A unpre-prepared suprise

Recently, I was inspired to dip back into time and start a series that I had been told was very good: Toradora!. Honestly, I can’t remember my justification for starting this series rather than just word of mouth and the plot seemed interesting.

I watched the first episode and immediately disliked it. It took some prodding from a couple of friends, but I reluctantly finished the first arc and gave it another try. Much to my surprise (and horrible order of watching) I really got into the show and liked it a lot. Taiga quickly became my third favorite character with Ryuji not far behind.

NIS America licensed the show in Region 1 this spring and released the first volume last month. It comes on two DVDs with a special artbook and packaging box. It’s not that bad for a “premium edition.” Since I loved the show and thought the set was worth the price, it was an easy decision to get the first volume.

The set contains episodes 1-13, the first two specials, and the textless OP/ED. While personally I would’ve liked the additional interview segments included on the R2 release, they could have been left off due to licensing restrictions.

Unfortunately, my typical “provide four images from the episode and summarize it” method can’t be applied (since that would eat up way too much of Toonleap’s bandwidth). So in turn, I’ll provide a few screen captures and my opinion of the first half of the season.

Toradora! starts with a first episode that appealed to a lot of people. The first two arcs do a good job setting up the dynamic between Taiga and Ryuji that will serve as the basis of the entire show. We’re introduced to four of the main characters and we see why they’re so appealing. Nothing’s taken into a different direction, but it’s all well done.

Starting with episode 5, we are introduced to our fifth main character, Ami, who comes in as a rival to every other main character (and thus captures the heart of the internet). While I can’t say that I captured the hate that everyone had for her at first (because I accidentally skipped episode 5 until after watching episode 7), she becomes one of the more thought-provoking characters.

The battles between Ami and Taiga work well to both provide humor and show that neither is necessarily a bad person. Ami is working to repay her debt to Ryuji and Taiga for giving her the confidence to be herself while Taiga is slowly becoming known as something other than “the person you don’t want to annoy.” The show starts to become great around this point not because this is a novel idea (quite the opposite) but rather that the evolution of the characters is very well done.

That leads into the beach house arc, where we get development in the relationship between Ryuji and Minori. It’s the first hint that Ryuji becomes the token magnet-male-lead where all three girls are starting to fall/have fallen for him. Reflecting back on this arc after watching the entire series, you see that Minori is already putting Taiga with Ryuji regardless that she would like to get to know him better as well as Kitamura repeating the actions for Taiga, with the exception that we get to see later.

Finally, the last arc on this set is the cultural festival arc, which has my favorite twist in the series. After seeing many shows go overboard on cosplay for festivals, having the main class do an event like a pro-wrestling play is a very welcome change. The play itself was incredibly hilarious and helped to contrast the dramatic tension between Taiga, Ryuji, Minori, and Taiga’s father.

The plotline of her father coming back to spend time with her begins the thinking process that Taiga and Ryuji’s situation can’t be permanent. That drama combined with the race in episode 13 start the hint that while Taiga is growing to become fully independent, Ryuji wants to be by her side. It’s that theme that becomes focused upon in the second part of the show and one that is well constructed.

As for the technical aspects of the release, the video suffers from a lot of brightness overlap. The images seem to be very blurry at times and reduce the detail quality lower than it can be. Disc two doesn’t have the problem as much as disc one thankfully. The audio is very well kept with the original seijuu playing their roles incredibly well and the BGM fitting. The best part has to be the translation. It’s very well done (and I’m slightly biased since the same translator also works/ed on the Haruhi novels) and everything fits (with a few exceptions such as Kitamura’s nickname).

The special features are lacking somewhat, but the two shorts aren’t too bad. It’s obvious that they kept a lot of the animation the same for budget reasons, but it’s still humorous. The OP/ED look well and are nice to have.

The artbook is something I wish every set would do. These are translations from the booklets that come with the first four R2 DVDs (like the ones from the Railgun sets) and give a little bit of technical aspects behind the scenes with interviews and definitions for terms. It’s a very well-put together book and I’m grateful that NIS included it with this set.

Overall I really like this set. While there are things I wish had been included, it’s still very well done and I congratulate NIS for releasing a great product. My set didn’t have too much of the blurring issue that have plagued a lot of sets, so I can’t comment on that. It’s a set I wholeheartedly recommend just on the show alone and the extras put it over the top. If you have a chance to get this set, I urge you to get it.

As usual, I’ve uploaded a few screencaptures to my Photobucket album for more examples than I gave here. I will be reviewing Volume 2 when it is released!

This entry originally appeared on Cartoon Leap and has been copied faithfully (minus image locations) from the original content. The interviews mentioned from the R2 DVDs are translated in the book.

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