Hello and welcome back to Manga Talk!
Today, to get back into the swing of things I have decided to change what I was originally going to talk about into something very different, a manga that is an adaptation of a light novel.
One of the most well regarded romantic comedy stories, I will be talking about the first volume of the manga adaptation of Toradora!
As usual there will be MASSIVE SPOILERS for the volume, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy the story of Toradora!
Let’s get started!
We begin the story with Takasu Ryuuji, who is trying to get through the day accidentally bumping into Aisaka Taiga, aka “The Palmtop Tiger”.
We flashback to earlier that day, where we learn that it is the first day of a new year and Ryuuji is in his bathroom trying to get ready for school to make a good first impression.
Ryuuji is a normal teenager, who can cook and clean very well, but he has the problem of having eyes that always look like they are glaring.
This makes him look very intimidating and a lot of people assume that he is a troublesome person.
Realizing it’s futile, he gets ready for school, his mom, Takasu Yasuko, comes home from working her job at a nightclub and she dotes on her son while bemoaning that the new apartment complex next door blocks the sunlight.
She says that she is proud that he is continuing his education, beyond where she went which he appreciates, and makes a passing comment on how Ryuuji looks more like his father, to which he does not appreciate.
His father, dead, looks like a Japanese punk and from how Yasuko describe him he was. Ryuuji dislikes the comparison and hates how he looks as it scares people away.
Well, not everyone. He does have a couple of friends, his best friend being Kitamura Yusaku who hangs out with him.
Class does not go well, as a lot of students are not liking the fact that Ryuuji is in their class, but Ryuuji is actually in a good mood.
Because a friendly girl named Kushieda Minori is in their class, and he just so happens to have a crush on her.
She is friendly to Ryuuji, which he really appreciates, and when she leaves, he and Yusaku have a discussion in how they both have trouble talking to girls. This annoys Ryuuji, because Yusaku seems to have no issues talking to girls, and has a lot of accolades like being the class representative, student council vice president, and the boys’ softball team captain.
Ryuuji, having heard people gossip about how much of a delinquent he must be, decides to leave the classroom, bringing us to the beginning of the story.
Taiga intimidates Ryuuji, and he explains that despite Taiga being short, she has an intense presence that scares a lot of people, with rumors circulating that he father is a member of the yakuza or a gangster of some sort.
Either way, Taiga does have a friend in Minori, as she is probably the most friendly person in the class, and some of the students help Ryuuji up, sympathizing with him in being intimidated by Taiga.
As the days go by, the incident with Taiga had actually made socializing with some people easier for Ryuuji, and there is also the occasional conversation with Minori that Ryuuji appreciates.
Then one day, Ryuuji comes back to the classroom to get his stuff after finishing class chores when he sees the room in disarray.
He easily spots Taiga and while she is being evasive in why she is there, she immediately becomes concerned when Ryuuji grabs his bag.
Desperate, Taiga tries to grab Ryuuji’s bag, but he manages to keep hold of it. Taiga angrily storms off, which confuses Ryuuji.
The confusion is abated when he finds something in his bag.
A love letter.
Taiga had accidentally left a love letter in Ryuuji’s bag thinking that it was Yusaku’s. The envelope opens, and Ryuuji freaks out only to realize that there wasn’t even a letter in the envelope to begin with.
Ryuuji wakes up in the middle of the night with a bad feeling, only to just block a bokuto (wooden sword) strike from Taiga.
She came to get the letter and beat Ryuuji until he forgot about seeing the letter or kill him. She attacks him and Ryuuji only manages to stop Taiga by telling and showing her that the envelope was empty.
Taiga collapses, partially to embarrassment and partially to being hungry, and Ryuuji makes her some fried rice.
Taiga is still angry at Ryuuji, as well as embarrassed that he saw the envelope for Yusaku, so Ryuuji decides to show all the stuff he had not sent to people he’s had a crush on to level the playing field.
Taiga notices some love letters specifically for Minori, and she berates him, while Ryuuji is trying to get Taiga to leave before his mom comes home.
Taiga makes Ryuuji promise that he will do whatever she asks in the future, and just before she leaves she gives him some money to replace a screen door that she broke as she leaves through the window.
The next morning, Ryuuji gets a call from Taiga who angrily tells him to get to her place. As Ryuuji opens the curtain to get some light in and ask where Taiga lives, he sees that she lives in the apartment complex right next to him.
He goes over and enters the apartment, to find that while a good chunk of the apartment is clean, the kitchen is a filthy mess.
He goes to find that Taiga is sleeping, so he cleans up as much as he can and makes lunch for the two. Eventually Taiga wakes up and the two start walking to school, late.
The two argue, as Ryuuji begins to regret his end of the deal, until the two find Minori waiting for Taiga. They manage to abate her curiosity by saying that they ran into each other while they were walking to school.
As Ryuuji starts to walk with the girls, Taiga tells him to buzz off, and we learn that in order for Taiga to let Ryuuji get close to Minori, he has to help Taiga get with Yusaku.
His first attempt begins with gym class. Ryuuji explains that he plans to partner with Taiga for basketball day, in order for Yusaku to partner with another guy, Ryuuji hits the random guy in the face and while he is off taking the guy to the infirmary, Taiga will pair up with Yusaku.
