Toradora: A high school anime above the norm

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I have less than 100 years on this planet and the older I get, the less tolerance I have for crappy anime. When I was younger, I would sit through at least half a show before I would give up. Now one or two episodes are enough for me.

That’s not the case with “Toradora” which is a show I actually look forward to seeing every week. It’s set in a high school and deals with the lives and loves of several students. The lead characters are Ryuji Takasu who is unfortunate enough to be born with his father’s mean eyes so people think he’s a juvenile delinquent and Taiga Aisaka, the short petite girl with a horrible temper who lives alone and is called the “Palm top Tiger.” Taiga sounds like tiger, get it? Anyway, she’s vicious enough for the nickname to stick.

The show is a play on their names. Ryu is dragon and tora is tiger in Japanese. And if you try to say “dragon” in Japanese, one would say doragon. Or so Wikipedia says.

Taiga has a huge crush on Ryuji’s friend, Yusaku Kitamura, who once upon a time confessed his affection to her. And Ryuji harbors this big crush on Taiga’s bubbly friend, Minori Kushieda.

Their paths cross when Ryuji accidentally gets the lover letter Taiga wrote for Yusaku. She comes to Ryuji’s house at night intending to beat the crap out of him. They end up agreeing to help each other win their respective crushes.

Despite his beady eyes, Ryuji is really a sweetheart who can cook well and is obsessed with cleaning, He ends up being Taiga’s caretaker of sorts when he finds out she lives alone in this big messy apartment next to his small house and subsists on takeout, She can’t stand her father and stepmother.

But “Toradora” is not just your run of the mill high school anime revolving around romance. Most of the characters have depth to them and some of the episodes make you reach for a tissue.

Ryuji learned to be cook and housekeeper since his widowed mother works nights as a hostess at a bar. He is perceptive and kind but finds it hard to tell Minori how he feels. Lately though, he’s become a little braver asking her to the Christmas party, And when she said she wouldn’t come, he yelled that he would wait for her. Aaaaw.

At the same time, Ryuji’s feelings for the little terror who eats and hangs around his house is changing. It bothers him that their fellow classmates are rooting for Taiga and Yusaku to be a couple.

Taiga, who is used to being on her own, doesn’t think twice about Ryuji cooking her meals, packing her lunch or cleaning her apartment for free. She calls him her “dog” but feels comfortable enough around him to tell him the reason why she really likes Christmas. At his insistence, she gave her father another chance to be a parent. Now instead of just Minori, she also has him on her side.

You don’t have to be a psychic to know the two will end up liking each other as more than friends, But the show sure makes the trip to this likely path enjoyable.

Of fairies, charming rogues and a fairy doctor

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An anime season wouldn’t be complete without a shoujo show or two. And this fall’s offerings include the shoujo series “Hakushaku to Yosei” or “Earl and Fairy” as the fansubbers called it in English.

Lydia Carlton, who has huge green eyes and masses of red hair, is a fairy doctor which is a term used for those who act as liaisons between humans and fairies. It seems Lydia inherited the ability to see and talk to fairies and assorted spirits from her late mother. Her companion is Nico, a spirit who takes the form of a talking cat. He drinks Scotch and walks on two legs when he can.

But Lydia lives in the Victorian age when many people don’t believe in such things anymore and just see her as some kook. She leaves her Edinburgh home to visit her father in London. On the way, she is waylaid by some men and ends up on the run with a charming rogue who calls himself Lord Edgar, the successor of the legendary Blue Knight Earl.

The Blue Knight held titles in England and the Fairy Nation. Edgar wants the Knight’s Noble Sword of Merrow which would allow entry into the fairy world and so recruits Lydia to help him in his search. He also lies shamelessly to others about why they’re traveling together and flirts with her at every opportunity. And like many other shoujo heroine, Lydia blushes, gets annoyed, tells him to stop but somehow likes the attention. ( I would have kicked him where it hurt already.)

But blonde, mauve-eyed Edgar is not a good man. He is the scion of a nobleman who when accused of treason, kills his family and himself. Edgar, the lone survivor, gets sold into slavery and does everything to survive. He is a thief, a liar and a suspected killer.

The one who actually did the killing turns out to be his servant, Raven, who has fairy blood and a bloodthirsty sprite inside of him. Raven’s sister, Ermine, also served Edgar but it seems she was killed or died.

Edgar tells Lydia he isn’t a descendant of the Blue Knight but believes if he gets the sword, he can turn an impostor into the real thing. However, there are hints he is the successor since why else would Raven be able to obey him and there’s two other characters following them around who are definitely not human.

Their nemesis is Gotham, the son of a doctor who experimented on criminals and took their brains. Gotham also wants Lydia to get the sword and much of the problem is caused by him planting false stories about Edgar and trying to capture the couple.

I don’t mind watching the show but it really doesn’t rank very high on my list right now. Edgar knows he is cute, poses a lot and lays on the charm too thickly. And like all bishounens, he gets surrounded by sparkles or flowers. The series also appears to be a reverse harem which means Lydia will have a bevy of beaux to choose from.

Let the fangirl squealing commence.