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Toradora! Collection 1 Premium Edition Anime DVD Review

11 min read

Can one young man find the relationship in high school that he wants by helping someone else find theirs?

What They Say:
Due to his frightening appearance, Ryuji lives a rather unfortunate life. On the first day of his junior year of high school, he meets a strange girl named Taiga – better known as the Palm-top Tiger! Despite looking small and cute, she’s extremely short-tempered, and nobody can stop her once she starts throwing punches. However, Ryuji learns a secret about Taiga that nobody else knows… The dragon and the tiger join forces to bring you a monolithic romantic comedy!

This 2-disc premium edition includes a full-color, hardcover artbook with more than 30 pages and which includes interviews with the original Japanese voice actors and a premium box.

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review:
Toradora gets a monolingual presentation with this release by containing just the Japanese stereo mix encoded at 192kbps. The show is pretty much about the dialogue, bouncy music and some of the comedic action esquences so it’;s not a mix that really has to stretch itself all that much. The stereo mix does do a good job of conveying the material though with a clean presentation and no problems across the forward soundstage when it comes to depth or placement or dropouts and distortions. It’s not a show that jumps out hugely at you but it does have its more boisterous moments here and there that come across well and problem free.

Originally airing in 2008 and into 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The set contains thirteen episodes across two discs in a seven/six format with a fair bit of space for them and quite a few scenes with high bitrates to it. The show has its problems, namely in ghosting that appears to be an issue with how its encoded (which NISA is looking into as of this writing) but it’s really quite variable in how it’s perceived when viewed. Depending on your sensitivity to ghosting and whether you’re pausing, going in slow motion or stepping through the presentation, you’ll see the issues. Watching this from a normal viewing distance of about eight feet and not doing any of that, just watching it normally, the issue is very mild but there. If you aren’t looking for it, odds are you’ll never see it. Beyond that, we get a show that looks good with solid and rich colors, a lack of cross coloration and very little line noise overall to distract from the overall presentation. There’s a lot to like here but with it being a launch title from a new company, it’s going to get heavily scrutinized and there is an issue to be looked into and dealt with for those who find this unwatchable. I didn’t find it unwatchable and a few people I showed it to in a blind test didn’t notice any issues either.

Toradora really goes for the collector with this edition as it’s in a lovely thick heavy chipboard box. While most boxes would have the discs side byh side, this one has them laying the other way from end to end because they’re on top of a long hardcover book that’s inside. The box has its opening along the top where you pull out the book and the discs and it holds them fairly well with a bit of tension to it. The box uses the same artwork on both sides of the primary cast of characters in a standard shot with a white background that’s very eye-catching because of the colors used for the characters and the log itself which is in the small circles along the top. The back cover is identical except that it’s all done with a purple filer over it. I would have preferred other artwork instead of that but overall it’;s a really intriguing box setup that stands out from the rest.

Inside we get two clear thinpak cases that hold the two discs for the series. The first disc has a good shot of Ryuji and Taiga together set against a pink background which has a white border around it that gives it some extra definition. The logo along the bottom in the colorful circile format looks good here as well. The second volume does a similar layout but with a blue background and puts together Minori and Taiga instead. Both covers have a nice level of detail and clarity to them that’s very appealing. The back covers re designed relatively the same way with their respective colors that has a basic pattern along it. The main focus is on the various shots from the show and a breakdown of the episode titles and numbers for their respective volumes. Add in the extras where necessary and there’s a good bit to see there. NISA focuses on the production and cast rather well by breaking them down too, though it’s usually only directly Japanese companies you see this format used with. The technical grids along the bottom are laid out well, though they feel a bit thin, as they detail what you can find there. They’re just slightly different than the norm but are clear and easy to read. Each cover has artwork on the reverse side using the just the color of that respective volume where it brings in more characters from the show on the left side while leaving the right side blank.

The really sizable extra included here in the packaging is the Toradora episode guide book. This hardcover book really is a great thing to have as it breaks down the first thirteen episodes with all sorts of data points about the show, character artwork, comedic moments about the show as well as staff interviews. And it’s in full color and completely translated. Even during the boom years of anime releases we rarely saw anything as great as this and it’s the kind of item that really does make this a collectors item and worth seeking out.

Toradora doesn’t load to its menu upon startup but instead goes to the show itself after a couple of logos. The menus come up when the show ends on each disc or on the fly though and they’re fairly decent overall. The main menu for each disc uses the colors and cover artwork from its respective volume with the character artwork on the left while the right side has the individual episode selection by number and title along with any extras on the second volume. The layout is quick and easy to navigate if you want to jump to individual episodes quickly but otherwise most people won’t have much use for the menus. The few submenus there are load quickly and because it’s a monolingual release, player presets are a non-issue.

