Anime for the Whole Family?!? Toradora!

Toradora! did something unexpected: it became wholesome family entertainment. Yes, watching anime with the family is possible, even if many or most watch (or prefer to watch) anime by themselves. I remember watching My Neighbor Totoro, and Millenium Actress – just me and my Mama (such lovely times), and mechafetish and his dad watched Macross Plus (movie ed.) together.

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So I daresay that not a lot of people (maybe none) expected Toradora! to be read or appreciated this way. The bits in the finale with the Takasus, and especially with Ya-chan — gold. Yasuko’s story with Ryuuji and her would’ve-been-in-laws is heartwarming and redemptive. Ultimately it lays out so much possibility for the young couple’s future, but perhaps in the form of a family of three.

I can recommend this over most if not all the narmy fare over at the Hallmark or Lifetime cable channels. I never felt for a moment that I was being lectured or preached to. More on this later.

This post is also an attempt to sum up my thoughts about the show:

November 8, 2008

I didn’t have lofty expectations for Toradora! but I did start noticing nuanced characterization, the kind I really like – which launched our recurring post series: Someone’s Showing a Bit of Character. Interestingly enough, it was Kitamura Yuusaku who caught my attention; I noted that he was acting (meta-wise) as an audience surrogate - preparing us for the characterizations that are more than meets the eye/the masks the characters wear throughout the show. 

I’m not completely happy with how Yuusaku ended up, not that it was bad or anything – somehow I ended up caring less and less for him.

December 18, 2008

My wife sybilant wrote this post, but I share her opinion completely. She took note of the moment at the train station on the way to Kawashima Ami’s summer villa.

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It captured the spirit and the power of friendship, that was there in every summer vacation I had and I wish I had with my college friends [...] We were weirdos and geeks and otaku (most still are, just older: now teachers, doctors, bankers, and programmers), and every moment had the possibility that something like this could happen.

I began thinking that there was more to Toradora! than rabu-rabu hijinks, the theme of friendship was so pleasantly explored.

January 8, 2009

As the new year came to pass Toradora! became the touchstone for a significant moment for me: a feeling of community among fellow writers — a number of whom I’m lucky enough to have in the same metropolis:

Don't ask... just don't.

Don't ask... just don't.

Toradora! then was the meaningful expression of friendship that anime bloggers could get behind.

January 13, 2008

Past the halfway mark, I praised the direction in the show for ‘opening up’ the narrative to involve the larger set of characters, comparing it to opening the ‘world map’ in a console RPG game. In the same post I discussed Toradora! as a slice of life anime, and was disabused of the notion in the comments. While the show does show many slices of the lives of its characters, it had a plot-driven narrative and had both comedic and dramatic highlights that, according to Baka-Raptor’s ‘highlight-reel’ theory, place it outside of the slice of life genre.

March 18. 2009

True enough, the dramatic highlights of the latter half of the show escalated exponentially. Very little of it unsettled me, even as I started noticing how other viewers were beginning to get put-off by them. Then in episode 23, a particular intervention bothered me. I explained in my post that this ‘bothersome’ thing wasn’t a statement aimed at the quality of the show, but some of the commentary went there anyway. I’d still rather it was done differently, but the show ended very strong, and the whole business is much easier to overlook.

A little digression, I suspect that when writers and commenters (like) myself get alarmed by an episode that they or others didn’t like, the root emotion is fear. It’s like we’re afraid that the show we’ve invested our time in watching won’t meet our expectations in the end. A show’s ending does wonders for its legacy. A good one pacifies a lot of the sound and fury that happens throughout the series’ air date.

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And this brings us to the end of Toradora! I hadn’t  seen a lot of harem shows, and I was very skeptical about this show being just a generic example (I would’ve preferred instead to have watched the best representatives of the genre than risk spending time with an unproven one). While Toradora! does have harem elements, the nuanced characterizations held my attention and the non-progression of the love stories made it become more about friendship, which was refreshing to me.

