Toradora Volume 2 fixes a lot of the problems I had with first thirteen episodes. After establishing its comedic roots with volume one, in the second volume the series takes a more serious path and really starts to dive into the characters and their feelings about one another. The comedy is still great, just slightly toned down to make way for the story. This series isn’t nearly as simple as I initially thought, and the new batch of episodes add quite a few layers of depth to its story. Any viewer will go through a wide-range of emotions and have a positive experience as the story unfolds in Toradora, finally diving into who the characters really are.
The story starts off right after the school’s cultural festival, with the students believing that touching Taiga is a ticket to happiness. Right away the show embraces its comedic nature, with Taiga chasing and threatening anyone who dares try to lay a hand on her. After being stood up by her father, Ryuji finds himself worried about Taiga and whether or not she will ever be happy herself. While there had been subtle hints of romantic build up between the two before, this is essentially where it really kicks off and starts to drive the plot. However, that’d be far too easy, Minori also has feelings for Ryuji, and to top it off even Ami has developed some. Kitamura is still in the picture, but in a different sense when he develops his own romantic interests and learns that Taiga is in love with Ryuji. Overall, the straightforward plot is suddenly pretty complex and very interesting to watch play out. It’s also a lot of fun because it takes place during the winter months; Christmas, New Years and entrance exams now being the center of attention other than the pool.
Aside from the plot becoming more complicated, Toradora also barely used any of its unfunny quirks. The biggest is the constant abuse Ryuji got in the first thirteen episodes. While it is still apparent in volume two, the abuse is spaced out a lot more and nonexistent during the Christmas episodes, what with Taiga wanting to be a “good girl” for Santa Claus. While I wish it wasn’t present at all, I have to admit that Taiga wouldn’t be the same if she didn’t kick Ryuji in the back. On a similar note, while I expected Ryuji’s scowl to be a recurring thing with his classmates (in that they believe it makes him look like a serial killer) it was basically dropped. This may have been a result of the comedy being turned down a notch, but whatever the case it is a large positive in my book.
In my review of volume one, I mentioned that I felt the outcome seemed fairly obvious. I completely changed my mind while watching the second half of the series. I honestly wasn’t sure who Ryuji would end up with, and all three girls (with Ami perhaps being a bit behind Taiga and Minori) seemed as though they could come out on top. This added a level of surprise to the show and made every episode important as it approached the climax. The only episode I actually had a real issue with was the second to last, “Confession,” where the plot takes a turn I really wasn’t expecting but didn’t particularly like. Without giving too much away, Taiga and Ryuji make a decision that seems really absurd and some viewers will definitely not get on board with it. I let it go since the final episode made up for things, but the execution on that one wasn’t the best.
This plot totally would not have worked so well if it weren’t for all of the characters. They were my favorite part in volume one and things are no different in volume two. Not only do we get a lot of development for Taiga, Ryuji, Kitamura, and Minori but also a decent amount for their classmates and even Ryuji’s mother Yasuko. This was an extra treat because I really wasn’t expecting the show to give them time to do so. Instead of taking away from the main character, this enhances the story and the overall issues individuals face while growing up.
Taiga and Ryuji, being the main character, get fleshed out the most, with Taiga revealing that she has really only ever wanted to have a normal life but because of her situation is always alone. Ryuji on the other hand struggles with his feelings towards Taiga and Minori and what he should do after graduating high school, as he wants to no longer be a burden on his mother. Their problems with coming to terms with their love for one another are told very well and their emotions seem real. Some shows risk coming off as cheesy, but Toradora fortunately manages to steer clear of that fault. Minori being thrown in just added a new level of feelings to things, because while she loves Ryuji she is also Taiga’s best friend. Unlike in the first half of the series, Minori is shown to be more than a goof ball smiling all of the time and the resulting depth is welcome. Kitamura gets his own story arc involving the class president, resulting in Taiga and the president having a brawl. Of course, with all of these great storylines there is one exception, and that is the one featuring Ami. While she has her own problems and even an interest in Ryuji, it is kind of in the background. She definitely has an important role, but seeing such an interesting character be slightly sidelined was a small letdown for me.
I didn’t notice anything particularly amazing about the music in volume one. It wasn’t bad by any means, just didn’t stick out. In Toradora volume 2 however the music is really used to emphasize the emotional moments, especially between Taiga and Ryuji. It sets the mood so easily and really gets the viewer attached; I couldn’t get enough of it. There is also a song featuring Taiga and Ami at the end of episode 19 that is really cute. NIS America again has included a beautiful hardcover art book with episode guides, character designs, key terms, character relationship guides and more. The book also contains interviews from Rei Kugimiya (Taiga), Junji Majima (Ryuji), and Director Tatsuyuki Nagai. In general, NIS has done a great job with the packaging.
Toradora volume two is quite an improvement over the first, which says a lot considering I enjoyed volume one. The plot isn’t as typical as you’d expect, the characters are given depth and the show still maintains its cute, fun atmosphere. The only thing I am bitter about is that it is over.