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Dated 5 September 2008: Toradora! It's okay if it's J.C. Staff

Toradora! original character designs
I like the original Toradora! character designs.

Against my better judgment, I'm looking forward to Toradora! There's a good deal of hype surrounding this show, mostly involving the tiny hyper-tsundere lead girl, Aisaka Taiga.

Toradora! anime character designs
The presumptive anime character designs, not so much.

Surprising nobody, I'm sure, Kugimiya Rie will voice Taiga. I mentioned how Noto Mamiko suffers from frequent typecasting. Well, Kugimiya Rie is so typecast as the stereotypical tsundere dervish that she banks on it.


Kugimiya Rie GPS demo. (No audio first 13 seconds.)
Don't you dare make any wrong turns.

Looking for a backseat harpy driver who sounds too young to drive? We've got just the thing.

Dated 22 October 2008: In the grim future of Toradora! and Hyakko there is only war

Taiga
Taiga, tsun-tsun mode.

In the weeks leading up to the start of the current autumn season, the corner of the Internet I frequent was positively abuzz in anticipation of Toradora!, mostly due to its tsundere Kugimiya Rie content. I like tsundere well enough, but I was looking forward to Hyakko quite a bit more, mostly for its slice-of-life wackiness.

Taiga
Taiga, not quite dere-dere yet.

Through the first three episodes of Toradora!, I like the show well enough. I'm glad Kugimiya Rie exercises some restraint in voicing Taiga; that was one of my reservations. I'm also pleased J.C. Staff leans heavily on two of its strengths: characters and tone. The character development is far more rapid than I expected. After three episodes, the Toradora! anime has already churned through several chapters of the manga. (I haven't read any of the original light novels, so I can't comment on their pacing.) This is not to say that the Toradora! characters are particularly complex, but their development is moving along quickly—getting them to where they need to be in a short series yet without seeming rushed.

Minori
Minori, Top Fuel Genki.

The big surprise for me is Minori. Reading the Toradora! manga, I didn't think much of Minori; she was just there as Ryuuji's temporary love interest before he and Taiga inevitably get together. Anime Minori, on the other hand, is TOP FUEL GENKI. Horie Yui cranks up her trademark sweetness voicing Minori about as high as I can stand. You could bake a cake. This is a very anime-type voice, but it works here and gives Minori the kind of charisma she really needs to be a credible love interest. It's no wonder Ryuuji has a crush on her. There's even potential here for Minori to usurp Best Girl status from Female Protagonist if she continues to one-up Taiga, much as Kotori overshadowed Nemu in Da Capo.

Minori
Gotta love a girl who likes baseball enough to bat left-handed.

So how is the Hyakko and Toradora! war shaping up? Well, I've only seen two episodes of Hyakko, but I do like it better than Toradora! so far. I know a lot of people had concerns about Hirano Aya as Ayumi. As far as I'm concerned, this is Torako's show. I.e., it's all Orikasa Fumiko all the time, as Torako and her freakishly-strong sidekick steal scene after scene. (Seriously. Fumiko? She's out of control.) Neya Michiko plays a nice straight man to Orikasa's neo-Miu. I'm confident Hyakko will continue to entertain in a teenage Ichigo Mashimaro sort of way.

Iizuka
Iizuka also bats left, but she's a natural southpaw.

But the war is over. Both the Hyakko Army and the Toradora! Army got outflanked by Kannagi and Nodame Cantabile: Paris (which had a GREAT first episode—especially all the parts with Nodame trying to learn French—sacrebleu). More on that later.

Dated 27 October 2008: Toradora! interest waning

Minori and Ryuuji
Minori and Ryuuji.

After four episodes, I'm finding little reason to continue watching Toradora! besides copious amounts of Yui Horie Sweetness. It's not a bad show—just not one I find too interesting right now. Oh, I'll probably still finish out the first season, but in all likelihood I'll wait until all the episodes are out and then marathon the remaining batch.

Ami
"Half-right, face!"

Unless there are sudden advances by Ami, the recently-introduced somewhat-militant new character, I think Minori has got Best Girl status locked up. Fully expect Minori to boat race the remainder of this show. [Update: That's not Ami. It's Sumire.]

Taiga
Taiga's blood sugar is probably low.

Taiga is pretty much out of contention altogether, despite enjoying Girl Next Door status. I'm glad that she's a basket case when she's anywhere near that boy she likes, but her constant need to have Ryuuji take care of her is tiresome.