Past the halfway mark the show renewed its focus on the love stories when it did so with much-heightened dramatics. While all of this was going on, it’s easy to dismiss Yasuko, Ryuuji’s single mother. But what did we find out about her? She got pregnant with Ryuuji at a very young age, and her lover left her for another woman at this time. She’d gotten advice to perform an abortion, but chose to have her baby. She works as some kind of hostess and managed to raise Ryuuji directly or indirectly to become a very responsible young man.

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The crisis came when Ryuuji refused to go attend college out of a sense of guilt for making his mother’s life the way it is — that is bereft of opportuinity to realize her own dreams. But he couldn’t see that her dream is for them to be a family, for him to be a success in life within its context. My own mother is the same, our family is her life’s dream. Not only was he compromising this, and his own future, he was also threatening to repeat the consequences his parents reaped, by running away to get married.

In the end, he didn’t. And they began laying the foundation for a family of three — Yasuko’s fond wish. The fact that the gratification was delayed, not by external circumstance but by Taiga’s own choice makes it even more powerful and satisfying.

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Trust in people, be responsible, delay your gratification, look past what is apparent, be true to oneself, be free to love, treasure your friends, cherish the family you’ve got… I can take all of these away from watching Toradora! and wholly without irony. Instead of being clobbered on the head with these ‘life lessons’ I feel invited to consider them. My enjoyment of the show isn’t contingent to these, but they do add value. I seldom if ever watch a show for its ‘message.’ But I’ll gladly take away a message I discover or create out of my experience of a show.

Isn’t this the thinking behind ‘family oriented’ programming? The acquisition of life lessons through the experience of media — ideally collectively as a family? I’m very happy I watched this show with sybilant. I think I’m going to recommend this show to my mom.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, Toradora! and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Anime for the Whole Family?!? Toradora!

  1. adaywithoutme says:

    Hmm, do we have a new trend, the family-harem show? Although I doubt three shows could constitute a trend… (Clannad, Toradora!, and, yes, Air TV).

  2. Turambar says:

    “Trust in people, be responsible, delay your gratification, look past what is apparent, be true to oneself, be free to love, treasure your friends, cherish the family you’ve got…”

    This, a hundred times. What I loved about the ending was the fact that they were willing to wait. Love is something hidden, difficult to obtain, and needs to be nurtured. At the same time, when it blooms, it is not fleeting, and it is something to be shared. Not simply running away once the “we’re in love” sign lit up brightly over their heads as a cliched teenage couple, the two did their best to see it spread to every one in their life. It was absolutely wonderful.

    I wonder where people are finding the Chinese subs… I’m pretty sure I’d stand a better chance of getting my parents who aren’t completely fluent in English to watch it that way.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I’m glad you got that too. It’s not very cool to talk about anime and life lessons without irony or clever jokes. I don’t care. Good luck with finding your subs!

  3. usagijen says:

    …I’m still saddened by the (over)attention ToraDora is getting, and the lack of aniblogger love for Skip Beat. Yeah, I’m tsuntsun about ToraDora that way TT__TT

    • ghostlightning says:

      Skip Beat is funnier, but less relatable. In terms of premise, it is set in a fantasy world of show business. I love Skip Beat, but I find myself not having much to say about it beyond KYOKO IS TEH AWESOME at present.

  4. I’ve noticed THE blogging topic seems to have been set to Toradora for much of the day. What gives? Is it actually a legitimately good show now (I dropped it back at episode 07 for feeling boring and run of the mill), so I need to know, for real, right now if I should resume or if it’s just the topic du jour after Clannad’s controversial ending.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I can’t speak about the others who saw the show, and I didn’t see Clannad. However I do think it’s worth watching.

      Your impression re it being ordinary in the first 7 eps, I don’t blame you. I got the same. The episodes from 8-13 though, are the best bits.

