If you’re a fan of romantic comedies then you’ll no doubt have heard of Toradora! at some point. The franchise, which began as a 10 volume light novel series, is one of the most successful titles of the genre in the last decade, spawning multiple media projects such as anime, manga and a game (in Japan only). Both the anime adaption and manga have already been brought to the UK, which leads us to our latest release. Thanks to popular demand, Seven Seas Entertainment have now brought the original light novel series to the west, and today I’m here to see how the first volume shapes up!
Toradora! follows the story of Ryuji Takasu, who despite having a gentle personality is known for his intimidating eyes. His appearance leads many students to believe he’s actually a delinquent! As he begins his second year, Ryuji wishes for nothing more than to clear up the misconceptions about him, however when he gets involved with “Palmtop Tiger”, Taiga Aisaka, Ryuji’s wish is likely to never be granted…
Taiga is known as the most fearsome girl in the whole school, but under that tough exterior is a cute, shy and clumsy girl. Taiga has a crush on Ryuji’s best friend, Yusaku Kitamura, and attempts to slip a love letter into Kitamura’s bag. However, Taiga accidentally places it in Ryuji’s bag instead and this mixup results in Taiga invading Ryuji’s house. This is both to take back the letter and to brutally assault Ryuji until he forgets everything he’s seen.
This all comes to an anti-climactic end when Taiga faints from hunger and Ryuji ends up feeding her – discovering in the process that Taiga lives on her own in the fancy apartment complex next door and doesn’t know how to fend for herself. In exchange for discovering Taiga’s feelings for Kitamura, Ryuji promises to help her find a way to interact with her love interest and hopefully confess her feelings. He also begins to feed her and clean up her apartment as Ryuji can’t bear to see how hopeless Taiga is. Thus begins an unlikely friendship between the two perceived troublemakers of the school!
As it turns out, it’s not just Taiga who’s having troubles with her love interest. Throughout the course of the volume we also discover that Ryuji has a crush on Taiga’s best friend, Minori Kushieda. Minori is known as being the only student able to interact with and calm down Taiga when she’s on a rampage, proving that she’s a true friend of the Palmtop Tiger. Thanks to Ryuji spending so much time with Taiga, he also begins to grow closer to Minori.
One of the biggest problems we have right now in the west with light novels is that almost every series fits into either the ‘isekai’ or ‘fantasy’ genres, so it’s incredibly refreshing to be given something that’s a simple slice of life story. Of course, this is even better when that something is as high a quality as Toradora!.
The story might sound generic but the characters are a lot of fun to spend time with. Taiga is in no way a quiet and meek female protagonist. She’s short in stature and always ready for a punch-up, should the need arise. Taiga has a short fuse but, as I mentioned earlier, she’s incredibly clumsy and downright adorable underneath it all. Ryuji doesn’t fare quite as well when it comes to being original but, like Taiga, his personality does have a lot going for it. He’s a quiet guy but he holds a strong sense of justice and loyalty to those he’s close to, something we get to see often within his interactions with Taiga. Ryuji might be a bit of an idiot at times but to the reader it’s clear his heart is always in the right place. Although he may harbour many traits that we’d stereotypically see in a leading slice of life male protagonist, Ryuji comes off as an interesting enough character regardless, thanks to the quality of the writing.
I think the biggest drawback of this volume is how little we actually get to see Minori and Kitamura. They’re around enough for me to establish that Kitamura is a responsible (and busy!) young man, being vice-president of the student council, class representative and also the captain of the boys’ softball club; but nothing more than that. Meanwhile, we learn that Minori is in charge of the girls’ softball club and can handle the feisty Taiga, but otherwise it’s difficult to get a read on what kind of character she’s meant to be. As both she and Kitamura are meant to be love interests for our protagonists it would have been ideal knowing more about them within this volume. It’s a shame because the anime adaption does such a wonderful job of balancing screentime with them, and I’m sure many western fans who’ve only previously watched the show will be somewhat disappointed.
However, I don’t think my problems with Minori and Kitamura bring the first volume down too much. Even without the stronger focus on them, Taiga and Ryuji’s interactions are still incredibly fun to read. The two are such compelling characters together that they make up for any other shortcomings present and I had great fun being reintroduced to this world I came to know so well through the anime.
Author Yuyuko Takemiya’s writing style is easy to follow and she never lingers on scenes or inner monologues too long – a crime that other series like this run afoul of. If you’ve not come across the author’s work before then you might be interested to know she’s also the woman behind the Golden Time series, whose anime adaption has been released in the UK thanks to Animatsu. Illustrations for Toradora! have been handled by Yasu and are perfectly cute, but I often felt they lacked in great detail. Rather than being used for full page images I think Yasu’s style would be more suited to the smaller sized panels of a manga instead. It’ll be interesting to see how the illustrator’s work changes over time with Toradora!, if it changes at all.
As previously mentioned, this series is being released in English thanks to Seven Seas Entertainment. This is my first light novel pick-up from the publisher and I was delighted to see how well put-together the release is. The front pages of the book are filled with colour illustrations, as we’ve come to expect because of Yen Press’ releases. The width of the release is slightly wider than Yen Press’ books but otherwise is similar in scale. Translation has been handled by Jan Cash and Vincent Castaneda and provides a typo-free, smooth read.
Overall it’s refreshing to finally see a light novel being released in the West that doesn’t fall into the usual genres. This is helped greatly by the fact that Toradora! is already a big fan favourite. With a heartwarming story and two interesting protagonists, the series is well worth giving your time to. Whether you’re new to the series or a Toradora! veteran, this one belongs in your collection.