Dated 4 November 2008: Ami brings Toradora! back from the brink

Not really Ami
This is Sumire.

So it turns out that new character from episode four wasn't Ami—it's Sumire. The two of them just have similar hair.

Ami
This is Ami.

The real Ami appears in episode five. Her two-faced nature is interesting enough to make me want to watch the next episode, so I won't just be following the show out of general principle.

Yasuko
Yasuko.

I rather dislike Ryuuji's slacker mom, although it would be okay if she was an unemployed older sister.

Dated 17 November 2008: Current Toradora! character rankings

Minori
Minori sees through your charade, Taiga.

Minori > Ami > Taiga > the teacher > Sumiere > random girls from class > the mom.

Dated 26 December 2008: Leftover Christmas Cake. In consideration of two-dimensional spinsters

Yuri
Yuri.

Toradora! prominently features an unmarried woman over the age of 25: Yuri, the teacher (who is actually more than just a little bit past 25). Today's entry celebrates this under-appreciated anime staple.

Haruka
Haruka.

Tokimeki Memorial ~Only Love~ features Haruka, a lonely 27-year-old who wiles away her time drinking Mexico Beer and playing Tokimeki Memorial Online, quietly envious of her preternaturally perfect student, Sayuri.

Yukari and Nyamo
Yukari and Nyamo strike out after a night trolling for husbands.

Yukari and Nyamo from Azumanga Daioh are unlucky in love, despite being the best teachers in the history of anime. (Yes, better than GTO.)

Kagome
Kagome.

According the the Mao-chan website, Kagome is 27 years old. She is reassigned to teach at Mao's school. Also, she is desperately in love with Mao's grandfather.

Naturally there are numerous other Christmas Cake characters I am omitting, but let us not dilute attention from these five sweethearts today by crowding the room, eh. You're the BEST GIRLS today, ladies.

Dated 7 January 2009: End of season review, Autumn 2008

Nodame
Nodame is more than a little imperfect, but
she makes up for it by being a sweetheart

Autumn 2008 did not produce any stellar shows1, meaning there wasn't a Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, Honey & Clover, Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann, or the like. There wasn't even a Lovely Complex. However, it did have some very solid titles and a few shows that demonstrated mid-series potential as they resume during the Winter 2009 season.

Saki
Not fully pictured: Saki's ridiculously enormous hammer.

Final rankings for shows I watched this season follow:

Kannagi > Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter > Hyakko > Toradora! > Shikabane Hime: Aka > Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight OVA > One Outs | Dropped: Kemeko DX (4) > Kurozuka (4) > Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka (?) > Casshern Sins (1) > Mouryou no Hako (1) > Toaru Majutsu no Index (4) > Michiko to Hatchin (1) | Worse Than Cosprayers: Kiss x Sis (1) > Macademi Wasshoi (1).

Amagasa and Torako
Torako is more than a little imperfect, but
she makes up for it by tormenting people.

Two big surprises this season. First, I had dismissed Kannagi based on its pre-season description, but it proved to be the cream of the crop. Second, I wasn't expecting to still be watching Shikabane Hime at this stage. Thankfully, it has kept shounen jive (e.g., too much standing around talking about powers instead of fighting) to a minimum. By the way, I totally called that Yui Horie twist even before I finished watching episode one, just so you know.

Makina
I went 10 episodes before noticing Makina's bare ass in the OP.
Now I can't not see it. It's Shikabane Hime's FEDEX arrow.

To give you an understanding as to how much I loathe shounen jive, bear in mind I dropped To Aru Majutsu no Index after episode four despite fully supporting the Shizuka Itou character's decision to wear half a pair of jeans with her kid sister's t-shirt. I just couldn't take any more speeches about Not Thinking About Other People's Feelings or any more boasting about fine nuances of Special Techniques and Powers. Criminy.

Kanzaki
I think I've actually seen people in L.A. dressed like this.

Many of the shows I dropped early on (for example, Casshern Sins) might actually be very good, but just didn't capture my interest. This is the same reason why I dropped Kaiba a couple seasons ago after watching no more than two episodes despite almost universal acclaim, for example.


Note 01: I'm not counting any of the Kara no Kyoukai movies as belonging to the Autumn 2008 season. Any of the films in this series would certainly qualify as stellar.

Dated 7 February 2009: Toradora! leads the way

Minori
Nothing runs faster than the blood from a broken silky heart.

My favorite part of the second Toradora! OP is Minori booking through the school.