With the boom in light novels being translated into English over the last couple of years, the industry finally grew to the point where Seven Seas Entertainment could take a chance on licensing the Toradora! light novels. Back in May I reviewed the first volume of this beloved series, and now I return to take a look at its second volume to see how the goings are going for Ryuuji and the Palmtop Tiger!
We reunite with Ryuuji and Taiga at the start of the new school year, which has brought with it a new transfer student – Kawashima Ami. The day before school resumes, Ryuuji and Taiga are hanging out in a nearby diner when they run into Kitamura and Ami, who are having a meal with their families. When the parentals later leave so their kids can spend time with Ryuuji and Taiga, the two get to know Ami. On the surface this new girl is the very image of perfection, with a kind personality and beautiful looks that landed her a job in modelling – but looks are often deceiving, and that certainly appears to be the case here!
Kitamura pulls Ryuuji aside and leaves Ami with Taiga, explaining that he wants Ryuuji to see Ami’s true personality. As the boys look on, they witness Ami remove her mask as she attempts to treat Taiga as a servant, requesting that Taiga refill Ami’s drink for her. The blunt and impolite tone causes Taiga’s blood to boil, and before long the two are arch enemies. With Ami now attending their school and transferring into the same class as Taiga and Ryuuji, our main protagonist is going to have to work hard to prevent an all-out war between the two girls…
Back when I watched the anime adaption of Toradora! one of my least favourite characters was Ami. Her personality always annoyed me and, being a fan of Taiga’s, I hated the way she treated my beloved heroine. Reading this volume of the light novels hasn’t changed my opinion much but I was admittedly far more engrossed in Ami’s story this time around than I was previously. Much of this is because the book moves a lot faster than the anime, and by the end of this volume, we’re almost at the end of Ami’s introductory arc, but I also think being able to read Ryuuji’s inner thoughts helps. Knowing he’s not quite as taken with Ami as perhaps the anime implies shapes their relationship in a different light. Taiga’s relationship is also framed a little differently, with the Palmtop Tiger trying her best not to instigate things with Ami and instead being the victim of Ami’s bullying. It’s not that Taiga is completely blameless for all the conflicts the two have, but it’s definitely more on Ami than Taiga.
The other thing working in Ami’s favour is that Toradora! is a well written book in general. Ami’s personality makes a lot of sense once you get further into the novel and learn more about her history. There are reasons why she wears a mask around everyone and puts on a show of perfection, which are gradually revealed throughout the volume. I still might not like Ami but I better understand now what makes her tick and why. I think author Yuyuko Takemiya deserves lots of praise for the quality of writing in this book because it really does grip you from start to finish, regardless of whether you like Ami or not.
Away from Ami, it’s also nice to see how much Taiga and Ryuuji are developing as characters. Taiga is beginning to mature and not fly off the handle quite as much as she did in the first volume, while Ryuuji has a better idea of how to interact with her and his other classmates. Ryuuji often questions why he puts so much effort into looking after Taiga (especially while fending off the speculation at school that the two are dating!), but in the end he has a soft spot for this tiger and would be lonely without her. The way he works hard to break Ami out of her shell is also praiseworthy and shows that, rather than avoiding Ami’s troubles, Ryuuji’s now more likely to get involved with those around him. This is likely down to the carefree attitude of Taiga rubbing off on him. All round, it’s nice to see!
This volume of Toradora! has been brought to English thanks to Seven Seas Entertainment and includes several colour pages at the beginning of the book. There is also a short story at the end of the volume revolving around the members of the student council. The illustrations (once again provided by Yasu) are, like in the previous volume, lacking in detail and not really suited to a full page spread. They’re not unlikable by any means but I can’t say that they’re remarkable either. Translation for this volume has been handled once again by Jan Cash and Vincent Castaneda and reads well with no problems to speak of.
Overall Toradora! continues to impress with its well written cast of characters and gripping story. Ami is liable to get on your nerves if you’re a Taiga fan but the tale unfolding around her is compelling enough that this hopefully won’t matter. Once again I find myself eagerly looking forward to the next volume!