The plan goes sideways when everyone notices that Ryuuji and Taiga pair up, so everyone decides to pair up with someone of the opposite gender.
This complicates the plan because Ryuuji doesn’t want to hit a girl in the face, and after a few failed attempts, Ryuuji hits a girl in the face.
Unfortunately that girl was Taiga. While people, including Yusaku, rush over, Ryuuji decides that it wouldn’t be ideal for Yusaku to see Taiga injured, so he takes her to the infirmary.
Ryuuji laments at the failed plan, and Taiga comes back to class. As an improvised plan, Ryuuji convinces Taiga, Yusaku, and Minori to eat together, with the cover being that Ryuuji wants to apologize for hitting Taiga in the face.
After some seating antics, the four begin to eat, with Ryuuji realizing that he made Taiga’s lunch and that they have the exact same lunch. While he tries to figure out how to deal with that situation, an emergency student council meeting is called, so Yusaku and Minori leave.
The two angrily eat lunch, and plan for the last attempt they have for the day.
During Home Economics class they made cookies, so the plan is for Taiga to give Yusaku some cookies that she made. Taiga managed to not burn a few cookies, so they begin prepping to give Yusaku the cookies.
The teacher then begins a long story, which delays the end of class, so Yusaku (in a rush) gives closing announcements and leaves so he isn’t late for his stuff.
Ryuuji, not wanting to fail again, takes Taiga and the two begin to give chase to Yusaku. As the two are running up a set of stairs, Taiga trips and Ryuuji catches her.
Taiga is concerned with injuring Ryuuji, but he convinces her to deliver the cookies to Yusaku. Unfortunately the cookies flew out a nearby window and hit a teacher in the head.
Ryuuji tells Taiga to get the cookies and the two meet back up in the classroom. Taiga starts lamenting the fact that she is a klutz, and while Ryuuji tries to console her, it doesn’t work as she says that the cookies were crushed during the fall.
Ryuuji trades the cookies he made with the ones Taiga made, and tries her cookies. While they aren’t good, Ryuuji lies to Taiga saying that they were good and that they’ll try harder next time.
Taiga tries the cookies that Ryuuji made and she compliments Ryuuji for how good the cookies are. She then gets back to normal, blaming Ryuuji for things going wrong, which Ryuuji reluctantly takes as a win.
While they are leaving, Taiga tells Ryuuji to stay behind for a bit so he could watch Minori during softball practice. Taiga trips one more time and while she adjust her stocking, Ryuuji notices that there are a bunch of bruises on her legs, and wonder how many times has Taiga has fallen.
Ryuuji and Taiga start hanging out more often, so much so that Ryuuji’s mom becomes friendly with her and other students start to suspect that the two are a couple.
As the rumors swirl, the manga ends with Minori taking Taiga and Ryuuji away to talk about something.
There is also a little bonus chapter that shows a day in the life of Ryuuji’s mom, which is the actual end of the manga.
While knowledge of the property has me know where the story is going to go, the premise of Ryuuji helping Taiga get together with Yusaku while she prevents Ryuuji from getting with Minori until he fulfills his end of the bargain is a fun concept.
There is plenty of well done comedy done that it is entertaining throughout. It is very much comedy based in slapstick, but I feel that it does most of it well (I do have a bias for enjoying slapstick).
I will also say that there are a ton of subtle character moments and foreshadowing that are littered throughout the manga.
Ryuuji’s feelings for his father, the bruises on Taiga’s legs, Taiga’s apartment situation, and other small things that help flesh out the characters and the world.
While a lot of the art is nothing to write home about, I will say that there are a lot of amazing character expressions, mostly from Taiga.
Expressions are some of the most important part of romantic comedies that can make or break a series, and I feel that it was done superbly here.
The characters, as a whole, were done pretty well in terms of how they were characterized. They fulfill archetypes, but they are more than those archetypes.
Ryuuji is the loner main character, but he is only a loner because of his angry expression. Taiga is very much a textbook tsundere, but she has aspects of being a klutz and self reflective.
Little things go a long way in developing how the story will progress in the future.
This is the first time when my own knowledge of the series proves to be a detriment.
This is such a well regarded series that it is hard to bring a fresh opinion to the series.
I know what’s coming and what to look out for, but that does not help in judging something fairly and in an unbiased way.
As much as I tried to keep what I know out, I couldn’t help but make connections to what will happen in the future.
Barring that, like I said earlier, a lot of the art is nothing too notable other than the expressions. A lot of the background character designs are pretty generic, and the backgrounds do nothing to impress.
I will also say that Ryuuji’s mom is my least favorite character of the volume and it’s all because she acts like a child.
It gets annoying, as does Ryuuji’s parakeet Inko, which are some of the comedic failings of the story.
Comedy is hard to get right in the best of times, and comedy is completely subjective so while these aspects did not do anything for me, they could be funny to someone else.
I would highly recommend this story, especially if you like romantic comedies, amazing expressions, and want to read a well renowned classis.
I have been going back and forth in whether I will continue the manga or rewatch the anime, but in the end I will experience this story again because of how much I enjoy it.
On Friday, I will be taking a look at one of the most popular current series. With a month’s headstart of it’s upcoming movie, I will be taking a look at Jujutsu Kaisen!
So until then,
Heiwa to sayonara!