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Toradora! Volume 2

Score: 96%
Rating: 13+
Publisher: NIS America
Region: 1
Media: DVD/1
Running Time: 295 Mins.
Genre: Anime/Comedy/Drama
Audio: Dolby 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Subtitles: English

I'm what you would refer to as a less-than-casual anime fan. I know some of the big shows and characters and feel relatively comfortable in conversations with more hardcore fans (and believe me, I come across them on a daily basis). I'm also not into dramatic relationship shows. Again, I know the big names, but given the choice, I'd completely ignore them.

Looking at the above reasons, you'd think Toradora! would be the last thing I'd want to watch. It's an anime about relationships; the animated equivalent of One Tree Hill or any other drama-heavy show. Yet, I'm completely hooked.

Toradora! Volume 2 continues the lives of high school outcasts Ryuji and Taiga. Despite all appearances, Ryuji is one of the nicest guys in school, while Taiga has a temper than would even cause Jersey Shore's Snooki to suggest she attend anger management classes. However, the two have forged a strong friendship based around hooking the other up with their best friend.

Volume 1 was merely the setup, culminating in a massive payoff in Volume 2. Everything is already in motion by the middle of the first episode and keeps charging forward all the way to the very end. Unlike the first arc, there are no filler episodes; everything matters and keeps the snowball rolling around nicely. Ryuji and Taiga's friendship keeps moving towards its eventual (and predictable) end while nearly every secondary character finds someplace to shine.

Though the brisk pacing helps, it is the characters that really shine throughout the series. Most of the situations are, as I said earlier, a bit predictable, but Toradora! manages to sidestep many issues by presenting believable characters. The situations are cliché, but character's reactions to the situations feel real. There's a great emotional charge running throughout the entire show. Events seem over the top, but as someone whose taught in a high school, the drama is closer to home than most would think - especially the violent girl-on-girl fights.

It's also nice to see characters come full circle. Most characters, even secondary ones, find some way to stand out. Again, it's predictable, but everything follows a natural and relatable course.

Toradora! Volume 2 ships with the same extras as the previous set. As before, the big "get" is the full-color art book. Each section is broken down into 3-episode cycles focusing on character relationships (the relationship charts are crucial), notable scenes and loads of artwork. Scattered throughout the book, you'll also find interviews with both cast and crew, which are interesting to look at if just for the pictures.

On-disc, you'll find clean versions of both the intro and ending sequences as well as two episodes of "Hurray for Gourmands," chibi-style shorts featuring the show's characters.

If more anime like Toradora! was released in the States, I'd probably be a bigger fan than I am now. I'm also sure others might jump aboard as well. It is not kid-focused, hyper-fighting or any other sort of supernatural ninja stuff. Instead, it is entertaining and completely relatable storytelling. The only roadblock for non-anime viewers would probably be the subtitles, but don't let a little reading stop you --this is good stuff.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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