After amazement that I do actually realize that most forms of anime do include the male population, let’s begin talking about a rare species: the memorable male character that people generally like. In Toradora! we are immediately introduced to our male protagonist of the series, Ryuji Takasu, and throughout the series we follow his point of view through one year in high school that changed his life. With a lack of merchandise and promotional artwork compared to the females in that series, it’s easy to overlook him but he’s number 9 on my favorite characters list.
Ryuji has both realistic and idealistic images in mind like a normal person. He wants to be able to fit in with everyone, but his scary looks have created an image of him that is of a delinquent. His reputation even scares the teachers away from him at the beginning of the school year. The only people that he can list as close would be his friend Kitamura and his mother Yasuko. Likely due to his reputation and his lack of friends, he has put himself into studies so that he can feel productive.
It’s no secret that Ryuji begins the series with a huge crush on Minori that borders near obsessive. Like most male leads in anime, he tends to be very cautious around her near the beginning of the series but events that Taiga puts together helps him be able to improve himself around her. Strangely enough like Taiga, he gains more confidence after confronting her about a relationship and eventually grows to become close enough for her to share her utmost secret with him. But that’s not the main progression of the series…
From the very first prologue in Toradora!, we’re told that Ryuji and Taiga are meant to be together. Contrasting to how he approaches Minori, Ryuji immediately is able to converse and assist Taiga after she stops her attack. While she’s not consciously the most important person in his life, he constantly thinks about her and her life almost to the same amount that he’s concerned about his own. When Ryuji is confused about where he’s going to head in life, it’s Taiga that he turns to over everyone else. It’s repeated again and again in the anime how many times he gives up other things to check on Taiga; I think only the time in the sea house is the exception. He’s going to be a great husband for her.
Ryuji is, like most male characters in romantic comedies, an extremely nice guy. He’s meant to be the person you’d want to either date (female) or have as a wingman (male) and thus be able to be liked by anyone. I like the fact that he’s had to become more of a feminine character due to taking care of the household because it sets him apart from others. His obsession with cleaning, while not emphasized nearly as much in the anime adaptation, is a great quirk that shows his dedication both to setting things right as well as doing nice things for others. He’s never going to be a fully macho-type character, but he’s not meant to be unless the situation calls for it. That would compromise the rest of his personality and demean him.
I like the standard nice guy that male protagonists tend to be, but they all blend together too easily. Ryuji doesn’t have the sarcastic wit of Kyon nor the desire to play pranks like Tomoya, but his charm is that he cares more than those guys. He does suffer from main male blindness, but he doesn’t mean to hurt Minori, Ami, or even Yasuko (not romantically). I admire that he changes his plans to go away from everyone so that Yasuko could reunite with her parents not for his sake, but so Yasuko could gain back that family relationship she was craving. You’re a good guy Ryuji.
What else is there to say about such a great male lead? He doesn’t sparkle like the female cast, yet he’s the glue that held the rest together through the romantic drama in the latter half of the story. He’s overlooked, but still important to all involved. Most of all, he gives and gives and yet finally has a happy end. You just can’t help but feel good for the guy after all he went through.