Toradora 4

July 14, 2013

Yuyuko Takemiya / Zekkyo – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2011 – 5+ volumes

I like this series so much! I had to take a break for a while, because I read a big chunk of the novel series after I finished volume 3. The manga is a very faithful adaptation, so there’s only so much of the same story I can take. I wish light novels did better over here, because I would still buy every volume of the novel series. The characters are just so great!

But as a faithful adaptation, the manga is just as good, honestly. The artist is good at drawing comical facial expressions, and Ryuji’s scary face comes across much better in the manga.

Mostly though, the main appeal of the story to me is the way that it is kind of a subtle romance, without most of the terrible traps romcom series like this fall into. Granted, there’s still some of that if that’s your thing. The first half of this volume is about how Taiga doesn’t want to go swimming because she can’t hide the fact she’s flat-chested in a swimsuit, and much is made of well-endowed classmates. But the fanservice is relatively minimal, and most of this series is quite tasteful.

I also like how it side-steps the usual plot device that the characters are too shy and embarrassed to talk to the person they like. Both of the main characters are like this, to the point of paralysis, around their crushes, but the slowly building friendship/romance between Ryuji and Taiga is being built up through their mutual struggle to confess their feelings to their respective best friends. It’s nice to see friendship in a male/female relationship like this, even if I can see a romance coming from a mile away. It’s not there yet!

This volume? Well, it’s still a lot of fun. Ryuji does find a way to help Taiga with her swimsuit problem, and much is made of it on the first day of class swimming. The second half of the volume is a contest between Taiga and the annoying model friend to see who can swim better. Taiga can’t swim, so Ryuji helps her once again, as he is the prize to be won. Again, that’s a rather typical plot device, but the characters make reading it a lot of fun, and slightly more fresh than it should be.

Next volume? Summer trip to a vacation house! I hope you like ghost stories!

Toradora 3

November 2, 2011

Yuyuko Takemiya / Zekkyo – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2011 – 4+ volumes

I love this series so much! Part of me knows it’s more-or-less a standard romantic comedy, but the other part loves the characters to death. I love seeing Ryuuji and Taiga interact. It’s all sorts of funny, and while it does use some of the oldest plot devices in the book, it more than makes up for it with humor and charm.

I did like this volume a little less than the last two, but only because the spotlight was taken from Taiga and Ryuuji, and instead the story focused on Ami, the character introduced last volume. She should fit right in. She’s a model, and she pretends to be a ditzy princess in order to get everyone to like her. But underneath, she’s quite mean and vindictive. Taiga, Ryuuji, and Kitamura are the only ones that know, and Minori doesn’t fall for her act either. Taiga and Minori go out of their way to embarrass Ami in front of the class, in order to get her to shed her nice personality. Ami hits on Ryuuji, thinking that it will break Taiga’s heart to steal her boyfriend. Taiga gets mad, all right, but the two of them still aren’t going out, so her anger is… a mystery to Ryuuji and those around him. Taiga insists she’s not mad because she’s losing Ryuuji, though. There’s also a plot point about Ami trying to get away from a stalker. Ryuuji and Taiga help her with that too, of course.

Even with the story’s focus on Ami, there’s still plenty of adorable Taiga and Ryuuji moments, though. Again, the biggest draw for me is the way that Ryuuji compulsively dotes on Taiga. He loves to clean, and he can’t help but feed her breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. He also helps her out when she gets horribly depressed by one of Ami’s mean-spirited comments. He’s very good to her, though again, neither of them seem to be interested in a romantic relationship. They have crushes on each other’s friends. Still.

I love this series to pieces, and I look forward to every new volume. Unfortunately, it appears to come out at a rate of one volume a year in Japan. Volume five looks like it will come out soon in Japan, but after we get four and five in English… it’s going to be awhile before we see six. I suspect it will run through some more high school romance plot tropes before it starts to address the Ryuuji/Taiga situation, but I’ll be there every step of the way. Those characters are worth it, and I have a high tolerance and great love for really good romantic comedy manga.

This was a review copy provided by Seven Seas.

Toradora 2

July 16, 2011

Yuyuko Takemiya / Zekkyo – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2011 – 4+ volumes

So, I honestly enjoyed the first volume of this, and the second was just as good. Far from being a typical formulaic shounen romantic comedy, this one has its characters pegged perfectly, and so far, I love it to pieces.

It’s fairly well-written, too. A climax that would’ve waited until the end of the series happens in this volume, and I was shocked when it… actually went through with everything. I’m a little torn about it, because afterwards it seems like it could keep going down that path, but I’d also like to see the plot move in a different direction and not loop endlessly over the romantic triangle between the two main characters and their love interests.

