Toradora!, Vol. 1

By Yuyuko Takemiya and Yasu. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jan Cash & Vincent Castaneda. Adapted by J.P. Sullivan.

This really isn’t a review for the Toradora! newbie. It’s been about 8 years since the manga debuted over here, and I still think the main reason Seven Seas licensed the novels is that they got tired of the slow schedule for the Japanese manga releases. The anime is also ten years old this fall. And, sorry about this, but like A Certain Magical Index, Toradora! is one where I did read the fan translated novels, as I had no confidence it would ever be licensed. I mean, there’s no supernatural content in it! But the novels are finally out in North America, and I am pleased, as I really love the story and characters and want to experience them the way they were originally intended. Which, oddly enough, means reading this book like a stand-alone, as it was clearly written. Despite the author’s afterword saying to look forward to more, the book itself wraps everything up (if slightly ambiguously) in one package.

I’ll do a quick summary, just in case any readers who hadn’t experienced this series finished that last paragraph. Ryuuji is a young man who has “angry eyes” (see also Haganai), and has dealt with people misunderstanding him because of it. But now he’s in high school, and can make a fresh start. That is until he runs into Taiga, a short and angry girl who is a giant cloud of issues all bubbling to the surface. Due to various misunderstandings which make up the bulk of the book, each realizes that they love someone else – Ryuuji loves Taiga’s best friend Minori, and Taiga loves Kitamura, a charming and bespectacled young man in their class. Ryuuji, who is a very nice guy, and not in the modern sense of “nice guy”, tries to help Taiga win her love. This is difficult, because it’s really clear from the start that Ryuuji and Taiga are perfect for each other.

Later in these volumes (the series runs to ten books plus side stories) there is an attempt to try to ‘balance’ the harem a bit, adding another girl and showing more of Minori’s feelings about Ryuuji. But honestly, I hope anyone who doesn’t like Taiga knows enough to stop reading and find another property, because Taiga is absolutely Best Girl here. Taiga is less of a tiger and more of a miniature hurricane, leaving chaos and destruction in her wake. As for Ryuuji, he’s a sweetie pie, something Taiga straight up says near the end of the book. He’s dealing with a lot, and his natural inclination is to try to help this chaotic event that has just strolled into his life. Fortunately, he is the rock that Taiga can cling to.

There’s a few things in this book that make it feel like a first volume – in particular, Minori and Kitamura aren’t given the chance to be as eccentric or deep as they become later on. And Seven Seas’ translation has a few issues – I did notice one point where Ryuuji’s mom, Yasuko, should have been speaking but the paragraph got mangled a bit. Still, any Toradora! fan will want to read this, primarily for the amazing chemistry between its two leads.

Toradora!, Vol. 7

By Yuyuko Takemiya and Zekkyo. Released in Japan by ASCII Media Works, serialization ongoing in the magazine Dengeki Daioh. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

I’ve frequently heard companies asked why they don’t get closer to Japanese release dates, and why they think ‘caught up with Japan’ means still being one or two volumes behind. Well, Toradora! is an excellent answer in and of itself. Here is a series where we are definitively caught up. The manga came out in Japan in February, and SS has it out at the end of June. That’s an amazing turnaround. But Volume 6 came out in February 2014, and given that the 8th volume is not remotely close to being out in Japan, we could be looking at Fall 2016 to resolve the plot points this volume introduces. It’s hard to keep a fanbase with 16-month breaks between releases. Especially with the anime long done, and the light novels all fan translated – and also done.


And this is a shame, as the manga adaptation is really excellent. We resolve the tortuous cliffhanger from last time, with Taiga’s father being the worst man ever. I was particularly happy that my critique of Minori from last volume was called out… by Minori herself, who admitted she didn’t tell Ryuuji about Taiga’s father as she was jealous that she wasn’t Taiga’s first choice for comfort. (The OT3, always strong on this title, was particularly strong here, particularly given the results of the footrace to be King of the School). As for Taiga’s dad, his end seems oddly fitting – after we realize what he’s really like, he’s simply forgotten about.

