Toradora!, Volume 1 Premium Edition – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: NIS America
MSRP: $59.99 US
Running Time: 307 minutes
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Rating: Teen
Release Date: Available Now

A valuable lesson on not judging a book by its cover and recognizing that not all rumors are false.

NIS America is best known for their quality games and they do have an impressive background and lineup of titles so when we first heard that they planned on venturing into anime territory we weren’t really worried. Well, if titles like Toradora! are the quality of series we will be seeing from them, NIS America has a bright and wonderful future ahead of them that involve some very happy anime fans. The Premium Edition of Volume 1 of Toradora! is here and definitely belongs among your collection.

The series’ main protagonist is Ryuji Takasu, a young man who attends Ohashi High School, who just happens to be cursed with his father’s sadistic good-looks that make him look more like a dangerous thug. In reality, Ryuji is the sweetest guy you could ever meet and he would definitely be considered quite a catch seeing as he’s kind, considerate, cooks superbly and keeps his pad clan despite the fact that his sexy mom comes home at late hours working at a host club. Oh, he also happens to be in love with his classmate, Minori Kushieda who is cute, popular and outrageously zany.

While he just can’t bring himself to reveal his true feeling to Minori, fate smiles and curses him as Ryuji literally runs into Taiga Aisaka who is known throughout the school as the “Palm-Top Tiger” because she’s small but ferocious. While all the rumors about Ryuji being a juvenile delinquent are false, all the rumors about Taiga all happen to be true. She does have a short fuse and she does have violent outbursts as Ryuji comes to realize firsthand when the tiny girl knocks him down.

Then an incident in school has Ryuji encountering Taiga in his apartment late at night when the diminutive girl has come to retrieve a love letter she placed in Ryuji’s bag by accident. As it turns out, Taiga is in love with Ryuji’s best friend, Yusako Kitamura, who happens to be Student Council vice president and captain of the boy’s baseball team. So, swearing he would do anything – including becoming her servant – Ryuji teams up with Taiga to help each another be with the one they love. Of course, hanging out with a girl that treats you like her dog isn’t easy but Ryuji is the type of guy who is understanding and accepts the fact that Taiga might not be all bad.

Half the fun of this series is watching the unusual pair become each another’s wingman on their quest to try to win over the objects of their affection. Ryuji loves Minori’s high energy and the fact that she is Taiga’s friend is a plus but it isn’t easy to talk to a girl who seems like she’s running on a high-powered engine. Taiga finds it equally hard to talk to Kitamura because each time they talk she becomes clumsy and unable to carry on a normal conversation with him. It doesn’t take Ryuji too long to find out a most interesting bit of information about something that happened between Taiga and Kitamura a long while back.

While it’s hard to be comfortable with the ones they really love, how is it that Taiga and Ryuji are very comfortable around each another? Since they live near each another the pair are often seen together and their classmates begin to think that the two are dating. The truth is that they both begin to rely on each another with Taiga coming to an understanding that Ryuji is more important to him that anyone else. How can she not appreciate a guy who cooks her delicious meals, sews bosom-enhancing pads to her swimsuit or covers for her in the most crucial moments?

Just when we have these two figured out, though, a new arrival adds more fun to the situation. She is Ami Kawashima, a young model who is Kitamura’s childhood friend. While she comes off as sweet in front of others, her true nature is that of a selfish and mean girl. You better believe that Taiga and Ami become immediate enemies and even more so when she starts showing interest in Ryuji.

The fun rivalry between the two girls is one of the highlights of the later half of the 13-episode first volume and the two girls even compete on campus for Ryuji. What is more interesting, though, is watching Ami change from spoiled brat to a girl who isn’t as perfect as she might seem on the surface. What started as just a mean way of pissing of Taiga by attempting to seduce Ryuji turns into a real crush on the boy.

Another great element in the series is its sense of humor that has a number of laugh-out-loud moments scattered throughout and Minori is just so out there that she practically steals the show … especially in the episode where the group gets lost in a cave. Still, it’s the endearing moments in the series that really work such as Taiga’s reaction to Ryuji’s near drowning at the pool or the touching moment where she listens to Ryuji when he tells her to give her father – who has kicked her out of him home a long time ago – a second chance.

The series does rely on familiar anime elements at times as well but instead of doing what everyone else has done Toradora! tries to do things their own way. The series even makes fun of the usual school festival clichés and tries something interesting like the class putting on a wrestling show in stead of going the usual maid/cosplay café route. Premium Edition includes two bonus episodes about cooking and food, which is funny and animated differently than the main series and there’s a Episode Guide book that’s a nice addition.

The Premium Edition of Volume 1 of Toradora deserves to be among your collection and not just for the goodies includes but because the series is touching, intriguing and loads of fun to watching. There’s something meaningful in a series about people who aren’t what they seem and sometimes even a mean girl has a redeeming quality that reveals her true self. It’s also sincerely funny so giving this one a try is definitely recommended.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A-
Nice guy Ryuji has a major crush on his highly energetic tomboyish classmate Minori but the problem is that he’s known throughout school as a juvenile delinquent because of the way he looks and, on top of that, Taiga, the girl with the shortest fuse ever, makes Ryuji his obedient pet. Both Ryuji and Taiga work together to win the heart of the ones they love but when another girl comes into the picture the relationship between the odd pair changes.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The series looks amazing on DVD with a crisp and colorful picture that looks even better seen on an HD setup. The animation is handled wonderfully throughout the series as well.

AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The original score is nice and upbeat and you have to love the catchy opening and closing theme songs to this series. The voice acting in the series is top notch as well with Junji Majima (Ryuji) and Yui Horie (Minori) being the voice actors that stand out in this series.

EXTRAS: A
The Premium Edition comes in a rather big and colorful box with the two-disc first volume that comes complete with two bonus episodes (Toradora SOS! Hurray for Gourmands) with cute super deformed versions of the main cast of characters. On top of that, though, there’s the hardcover Episode Guide book with interviews, character study and descriptions of each episode.

OVERALL: A-
A genuinely funny and sweet series with a lot of heart, Toradora! might feel like familiar anime fare but there’s just much to love about a series that drives home the feeling that sometimes people can surprise you. This Premium Edition is definitely a nice package well worth buying because, trust me, you will definitely become a fan of this series.

Review copy provided by NIS America

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