The on-disc extras for this release are found on the second disc and they’re pretty cute overall. We get the clean opening and closing sequences as well as the two specials, the Toradora SOS! Pieces with the first two installments of it. These run about five minutes each and essentially deal with simple silly situations with the cast overall taking them in a cute form and running with it. They’re fairly inconsequential in the end and not all that memorable, but they’re cute and fun.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series by Yuyuko Takemiya, Toradora is a twenty-five episode series animated by J.C. Staff which has a good bit of fun with the high school romantic comedy drama field. As NIS America’s launch title alongside Persona, Toradora gets quite a bit of scrutiny but also because it was a series that gained a lot of popularity during its run, especially for what it did in its second half apparently. The first thirteen episodes here are pretty good fun overall as it introduces the core cast members of the series and sets things up. Along the way it starts to hint a bit more at the possibilities, but like most really good relationship shows of this nature, it’s not crystal clear who belongs with who.

The series focuses around second year student Ryuji as the year starts and he’s doing everything he can to get things on the right track this year. Ryuji’s a character that’s easy to like because he’s a good guy and he’s got some very good qualities about him. He cares about his friends, he’s very much into living in a clean space and he does pretty good all around at being sustainable with what needs to be done around a house. He’s got some daddy issues since his father is long gone, though that angle isn’t covered much, so he lives in a simple apartment house with his mother. One of the things that seems to hold him back is that he tends to look a bit like a delinquent because of the way his face is shaped, but it’s pretty light overall. For all intents and purposes, he’s a good guy.

What alters his fate is the recent construction that finished next door that brought in a large high rise apartment complex. Right across from his window is a girl in his year named Taiga who is living on her own. Taiga’s a bit of a fiesty one, somewhat introverted but she ends up finding herself very comfortable with Ryuji as the two slowly work out a basic relationship that has them supporting each other. With her short stature and quick temper, she has only a few friends really but like Ryuji she’s full of potential and that’s what solidifies the show in a sense because they’re both alike and can see it. And along the way they start to see little things in each other that could work for a real involved relationship. Like Ryuji, she has daddy issues as well though hers are because her father ended up moving in with a young woman and Taiga felt out of place in all of it, though it goes deeper than that as it progresses and Ryuji learns how she’s been hurt.

What really draws them together for awhile is their mutual attraction to other people. Taiga has quite the crush on a friend of Ryuji’s named Yusaku. Yusaku’s a decent sort who actually tried to get in Taiga’s good graces the year before but was rebuffed, partially because of her nature and likely things going on in her life at the time. Since Ryuji is a friend with him, she tries to figure out a way to get him to help her get closer to him. What makes it easy for Taiga is that Ryuji really likes the hot redheaded girl she’s friends with, Minori. Minori’s the bouncy, upbeat girl whose about having fun and experiencing life so she gets along well with Taiga as they play well against each other, similar to Yusaku being the very scholarly type with a smile who gets along with everyone plays well against Ryuji.

With the basic trappings of the four primary characters, a little extra is brought in after a few episodes in the form of Ami, the daughter of a fairly famous actress who is actually the childhood friend of Yusaku. Ami’s working on her own modeling career and is moving her way up slowly but surely and she has the bright and outgoing personality that will help carry her far. As Yusaku points out in a less than discrete fashion to Ryuji, it’s just a ploy though as she’s actually fairly mean and vicious and she tries to use men to her advantage. Amusingly, Rjyuji goes along with it for the most part because there’s a certain fun to it and he’s aware of what she’s doing, but he’ll avoid certain things that she wants done. Ami brings in a bit of drama along the way as well as a touch of money because of her family which allows the cast to do the occasional trip to someplace really nice.

Toradora runs through a lot of familiar stories. Towards the end of the set they spend about three episodes dealing with the culture festival, from coming up with the right idea and executing the play performance and dealing with all the associated drama with it. A bit of time is spent with personal drama as Taiga has to deal with her father entering her life again and Rjyuji projects his own daddy issues onto her and she gets pressured into trying to deal with him again. There’s some nice layering in here as issues that one has, someone else has a shade or two of it. And when Taiga deals with her problem, one that Minori is familiar with since she’s been friends with her for awhile, it causes a rift between her and Ryuji since she feels like he’s pressuring her into something bad, even though he doesn’t know the whole story.

While there are some nice foundation pieces being laid down here, a lot of this part of the series is fairly by the numbers. What helps elevate it a bit is the really solid job done by J.C. Staff as the animation here is really top notch. The character designs are well detailed and stand out against a sea of familiar designs as they have nice little quirks and hooks that draw you in. The real world style to it is very attractive as they take that and up the whole thing with a lot of vibrant colors that really makes it feel alive, from the sunsets being incredibly rich to the blues of the sky or the ocean looking quite beautiful.

In Summary:
Toradora in its first half is a show where it’s definitely predictable but if you give yourself over to the characters and the general fun of it all, it’s pretty enjoyable on that level alone. It’s the subplots that are slowly revealed through it that helps to make it interesting as the various relationships that are here could go in a number of ways. It’s that promise that has me enjoying the show beyond what it offers because it doesn’t play the relationships like they might ordinarily. The characters are what sells it though as they’re well designed, they’re not entirely predictable and they all have quirks that make them quite enjoyable. Toradora has fun with these episodes while blending in some serious material all done with some really beautiful slice of life animation.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Toradora! SOS!, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: NIS America
Release Date: July 20th, 2010
MSRP: $59.99
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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