The Dragon and the Tiger Play Cupid
Warning! Spoilers ahead!
- Unique characters
- Fun character dynamic
- Even the animals have quirky personalities
- Well written slow-burn romance
- Attractive animation and design
- Taiga’s violent nature is abusive
- Occasionally uncomfortably bizarre
- Drags at times
- The ending could have been better
- One of the most awkward friend groups ever
This blog article was co-written by Ashley Ostrowski and P. A. Wilson. We decided to watch Toradora! after we went through a list of romantic comedy anime. P.A. Wilson had already watched it a few months before, and said it was pretty good. We’re both fans of romantic comedies, and gave it a try.
Toradora! was created in 2008 by Yuyuko Takemiya. It is currently available to watch on Netflix, Funimation, and Crunchyroll.
Ryuji Takasu, a kind high schooler who is often mistaken for a delinquent, runs into the notorious Palm-top Tiger, a vertically challenged and short-tempered girl. They discover that they both have crushes on each other’s best friend and make a pact to help each other out with their crushes.
What ensues is completely awkward and entertaining. Ryuji’s crush, Minori Kushieda, is a quirky and athletic teenager who is always full of optimism and spunk. The Palm-top Tiger, whose actual name is Taiga Aisaka, has a crush on Yusaku Kitamura, a talented member of the school council. They meet Kitamura’s childhood friend Ami Kawashima, a self-centered model who plays the part of the perfect girl but has her own deep-seated flaws.
Ryuji, Taiga, and Ami are typically referred to by their first names in the anime, while Kushieda and Kitamura are referred to by their last names. We intend to do the same for this article.
Ryuji is a clean freak and germaphobe who takes delight in keeping things clean. This is one of the first things we learn about him. It’s quirky and makes him an interesting character, and also pretty likeable. His habit of taking so much work upon himself is one of the first indicators that he is used to being his own guardian, in a way. He cooks for himself and his mother, and his father left him a long time ago.
He seems to almost raising himself because his single mother works a lot, and when she is home she is incredibly immature. Her childlike behavior goes to extremes, and Ryuji has almost become the head of the household.
Ryuji looks like his father, and is constantly told stories about how his father put magazines under his shirt to protect himself from being stabbed. It is obvious that his mother still loves his father, even though he is gone. Because of Ryuji’s appearance, he is often mistaken for a delinquent. People give him their wallets sometimes because they think he is trying to rob them. He always turns wallets into the lost and found, which looks really suspicious.
To us, Ryuji does not really look like a delinquent, except maybe when he is angry. We think the other characters may think he is sketchy because he has tiny eyes, which look like just pupils. Everyone else has big, colorful, innocent-looking eyes.
Ryuji meets Taiga when he runs into her. He did not notice her because she was so short. (P. A. Wilson understands how she must feel.) She is nicknamed the Palmtop Tiger because of her ferocious attitude, and she quickly lives up to her name by knocking him to the floor.
It is funny because they both have reputations for violence and danger, but only Taiga’s reputation is merited. Ryuji is such a sweet guy, and is only ever aggressive toward germs and mold. Taiga is aggressive toward anyone who annoys her in the slightest.
When Taiga tries to put a love letter for Ryuji’s best friend Kitamura in his bag, she accidentally puts it with Ryuji’s stuff instead. He takes it home and is amused to discover that she had forgotten to include the letter and it is actually just an empty envelope. Taiga breaks in with a weapon and tries to kill him–hopefully not for real–until he assuages her. Taiga discovers that Ryuji is in love with her best friend Kushieda, and they decide to help each other out with their love lives.
Now, a quick side note. In this episode we learn that Ryuji has a bird named Inko who is hilariously ugly and freaky. Ryuji and his mother are always trying to get Inko to say its own name. Unlike most pets, Inko has real character, and the show just wouldn’t be the same without it. We wouldn’t want to have Inko as a pet personally, but he is a permanent fixture in Ryuji’s small family.
What kind of surprised us is that Taiga confessed her love to Kitamura so early in the season. It seemed like she would pine away in silence, but she had guts. If it had ended out better for her, the pact between her and Ryuji might have ended almost before it had begun. But Kitamura basically friend-zones Taiga. He used to have feelings for her, but after she rejected him, those feelings faded.
Taiga lives directly across from Ryuji in a fancy apartment while he lives in a run-down house. Taiga lives alone due to a difficult family situation and starts eating meals with Ryuji and his mom. She becomes like a member of their family, and Ryuji even makes Taiga lunch for school days to make sure she has something to eat.
We liked how the creators included little details about the characters. For example, Ryuji has a habit of tugging at his own hair.
The two bond pretty quickly despite their differing personalities. Within one scene, Ryuji and Taiga are so frustrated that they start kicking a pole. While they do this, they rant about the rumors that they are dating and that Ryuji is a delinquent.
Taiga repeatedly calls Ryuji her dog, but he insists that he is a dragon, because that is the only animal that stands on equal footing with a tiger. Even if it seems like Taiga is the one bossing Ryuji around, they treat each other like equals. Taiga appreciates Ryuji, and she keeps coming over to hang out with him.
There are times where Taiga goes too far with her violence and she makes their relationship seem abusive. For example, she attacks Ryuji’s eyes at one point. That’s a pretty awful way to attack someone. The eyes are sensitive. Taiga also kicks Ryuji at different points. That wouldn’t go over the same way in real life, because it would be viewed as a toxic relationship. Even though her violence is animated, it does make it harder to sympathize with Taiga. She does tone it down later in the series.
The series gets more complicated when a new character, Ami, is introduced. She is a teenage model and Kitamura’s childhood friend. Ami is spoiled and self-centered. She puts on a nice girl/airhead act, but she can be very selfish and causes a lot of drama. She changes the entire dynamic of the friend group, making it an even more awkward friend group. She grows as a person as she learns to deal with stalkers and comes to terms with herself.
The show gets more awkward as it goes on. Ryuji made fake boobs for Taiga because she is flat-chested. Taiga panics when Ryuji nearly drowns. Kitamura dresses up as a shirtless Santa. Taiga dreams that she marries Ryuji and gives birth to puppies. Kitamura dyes his hair blonde. The show likes its metaphors, whether it is talking about ghosts, aliens, or stars.
Taiga’s dad is terrible, pretending he wants to be a part of her life and then not showing up when it matters. She is never his first priority. Ryuji convinces Taiga to give her dad another chance because Ryuji will never get another chance with his own dad. So he kind of guilts her into it and then it blows up in her face.
One of the reasons Ryuji and Taiga connect so well is because they both do not come from stable, consistent households. They take care of each other and help each other become better people.
The ending left some people satisfied while others were just disappointed. Some people believe Kushieda should have ended up with Ryuji. We did not ship Ryuji and Kushieda as much because they did not have as much chemistry, and Kushieda is really confusing sometimes. The whole anime was building up the relationship between Taiga and Ryuji, so if it had ended differently it would have been odd.
At the end, Taiga and Ryuji elope, but end up separating while Taiga tries to get on better terms with her family. They end up together again after that separation, but it was weird considering Taiga did not care what her family thought of her very much before that.
The show kind of got boring in the middle because it dragged out the drama but it was not super entertaining. The show picked up again later on.
The intros and outros are fun but not especially notable. They fit the characters well without spoiling anything, so that’s good.
We wish that Taiga had been nicer to Ryuji because a lot of times she seems abusive. Their relationship is okay, but they have a ways to go before they have a healthy relationship. They are cute together, but it would have been better without so much violence. Overall, the show was fun, and we would tentatively recommend it to anyone who enjoys rom-coms.