The rest of the book begins to adapt the 6th light novel, meaning we’re finally past the halfway mark of the series. The strong, confident woman on the cover would be Kanou, the queen of the school and class president, who I’m sure we’ll get to know better soon, but for the moment seems to be a bit cold and harsh. The other mysterious boy on the cover is, surprise, Kitamura, who has a complete breakdown on learning Kanou is transferring overseas in a week, and it leads him to pointlessly “rebel” by dyeing his hair blond. Kitamura has shown occasional hidden depths throughout the series, but this is the first time we’re really seeing what makes him tick – unsurprisingly, like the rest of the cast, he has a lot of internalized issues he avoids.

As for the rest of the volume, it’s exactly what you would want from Toradora!. There’s a lot of hysterical comedy, much of it involving Ami. There’s many heartwarming and tearjerking moments, such as seeing Taiga beat herself up when she realized that Kitamura is suffering and she hadn’t seen it. There’s also a reminder that our lead couple are in fact still supposed to be in love with other people – the rumor that Taiga and Kitamura are dating both angers and delights her, and Ryuuji and Minori have never felt closer. Not that anyone suspects this title will end – whenever it does end, possibly in 12 years time – with anyone but Ryuuji and Taiga. For a title that is theoretically a harem manga, it’s the sort of harem manga you could happily introduce to your parents, so to speak. Pickup this volume and remind yourself why it’s great.

Toradora, Vol. 6

By Yuyuko Takemiya and Zekkyo. Released in Japan by ASCII Media Works, serialization ongoing in the magazine Dengeki Daioh. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

Given how impossible it is for most mass media to avoid cliches and tropes, the question often becomes “how well does this work manage the cliche”? This volume of Toradora! handles this in both a comedic and serious fashion. The Culture Festival rears its ugly head, and though thoughts of a maid cafe drift through our male classmates’ heads, what we end up with is far sillier, particularly after it’s subverted midway through. It’s the more serious plotline that folks will take with them, however – Taiga’s father is back in her life again, and wants her to come live with him. Something which a projecting Ryuuji can’t help but assist with.


Ryuuji is not helped by the cover art for the volume, showing a tear-filled Taiga and Ryuuji looking askance. This clues the reader in that we are meant to be in her side in the matter. Things are not helped by the appearance of her father himself, who seems far too contrite and meek to be true. Of course he’s playing right into Ryuuji’s hands, though I don’t think that it’s deliberate on his part – her father isn’t genuinely evil, he’s just monumentally selfish. What he doesn’t know, but we do, is that Ryuuji’s lack of a father figure looms incredibly large in his life. And so naturally Ryuuji is going to move heaven and earth to see Taiga and her father reunite, just as he can never do.

On the other side we have Taiga and Minori, who have experience with her father doing all this before and know the truth. Crucially, however, neither of them tell Ryuuji that full truth. In meta terms, this is because the plot has to happen. In the story itself, though, Taiga is more understandable. She gets the reasons why Ryuuji wants this to happen, she’s in love with Ryuuji and doesn’t want to disappoint him, and she really does love her father despite everything, so she opens herself up to him one more time. Minori, though, I’m rather disappointed in, as you’d think she’d be the one to sit Ryuuji down and say ‘Hey, let me give you a timeline of the times this guy has tried this with Taiga before.’ Instead, she just gets angry, saying it’s obvious he’s being a selfish ass. And so they fight, which, Ryuuji still having lingering feelings for Minori, devastates him.

Luckily, Ami is there to be the voice of reason and get Ryuuji out of his funk. Unluckily, Taiga’s dad *is* everything they say he is, and therefore things come to a head at the culture festival with a devastating text sent to Ryuuji. And, once Ryuuji sees for himself what’s going on, he gets it all IMMEDIATELY – a sign of his maturity, even as he backslides here. Sadly, resolution will have to wait – this is the end of the volume, and so we get the horrible cliffhanger with Taiga’s appearance on stage waiting for parental acknowledgement that will never come. How is this going to be resolved? Well, Toradora! comes out about every year and a half in Japan, so we’ll likely have to wait till summer 2015 to find out. See, and folks wonder why publishers don’t want to catch up to Japan…