      I don’t have a lot of anime to compare it to, but I do like it as a warmer, less cerebral, less clever, less dark, and more coherent Kare Kano.

      • Hmmm well the people who have said the ending scenario is crap are the ones who I find seriously credibility challenged and you I actually trust regardless of your lack of experience with this type of anime so I’m going to be giving it another try on your recommendation. If for no other reason then you’ve never given me one not too.

      • gloval says:

        Kaioshin, saw a similar message you posted in AS, sadly it was hardly noticed, and by the time I did, it was already buried underneath new posts. I’m with ghosty on this one. ToraDora, starts getting interesting in ep 8 and the succeeding episodes are solid enough. Though later episodes have great moments of their own, ep 13 is still my favorite because it showed an edifying display of friendship I’ve rarely seen anywhere.

      • ghostlightning says:

        Reading Cuchlann’s, Pontifus’, and Mike’s (Anime Diet) posts give me more confidence in recommending the show.

        Try to ignore the hype while indulging everyone’s celebration for a show that has become quite beloved to deliver a fulfilling ending.

        Fully agreeing with Gloval re ep 13, though I think there would be some who’d have preferred the show ended then and there.

  5. Pingback: Toradora! after all « Pontifus

  6. cuchlann says:

    I actually watched a lot of anime, at one time, with my dad. Mostly he watched it to be hanging out with me, but he ended up really being emotionally touched by Cowboy Bebop, so I think of that as us actually watching, whereas he was just sort-of in the room for, say Trigun.

    • ghostlightning says:

      That’s really cool. My Dad, bless him, is the worst person to watch anything with. He starts out pretending to know the show more than anyone, and says what’s going on and what happens next without fail, no matter how wrong he is. Lol Papa, I love him to bits, but I’m not going to be watching anything with him soon.

  7. X10A_Freedom says:

    It was definately a good ending and a good message. It didn’t really grip my heart though as it felt rather rushed with bits and pieces missing.

    • ghostlightning says:

      I can understand how it’d feel rushed for you, but it somehow felt just right for me. What were the bits and pieces you felt that should’ve been there?

      • X10A_Freedom says:

        Can’t really tell, I mean the anime showed us the bare mininum due to time constraints (due to bad pacing?) and I found there wasn’t really much time for the emotions to sink in. I came away feeling rather superficial.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Thanks for trying to articulate it anyway. ^_^

  8. DonKangolJones says:

    Toradora has been an ongoing discussion for me for the past 2 days, and I can’t say that I mind it at all. Discussing things can help alleviate or mitigate the feelings you get from just seeing something that you think is less than desirable. And I did find the ending for the show less than desirable, at first.

    But I’ve slept on it, and although I’m left wanting more, the show gave me an ending that made sense and that I can live with. I can’t say that for a lot of anime. And as big of an Ami as I am. Taiga made the big decisions throughout this show and really surprised me. Her decision at the end was very MATURE and brave. The revelations about Yasuko’s past, the reunion of the estranged family, GREAT moments.

    As for it being family viewing, that has applied already for me. For some reason, my wife instantly loved this show, even when I’m more of the otaku and had been telling her to check it out. And she loved the show throughout as well. Go figure.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Well-crafted endings pacify a lot of our uneasiness about the shows we watch.

      Having seen the episode twice now, since my wife had just arrived from an official trip and hadn’t seen it when it came out, I find the episode stronger than I first saw it.

      Am I left wanting more? No. For some reason I’ve had enough of Toradora!. This isn’t the indictment that it sounds like because I haven’t given Honey and Clover a re-watch ever since I saw it.

      I do however, see no reason how I wouldn’t find myself someday wanting to remember love for, and that is Toradora!.

      We have similar experiences: My wife isn’t an otaku (while remaining a nerd herself) but enjoys anime with me. She’s the Kagami to my Konata I suppose.

