case, I’ll make an exception. The first opening song is very upbeat, crazy, and fast-paced. It reflects what Toradora! is very well. The opening depicts all of the characters just hanging out and having fun very lightheartedly. It fits the show, namely the first 16 episodes, prior to when everything hits the fan.
Then you move on to the second opening that plays for the last third of the show. The characters are all depicted as more distant from each other. The lightheartedness is almost completely thrown out the window in both the song and animation. More stress is visible. Things are reaching a boiling point.
Only to have the last part of the opening be all of the characters, one by one, gathering together laughing and smiling at the camera. It’s very reflective of what Toradora! is – a group of friends that, though they hurt each other, are inseparable. No matter what happens, or how distant they become, they return to each other because that’s what you do when you care about someone.
These openings manage to set the mood for the coming episode perfectly. In one episode (those who have seen it will know the one) the opening doesn’t even play until around 10 minutes into it. That’s how you know things are serious.
Of course, I couldn’t mention Toradora!’s OST without bringing up this one song. A song that seems to have transcended the word. That song is Lost My Pieces. This is, hands down, and I genuinely mean this, one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard in my life.
It’s beautiful, it’s sad, it’s gentle, it’s powerful, it has so many feelings flowing through it. Not only the feelings of the characters in the scenes when this track plays but also the feelings of everyone who has ever watched Toradora!
You ask anyone who has watched the series, and I’d be willing to bet at least half of them could tell you this song’s name off of the top of their head. Most could probably tell you their favorite scene where it plays. I know I could. It’s one of the only pieces of music that I can loop for literal hours and never get sick of.
It’s a song that every time I listen to it, I get happy, sad, anxious, nostalgic, excited. It makes me want to get up and run, to grab life by its throat before it’s too late, but at the same time, it makes me want to lie down and cry. This song turns me into the characters from Toradora! It deeply confuses me. I have absolutely no idea how I’m supposed to feel when I hear it. But it doesn’t really matter because I know I’ll never stop listening regardless.
Yes, that is the question on everybody’s mind, isn’t it? This has been a debate for years now. Ever since the series ended people have been clamoring for more. Rumors have been spread throughout the years that a second season will happen, but guess what, it never did.
Firstly, will it get a season 2? I highly, highly doubt it. It’s been 12 years, and the anime’s ending was the light novel’s ending. Meaning there’s nothing left to adapt. It seems like there is more or less no chance whatsoever. The only real possibility would be if Yuyuko Takemiya decided to write a continuation, which isn’t likely after all this time.
One of the main things believers cling to is that the manga is still ongoing, so there’s a chance, however slight, that it just may have a different ending or continue, leaving more to adapt into anime form later. I doubt it, I hate to tell you. Either way, the manga will reach the light novel and anime ending in the near-ish future. Manga takes forever to produce and is one of the most passion-fueled industries out there.
Now would I like a season 2? No, I really wouldn’t. To be frank, I think a continuation would ruin its legacy. I think Toradora! is fantastic from beginning to end, and any continuation would spoil that. One of the reasons I watch Toradora! every year, besides the fact that I like it, is because of how good it’s ending is. It’s not perfect, nothing is, but it’s close. I would hate to ruin that, and I highly doubt a season 2 could have the same quality that the whole series has. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, ya know?
The only idea I’ve seen that I wouldn’t completely mind is if a movie was made that tells a bit of what may have happened after the series. A bit of a farewell movie. I’d be ok with that if it did happen, but I’d still prefer nobody touch the series again.
Though Toradora! on paper doesn’t seem like anything unique, it’s characters, art direction, music, and plot tell one of the most beautiful, ugly, realistic love stories I’ve ever seen portrayed, not only in anime but in any medium.
I’ve seen a video on YouTube claiming that Toradora! is currently the best rom-com ever made. I’ll tell you right now, I’m not qualified to judge that. I’ve not seen every single one out there, or anywhere near enough to tell you if it is. But I can say that it is surely up there, and is definitely one of, if not, the best I, personally, have ever seen. I say this after 5 times watching it over 6 years. If there were any major flaws in this masterpiece, I would have noticed them by now.
As always, this was just my opinion and it isn’t any more or less valid than yours.
If you have a problem with that, Santa Clause isn’t going to visit you tomorrow. I know, Santa’s a very unforgiving man. Not even I could convince him otherwise. The fat man’s jolliness is only matched by his stubbornness.
I highly recommend you don’t listen to this cynical caroller and watch the anime yourself, and form your own opinions. Even if you didn’t take my advice in the last paragraph, Santa forgives those who form many opinions. I know, the man’s ridiculous. I’ve tried telling him to be more rational, but he refuses to talk. I think all the cookies are going straight to his head.
Thank you very much for reading
What other series do you watch around this time of year? Toradora! is the big one, but I’m sure there’s plenty of other series out there I don’t know about. I’d love to hear some of them.
Everything past this point is just for those who care to read it. The review portion is done, you may leave now if you so wish.
It’s not untrue to say you may not be reading this if not for Toradora! Yes, haha, because I’m writing about the series, so of course you wouldn’t. Very clever. When I first started writing, I wrote about anime stuff. It was where I got my start writing something that wasn’t a story.
After time passed, and I didn’t write about it for a while, I looked back on those reviews I wrote, and, to be honest, I thought they sucked. They were horrible. Really, really bad. And that kind of scared me a bit. I lacked any confidence to write about anime, so I just stayed away from it and didn’t try.
But then Christmas was rolling around, and I was on the second year of my tradition. I decided I wanted to redeem myself. So I set about writing a review for Toradora! And I liked it. Guess what though, this one is still way better than that one was, a sign that I’m still improving. Regardless, I like to talk about anime here and without Toradora! that wouldn’t happen. I never would have tried again.
Ok, I’ve talked enough, but I’ll leave you with one more piece of information. It’s a bit a thank you for not only reading my little story above but for reading the whole thing. I want to tell you the origin of Toradora!’s name. Believe it or not, the name isn’t just fun to say.
The Tiger and the Dragon
It has meaning, and not meaning that’s hard to understand outside of the culture. It’s a simple, multilayered name that I found really clever. It just requires a bit of explanation to understand.
So the tiger and the dragon are two big symbols in Chinese lore. They’re two incredibly different powers, yet similar all the same. They usually represent a balance of power, like Yin and Yang. I mention this because in Toradora! this tiger and dragon theme is explored.
Taiga Aisaka is the tiger, and Ryuji Takasu is the dragon. They even make mention of how they’re connected by fate, like in Chinese lore. How they can stand side by side because they’re the tiger and the dragon – the only two powers equal to each other.
They’re even given nicknames relating to this such as Taiga being “The Palmtop Tiger.” They’re two wildly different but similar powers, like the tiger and the dragon. Now, how does this Chinese lore fit into the name?
Well, “Taiga” is the Japanese pronunciation for the English word “Tiger.” Another word in Japanese that means “Tiger” is “Tora.” That’s the first half. Ryuji is the second half. “Ryu” is a word in Japanese that means “Dragon.” If you take the Japanese pronunciation for the English word “Dragon,” similarly to Taiga, you get “Doragon.” Knock off the last syllable, and you get “Dora.” Slap them together with an exclamation point to add some excitement, and you’re left with Toradora!
Toradora! means multiple things. It means the tiger and the dragon, and by association, Yin and Yang. It also means Taiga and Ryuji, our main characters. The name means two sides that can’t exist without each other. Light and dark, fire and water. Two sides of the same coin. A balance of powers. It represents two wildly different but similar people who are connected by fate itself.