After the last set that I reviewed, I was glad to see that next on the list was a title I knew I was going to enjoy. This release of Toradora memorable and special for a couple reasons. First off, this was NIS America’s very first title that they released back in July of 2010 (yes, I’m just now getting to it, so now you know how bad my backlog is!). July of 2010 is also the first time that site founder Arleigh and I attended Anime Expo together (but not the first time we met in person, that would be Anime Boston 2008). It was my third Expo, but I believe it was his first. NISA decided to really go all out and in order to promote this title the brought over two of the stars of the show, Yui Horie (Minori Kushieda) and Eri Kitamura (Ami Kawashima). Getting to meet Yui Horie was a dream come true, so I’ll always remember this particular convention fondly. And of course, they had their booth set up in the dealer’s room where they were selling this set, so when I saw it, the collector in me demanded that I pick it up. These NISA sets are made with the collector in mind. The giant artboxes definitely draw the eye to them, and although they’ll likely need special display space, it’s fully worth it if you are the collector type.
Toradora was a great choice for a newcomer in the market too. From a star studded cast to nice visuals and an engaging story, there was no reason to expect anything but success from this. I’ve seen sites list it as a comedy, and while that’s not wrong, it’s not entirely right either. People that have watched a lot of anime might be familiar with the term “romcom” which is shorthand for romantic comedy. That’s getting closer to the mark, but mixed in with the romance and the comedy is a good helping of drama too, so I dare say the proper term for this show is “draromcom”!
In this first of two sets, we get the first 13 episodes of the show, plus two bonus shorts. This set is largely setting things up with comedy and light drama for the more involved romance and heavier drama to come in later episodes. So, we have our main protagonist, Ryuji, who is always mistaken for a delinquent because of his looks, and our other protagonist, Taiga (played to perfection by the legendary Rie Kugimiya), who looks like an adorable little doll but is actually short tempered and vicious, to the point that her nickname is the Palmtop Tiger, referring to her small stature and vicious nature. Through a series of misunderstandings and other events, they come to find out that Ryuji has a crush on Taiga’s friend Minori, and Taiga has a crush on Ryuji’s friend Yusaku. They decide to team up to help each other confess to their crushes, but while neither of them wants to admit to it, over the course of these 13 episodes it becomes apparent that they are falling for each other. It’s pretty standard fare, but the execution of it is done extrememly well so it doesn’t feel old and tired like it very well could have. Having a character like Ami come along to play an antagonistic role helps get the story moving, and provides a good bit of the comedy in this set. And while this is lighter on the drama than future episodes, the last few start to build it up with Taiga’s deadbeat dad making an appearance.
From a story and character standpoint, I think this show is in the upper tier, but this set does suffer from a few production problems. This was NISA’s very first release as I mentioned before, and they definitely had some growing pains. Once in awhile there are some spots where the video transfer was a little rough, resulting in some jagged images or blurred lines. This seems to be most noticeable when the camera pans across a room where there is a lot going on. I’m not a big technophile, so I don’t go through it frame by frame trying to find any sort of imperfection, but from those that do (seriously, how is that even enjoyable?) it’s said that there are several instances where it seemed like frames were overlapped on each other, hence the blur. For those of us who are just watching on regular HDTVs without big fancy blu ray players beyond a PS3, while you will probably notice a couple janky areas, but nothing that will ruin the enjoyment of the set.
All in all, this is a show that I could easily have written an Anime You Should Be Watching column on, and only didn’t because I’m generally lazy. If you can find this set, and you’re a collector, I say snap it up. NISA has released a standard set, that doesn’t come in the fancy box with the nice hardbound episode guide, and this premium set is sold out at the distribution level, so it may not be possible to find it at a sane price anymore.
Also, I wanted to add, don’t let the fact that I’ve written 2 colums in 3 days fool you. I don’t intend to be nearly as prolific as Lisa Marie is, and it’s completely dependent upon me finishing something from my backlog. I have plenty of material to choose from, but some sets might take me a few days to finish, or I might take a break from watching anything for awhile. But with my beloved New England Patriots out of the playoffs now, and me having very little interest in other sports, I should find myself with a lot more free time so who knows? Maybe I can put a dent in this backlog after all. Current backlog count: 847 discs.