  9. omisyth says:

    You know, now that you’ve mentioned these things, I realise just how little those seemingly-common messages appear in any anime I’ve seen. I didn’t see Toradora as a show which addresses such issues, but I guess I was wrong. I shall now be a better person for from having seen this show!

    • ghostlightning says:

      I’d agree that they appear less in most anime, but what I hinted at here is that meanings and interpretations can be created.

      I could say that some (cherish the family you’ve got, treasure your friends, etc.) can be taken form the first season of Ikkitousen. The key here is that the viewer is the interpreter, an active agent of meaning creation.

      Some shows however, do feel heavy handed in delivering a message, like Gundam 00 which screams “WAR SUCKS” though a more active reading/viewing may yield away with “people are complicated,” or “peace is difficult.” Or the last 3 Macross shows (Dynamite 7, 0, Frontier) with its “nature/the environment/ecology is very important and should be cared for/treated responsibly” message.

      These messages aren’t the source of value these shows give me, maybe because I didn’t have as much fun participating with these shows to ‘arrive at the meaning’ as I felt that I was ‘being told.,’ like a sermon or homily.

  10. kadian1364 says:

    Somehow i missed this entry underneath the tonnage of Toradora! posts elsewhere.

    That second to last paragraph… Magnificent. Now the warm-and-fuzzies won’t go away!

    • ghostlightning says:

      Thanks kadian! I feel strongly about these and probably hold Toradora! dearer than I’d usually do because of these things I make of it.

      By all means let us enjoy the warm-and-fuzzies as you call them ^_^

  11. Pingback: Toradora: The Worst Ending Ever? « Grand Punk Railroad

  12. Sakura says:

    It really was the friendship aspect of Toradora that I loved so much rather than the romance.

    • ghostlightning says:

      If I were to rank what I liked most about the elements of this show, I think this will be it:

      1. Exploration of the friendship theme and the maturing of the characters with the relationships making a difference.

      2. The reclaiming of the family as an ideal.

      3. Taiga’s choice to wait, leading to a portrayal of a maturing romance.

      4. Nuanced characterization amidst the hyperbolic comedy and drama.

      5. Moe.

  13. Pingback: These Mothers are Showing a Bit of Character: Happy Mothers’ Day! « We Remember Love

  14. “Trust in people, be responsible, delay your gratification, look past what is apparent, be true to oneself, be free to love, treasure your friends, cherish the family you’ve got…”

    That’s the perfect summary, really.

    • ghostlightning says:

      It’s not a summary man, it’s what I’m taking away from this wonderful show. Now that you’re writing about this show and I know it made an even bigger impression on you than one me, I want you to kick the living shit out of this post. Go forth and pwn (gendomike of Anime Diet wrote a pretty fierce one fyi).

      • Haha, I shall, I shall, though I first half to beat the crap out of Eureka Seven for all it’s worth, though that looks like it’s going to happen very slowly and possibly on the bakdrop of other things i.e. possible multiple epic journey compendiums moving at once among other things…. so a hell of watching and blogging.

  15. i soooo love TORADORA, it made so nostalgic, making me remeber those times i spent in school. The characters felt so real. watching it felt like i was also in that show, part of their class and eager to now what’s happening next. 2 thumbs up, considering I’m not really an anime worshiper! TORADORA stole my heart! =)

    • ghostlightning says:

      LOL anime worshipper. I dunno if that applies to anyone I know, but yeas I’m quite an enthusiast for anime. I like Toradora a lot obviously, and I find that there is a lot of care and respect given unto the characters that somewhat make them resonant for many viewers.

  16. Pingback: Moments of 2009: Do We Really Want Time Skips in Real Life? Toradora! Finale « We Remember Love

  17. Pingback: I Looked Around the Internet to Find Lists & Recommendations for Anime Love Stories and Found the Lists Quite Useless; So I Made My Own (Happy Valentine’s Day!) | We Remember Love

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