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[R1 DVD box art]
AKA: Tiger x Dragon, とらドラ! (Japanese)
Genre: Romantic comedy
Length: Television series, 25 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Licensed by Nippon Ichi Software America. (Yes, the same people who publish the Disgaea series. No joke.)
Content Rating: 15+ (Light violence, fanservice, mature situations.)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: The Familiar of Zero (tentative), Kannagi, Clannad.
Notes: Based on a light novel by Yuyuko Takemiya, published by ASCII Media Works. There's also a manga by Zekky
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars
 

ToraDora

Synopsis

Takasu Ryuuji is a young man who, due to the unfortunate fact that he inherited his father's threatening eyes, is feared among not only his fellow students, but just about anyone he bumps into. The only two people in school who don't shy away just at the sight of him is his two friends, Kitamura Yusaku and Kushieda Minori.

That all changes the day he bumps into Aisaka Taiga in the hallways. Due to a mixup around the rumors centered around their meeting and the fact that Taiga later misplaced a loveletter in Ryuuji's bag brought the two together with a common purpose; to help each other out for the sake of love.


Review

I don't know. I just don't know.

One of the things I usually try to keep in mind when reviewing shows is how I think people will react to it, even when I review something as outright horrible as Akikan.. or worse; the show that was panned by even diehard otaku; Crescent Love. On another note, I've been pretty successful in noting when a show will either be loved or hated, which tends to center around edgier and/or more artsy material. I know; it's a broad generalisation, since most shows tend to have its fans.

And then there's ToraDora, which, as far as I can tell, must be the first show I've both loved AND hated. Ok, so "loved" and "hated" might be too strong words for this case, but it's certainly put me on the fence on the whole like/dislike issue. For what it's worth, ToraDora is certainly not written by complete idiots without as much as a clue about the whole cause-reaction concept, unlike the two aforementioned shows.

When I read the synopsis, I thought I had another synchro winner on my hands. Certainly, the first couple of episodes did nothing to dispel this notion. On the other hand, this show did have its fair share of quirks, and in the end, I ended up pretty much digesting the entire thing, for good and bad. And most of those quirks are centered around the characters.

You could probably be forgiven for finding Ryuuji to be somewhat of a milquetoast when you start off this show. As noted in the synopsis, his eyes scare the crap out of people, much to his frustration, seeing as he's actually a kind, young lad. He's also a bit of an obsessive-compulsive when it comes to housework, which lends itself to some amusing situations every now and then, especially in light of the average male anime leads' notorious inability to look after themselves.

I've got a bit of a chip on my shoulder when it comes to Taiga, though. While it's refreshing in itself that she basically speaks her mind without reserve, her attitude in general leaves something to be desired. Regardless of what I may feel about her, she's anything but generic, I'll give her that. In fact, I find her character for the most part to be ingeniously calculated, as if she's the final product of years of tsundere research and studies on the prepubescent female form, and eventually the genetical marriage of the two. Shana and Louise? Mere prototypes of the character type, probably researched for this event. I can almost imagine the sheer mass of fandom she must already have due to this. Oh, I'm also sure Ami did her part, if the Megami Magazine posters I've seen is any indication, but this show is mostly about Taiga and Ryuuji.

Qualitywise, this show runs a pretty steep upwards slope. Quite frankly, the beginning is horrid. The few gags with Ryuuji's eyes are the best parts, but they're merely the cue to his character, and a mere few episodes into the show, you are likely to forget that people were ever afraid of the guy. Taiga's character is less endearing, cuteness notwithstanding, but even she slowly grew on me. Her first little hissyfit did little to help her, though. In it, she's basically taking out her frustrations on a random streetlight, yelling to the stars how the people in her school just doesn't understand her. Given how she acts, I find that completely unsurprising. Granted, I would question the intelligence of the students in that school any day, but regardless; if you treat everyone coldly except for your one friend, you generally don't get to complain that people don't understand you. How could they, when you won't let them?

