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Toradora! Complete Series Bilingual Premium Edition DVD/BD Combo Set
NIS:  $158.98; 8 discs; DVD, Blu-ray and book

Based on the light novels of Yuyuku Takemiya, the popular series Toradora! is less a romcom than a romfar, a romantic farce involving a group of mismatched teen-agers.

Many of the students at Ohashi High are afraid of Ryuji Takasu (voice by Erik Kimerer). He’s tall, with a baleful stare that suggests a juvenile delinquent about go berserk. But he’s really a singularly domestic kid--an excellent cook and a ferocious neat freak (you could perform surgery in his room). Give him spot of mold, a brush, and some disinfectant, and he’s happy camper

Ryuji nurtures an unspoken crush on Minori Kushieda (Christine Marie Cabanos), the red-haired captain of the girl’s baseball team. Relentlessly upbeat and energetic, Minori works at a never-ending series of part-time jobs, saving money for a college with a good baseball program.

Since elementary school, Minori’s best friend has been Taiga Aisaka (Cassandra Lee), a.k.a. “The Palm Top Tiger.” Taiga is pretty and petite, but so volatile, her friends should set out warning flares when she walks down the hall. When she’s not punching, kicking or berating one of her classmates, Taiga moons over school vice-president Yusaku Kitamura (Johnny Yong Bosch), who’s pleasant, athletic, intelligent and clueless.

Rounding out the group is popular teen model Ami Kawashima (Erika Harlacher), whose squeaky clean exterior conceals a smug, manipulative personality. But even her aloof cynicism gradually crumbles when confronted with Ryuji’s kindness and sincerity.

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Alienated from her wealthy family, Taiga lives in a big apartment by herself—next door to the much humbler flat Ryuji shares with his mother, an often tipsy bar hostess who’s rarely home. Ryuji begins cooking for Taiga and helping her with her campaign to win Yusaku’s heart—in return for a few tips about pleasing Minori. Their relationship is often stormy: Taiga bullies Ryuji shamelessly, referring to him as her dog, punching him, throwing tantrums and making endless demands. But  Ryuji is insightful enough to perceive her underlying loneliness.
Her apartment is big, luxurious, Western, cold and empty. In contrast, the Takasu family apartment represents the popular image of a traditional Japanese home. Not only are there tatami mats on the floors, Ryuji cooks old-fashioned dishes for her. He even prepares the ultimate symbol of devotion in anime stories, the traditional bento box lunch.

Director Tatsuyuki Nagai and his crew focus a lot of attention on the cuteness of girls and their emotional reactions to the romantic complications. But Toradora! is really Ryuji’s story. Like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, an obstreperous female is at the center of the action, demanding her way. Like the long-suffering Kyon in Suzumiya, Ryuji actually gets things done—which makes him more interesting.

Despite their hard-fought, comic campaigns to win Minori and Yusaku, Ryuji and Taiga end up falling for each other—something the audience can see coming from the first minutes of Episode #1. But the fun comes from the misunderstandings, faux pas, vain hopes, elaborate schemes and confusion that occur during a typical round of high school activities. Toradora! gets a little needlessly melodramatic near the end, but the satisfaction and laughs of its conclusion are worth waiting for.

The Blu-ray/DVD box set comes with a several extras, including slapstick OAV’s and a booklet containing artwork and interviews with several of the key artists.