Basically, Taiga and Ryuji are forced into a corner by their respective love interests, who think the two of them are going out, and Taiga winds up confessing. Meanwhile, much is said between Taiga and Ryuji. It was… an interesting and very sweet few chapters, though I’d hate to say any more than that for fear of spoiling anything. It was an unexpected surprise to see a confrontation so early.

The plot did take a different direction after that, too. Ryuji’s friend and Taiga’s crush, Yusaku, introduces them to a childhood friend named Ami. Ami has an absolutely horrible personality, but hides it well in front of most people. She and Taiga get off on the wrong foot, but in front of everyone, including Yusaku, she plays the part of the slightly ditzy model. Yusaku asks for Ryuji’s help in getting Ami to “be herself,” and the volume ends before anything serious happens.

I liked the new storyline quite a bit, though at this point the focus is less on Taiga and Ryuji. Those two are the big draw for me, and not even entirely because of the romance. They’re both great characters, and this volume makes them that much better. They support each other, but they also bicker like an old couple and fit perfectly together in terms of strengths and weaknesses. There are dozens of great scenes between the two in this volume, both touching and funny. Usually, when I read shounen romances, the comedy is too over-the-top for my taste, the jokes fall flat, and the main characters are little more that character types, with no personality. This series doesn’t indulge in any of these pitfalls, and is more or less everything I want in a romantic comedy.

It’s a great little read, genuinely funny with great characters. I like it enough that I suspect it would appeal to even picky readers who enjoy shoujo and shounen romance, and I encourage you to give it a try if it sounds at all appealing. Hmm… it reminds me a lot of Your & My Secret, less laugh-out-loud funny but a little more touching in the right way. Sad about not getting to read the end of that series? Try this one instead.

This was a review copy provided by Seven Seas.

Toradora! 1

April 16, 2011

Yuyuko Takemiya / Zekkyo – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2011 – 4+ volumes

Wow. I’m not much for comedy-heavy romantic comedies, especially shounen ones, and this had another strike against it since I knew it was an adaptation of a light novel series. But this was pretty great. I went into Toradora not expecting much, but the two main characters make it a lot of fun, and I’d love to read more of it.

Our main character is a boy named Ryuuji. He gets a bad rap at school due to his scary face and quiet ways… basically, everyone is afraid he is about to beat them up, when really he’s just very shy. His shyness makes it difficult for him to talk to the girl he has a crush on, Minori. Unfortunately, due to a series of very clumsy circumstances, he winds up tangled with Minori’s best friend, a girl named Taiga. Taiga has the nickname “Palmtop Tiger,” due to her small stature and bad attitude. Taiga gets herself in all sorts of trouble when she accidentally gives Ryuuji a love letter meant for his best friend, then threatens to beat him silly until he forgets the whole mess. To save himself a beating, Ryuuji not only confesses that he has a crush on her best friend Minori, but also agrees to be her slave. So the two scariest students in school are now partners in crime, helping each other past their crippling shyness to try and get closer to the objects of their affections.

If that’s all there was to it, I would be put off. But the thing I like best about this series is Ryuuji’s nurturing streak, paired with Taiga’s need to have someone around to take care of her. She lives by herself in a luxury condo next door to Ryuuji, and as he gets to know her, he starts offering to cook her meals, watches out for her when her clumsy ways get the better of her, and generally just takes care of her. Taiga’s attitude seems to be that she’s entitled to this care since Ryuuji promised to do whatever she says, but Ryuuji does a lot of things without being asked, and the two bicker back and forth about it constantly.

It’s a good formula, and I love that the series seems to be taking its time about getting the two of them together. As of right now, neither of them has any interest in the other, but the fact they are constantly together is leading to rumors. The fact that Ryuuji is such a nice guy, but not nice enough to let Taiga walk all over him; and Taiga is more loud neglected child than she is spoiled rich girl makes the two of them work well together.

The sense of humor is understated, too. Normally these types of shounen romances tend to be very loud and do lots of embarrassing scenes about the characters walking in on one another, full of cheap laughs and a little eye candy. Not that this series isn’t above that, but the humor is more about Ryuuji and Taiga’s interactions than it is about “accidents” and embarrassing situations. The most embarrassed Ryuuji ever gets around Taiga is when he lands in a situation where he may have to explain why they have the same bento. I only usually like shounen comedies when they feature character-oriented humor like this, and so far Toradora is doing a nice job.

I won’t lie, I loved the first volume of this. Ryuuji’s scowling face and Taiga’s angry demeanor go well together. I’ll happily read more of it. Another interesting thing is that it strikes me as a crowd-pleaser, because while it is a shounen romance, it’s also got some very shoujo-esque character development. There are a lot of directions it could take from here, not all of them good, but I’d say if this sounds at all appealing to you, go for it. You won’t be disappointed with the first volume.

This was a review copy provided by Seven Seas Entertainment.

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