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Toradora! Collection 2 Premium Edition Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Young hearts collide often and hard as they hide their true feelings from each other, though they’re often easily enough on display.

What They Say:
Ryuji and Taiga slowly begin to understand their feelings not just towards their crushes, but what they mean to one another. After the Culture Festival comes to a close, Kitamura begins to display a rebellious attitude. To bring him around, Ryuji tells Taiga to run for Student Council President. Christmas pageants, complete with a beautiful song, come and go. During a school trip to a ski resort, Ryuji will learn the truth about Taiga’s heart. What will he do with this knowledge? The tiger and dragon stand together, but are they strong enough to face the obstacles life will throw at them?

This 2-disc premium edition includes a full-color, hardcover artbook and a premium box.

Contains episodes 14-25.

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 issue the previous set had with the video is not a problem here thankfully and the difference is definitely noticeable if you’re attuned to it. 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 and with it being the second round of releases from NISA and the problems of the first, it’s looked at closely. In the end, they put out a release that will make Toradora fans very happy.

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 by 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 secondary 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 blue filter 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 Minorin 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 circle format looks good here as well. The second volume does a similar layout but with a blue background and puts together Kawashima and Taiga instead. Both covers have a nice level of detail and clarity to them that’s very appealing. The back covers are 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 final twelve 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 mostly 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 second 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. The special endings in this set also get their respective clean versions which is really very useful since they can go on a bit for some of them.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the first half of Toradora, I got a show that was a fair bit of fun and had some interesting characters and situations as well as some really great animation. I liked the design of it all a lot and the way the characters interacted with each other, but a lot of it came down to the fact that the characters felt real and flawed. It plays the real world card pretty strongly but it balances it with a couple of decent quirks and it made Taiga the key factor with her style and attitude but it never really goes over the top. The charm of the characters is what really shines through and grabs you.

Toradora’s second half boils down to dealing with all the relationship issues that have been coming to a head. The group that’s involved here certainly have had an interesting time so far and we’ve seen some elements worked through such as Takasu getting involved with Taiga’s father issues and the way he essentially abandoned her again. The mix of characters here has a few crossed wires to be sure as there are interests across the board but a lot of them not returning it. Kitamura works through his time and interest with Sumire in an amusing way when he learns that she’s leaving the country as he goes all rebel, bleaching his hair and more. His attraction to her definitely comes across as real, especially after Taiga rejected him the year before, and seeing him go through it again is tough and his reactions make sense, even if some of it is a touch forced.

That experience is tough for Taiga to watch, especially as she works through her own issues. With her strong interest in him, his pain gets to her and it’s unfortunate that she gets so much support from Ryuji since that just has her thinking about him more in a way she doesn’t want. A good portion of this set starts to narrow in on the core triangle that’s come about, though there are other angles to it as well with those who have their interests. What becomes the main problem is that Minorin is having her issues in wanting to be close to Ryuji but finding that there are stronger bonds forming between him and Taiga and she’s very conflicted about it. These emotions play out among all of them, including an awkward ski resort moment that has Taiga confessing many things in her state of delirium.

There’s a lot of emotion to all of this as well, not something that’s given a surface level look. Taiga, Minorin and Ryuji all have their hearts in pain for different reasons and seeing how they handle it is just as painful. It is fairly realistic as some try to run away, others hide everything and pretend nothing is going on and the friends all watch on hoping it will get resolved. They eventually do get involved, but all of it kept going back to one point for me that I couldn’t completely wrap my head around. While I can see the relationship between Taiga and Ryuji, it just never felt real here. It never connected in a way that made you feel it. I like the characters, and I can see how Ryuji would be protective of her and how Taiga would harbor some feelings in the background simply because she was spending a huge amount of time with him during a stage where she feels very vulnerable, but over the course of the entire series I never really saw them as a potential couple that would be deeply and truly in love.

In Summary:
As I felt the first time that I watched the series, Toradora has a lot going for it with a number of relationships at various stages of potential that never seem to really get anywhere. Like far too many shows, it takes quite a long time before people reveal their hearts and a lot of it goes rather predictably. The core relationship is fun to watch with Ryuji and Taiga, but a good part of that for me came in rooting for them to get the ones they were actually after. The cast is really good throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed the animation style and the very good use of tempered comedy to lighten the mood which helped to tie it all together very well. While my quibble is essentially a big part of what the show is about, it’s definitely enjoyable and NIS America has put together one very strong release with the packaging and presentation to make any Toradora fan very pleased with it.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Toradora! SOS! Hurray for Gourmands 3-4, Clean Opening, Clean Ending

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

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: NIS America
Release Date: September 28th, 2010
MSRP: $59.99
Running Time: 300 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.