I should have known I’d be a sucker for romance anime. One of my absolute, all-time favorites is a baseball series called Cross Game. Now, I love this show for many reasons , and a fairly prominent reason is the romantic drama therein. However, romance is only part of the story of Cross Game, so I just assumed I preferred romance as a side dish rather than a main course. I could not have been more wrong.
During summer of this year, I was in a bit of an anime rut. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to watch, and stuff I should have liked just wasn’t jumping off the screen at me like it used to. I needed a change of pace; I needed something different. Somehow or other, scrolling through Crunchyroll’s library, I ended up on Golden Time. The girl pictured in the key art looked very pretty, and, once again, I wanted to ssstep out of my comfort zone. Why not try a rom com?
By the time I’d finished, the show had taken me on an emotional roller coaster–part of which included being so upset at the anime itself I considered not finishing it. I was super happy that Koko and Banri got together relatively quickly and that the anime was about the ups and down of their relationship. This was something different from the “Will they or won’t they?” of Cross Game, and I got really into it.
The ending, though. I will try to be vague and avoid spoilers. So, just when you think our young couple have really gotten to a good place, there is an absolute monster of a twist that changes everything about the show and its relationship dynamics. And, this happens VERY near the end. I was distraught. It’s one thing for a series to end in a tragic manner, conveying the message that love doesn’t exist or is pointless. I can get down with some nihilism. It’s just that Golden Time completely pulls the rug out from under you. If it wanted to present some kind of hopeless message, it wouldn’t have had the characters actually fall in love only to be cheaply separated by a super ridiculous plot move.
Know the best way to make up for a ridiculous story beat that flops? Pile an even more ridiculous one on top of it! Just as quickly as the world is turned upside down, Golden Time flips it back. Romantic idiots like me get concluding moments that we can at least be somewhat satisfied with. I know I didn’t care what the show had to do, but the show absolutely needed to get back on course.
You are probably thinking that I don’t recommend the show or consider it to be sub-par. Perhaps it’s Stockholm syndrome talking, but I actually still unabashedly love Golden Time, despite its giant misstep. The dramatic and comedic aspects of the series both work well, and, like I said, I really like Koko and Banri as a couple. You just have to go into this thing knowing that there will be one scream-inducing moment towards the end, but you should also be aware that the show undoes the damage. My enduring memories of this anime are good ones, so, if you enjoy romance anime, especially the one I’m about to mention, then you won’t regret giving Golden Time a shot.
So, a couple of months pass, and Viewster suddenly licenses Yuyuko’s most well-regarded anime adaptation, Toradora!. Finally able to watch the series on my mobile device, I fire up the first episode. I was a little hesitant to give myself over to Toradora! initially, as I was protective of its less-esteemed elder sibling, Golden Time. “Everyone just loves Toradora! more because they saw it first,” I thought, “They’re just blinded by nostalgia. Not like me!” No, nothing like me at all here. Lack of self-reflection aside, I once again found out I was wrong.
The cast of Toradora! is even more endearing and funny and heartbreaking than that of Golden Time. My feelings about Taiga, the main female character, ran the full gamut: first she annoys me, then she makes me laugh, now she’s really fun, I REALLY LOVE HER AND WANT HER TO BE HAPPY!! She grew from inducing eye rolls to evoking my deep affection. And, then there’s Ryuji. I had preconceptions about his character, but throughout the course of the show, he is revealed to be a fairly complex and interesting fellow. Your friend and mine Max always eagerly points out that Toradora! is at its best when Taiga and Ryuji are fighting. Tension builds and eventually boils over into shouting matches that are just peak drama.
However, as much as I love those parts of the show, I have to disagree with Max. I like Toradora! best when Taiga and Ryuji are bonding, when they are being kind to each other and unwittingly falling for each other. Sure, they fight, but those two are also pretty tender with one another during the show’s quieter moments. Hell, if my own daughter could find a boy like Ryuji, I think I could let go a little bit easier.
Toradora! ends quite well too. If you’re a romantic idiot (e.g. me), you get enough of what you want, but the finale is not too saccharine because you don’t get absolutely everything you’d want in your dream scenario.
Most anime fans probably know about Yuyuko’s adaptations, but if you haven’t checked them out for yourself, you’re missing out.