From there, the show pretty much runs the gamut of your average highschool drama. Ryuuji actually does get closer to some of his students, and we get to meet more of the cast. It's a bit of a rollercoaster still as far as quality goes, but the worst points generally stem for Taiga's continuous behavior, particularly towards Ryuuji. The second problem I encountered -- among the bigger ones, that is -- was when ToraDora saw fit to introduce us to Taiga's father. While these scenes were important for Taiga's growth as a character, I nevertheless felt that the whole story arc jerked me around. He introduces himself to Ryuuji after Taiga runs off in a huff, and the two meets in a local cafe where Taiga's father tells Ryuuji that he wants to make amends with Taiga. The scene certainly felt sincere enough, what with us basically viewing it from Ryuuji's viewpoint. This becomes a common theme in all the scenes revolving around Taiga and her father, which takes place in the span of three episodes.

Not that we get to see a whole lot of him, mind you, since he's pretty much a tool for the sake of getting to know the character of Taiga better. Or at least understand where she's coming from. Again, fair enough, but this is one of the few times the show is so strongly centered around Ryuuji that we don't really get to see where they're going with this until it's all over. In the mean time, we as the viewers, seeing things from Ryuuji's angle, get the pleasure of being kept in the dark for the most time, occasionally being shouted at or given the cold shoulder treatment from Minorin for not immediately seeing what a horrible person he is.

And after that little part concludes, the rest of the show is basically dedicated to each of the side cast's issues, be that Minorin, Yuusaku or even Ami, the gravure idol. The ones centered around Minorin and Yuusaku got too damn melodramatic for my tastes, although it does, admittedly, have some pretty good dialogue to go with it. Still, overreacting is overreacting in my book, teenagers or not, and some of the situations Yuusaku got himself into felt artificial at best. On the flipside of this, Ami -- as irony would have it -- ended up being one of my favorite characters in the entire show. She's introduced in episode five as a conniving little princess hiding behind her gravure idol personality, making me think she was introduced to the show to make Taiga look good by comparison, so her development as a character took me by surprise, to put it mildly. And later on, Yasuko -- Ryuuji's mother -- pretty much did the very same, but in a more roundabout fashion, being Ryuuji's mother and all.

If it sounds like I'm bitching a lot about this show because I hate it, I apologize, even if it's kind of halfway true. I've been going through a lot of the things I didn't like about ToraDora, but truthfully, there was just as much I really liked. Sadly, most of that was pretty much pushed to the back of the show, with some stray morsels every now and then to show that ToraDora probably was a bit more than the sum of its parts by the time each of the ending themes rolled around. The parts in question are also big-time events, which limits just how much I can talk about them. One of the bigger kudos in ToraDora's direction is that the show actually resolves the relationship issue it set out to do instead of wimping out like so many romantic shows with several girls tends to do in an attempt to not make people angry or disappointed. For good or bad, it also ends, which means that it doesn't really overstay its welcome like another show with a startingly similar female lead I could mention. But most of all, the show FINALLY gets on the ball with actual storytelling instead of just vaguely hinting at things. Without saying too much (I hope); the scene between Ryuuji and his mom in the last episode? I would have LOVED seeing more of that in ToraDora, because that scene was ace.

For what it's worth, I definitely felt like I got my... um, time's worth by the end of this show. Would you get your money's worth? It's hard to tell, but I'm leaning slightly towards "yes". Maybe not as individual DVD volumes, but a thinpack box would suit this show well. So, ToraDora, you actually exceeded my expectations -- not that they were much to begin with, mind you -- and you entertained me for the better part of the last half. Still, I could have done without all the dawdling mindlessly in the first half, or the jerking around in the middle. So, no supper for you. Go straight to bed, and we'll talk more in the morning!

On average a good show, but it's certainly making me feel my age. Good grief, kids today...Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: Well, it's rather obvious that this show was made primarily with teenagers in mind, so you get your average amounts of fanservice and slapstick violence. Also, with Ryuuji's mother working in a hostess bar, there's some alcohol consumption to add to the tab, as well as a large order of MILF cleavage.

I have no idea what to make of that damn bird, though. Stroke victim? Inbred? Who knows, but... yeesh!



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, Japanese with English subs only
Review Status: Full (25/25)
ToraDora © 2008 J.C. Staff/GENCO
 
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