Anime to watch in lockdown: Toradora

I’ve written before that Anime can be great for escapism – something we all need during lockdown! Animation takes us away from reality, pampers the imagination, and in many cases takes us to superb vistas whilst we are limited in where we can travel. And I make no apology for watching anime – it doesn’t replace a good book or some of the great TV drama, but it is a breath of fresh air with some really great story-telling at its heart.

Assorted anime images

So, for each of the next five weeks, I’ll be recommending an anime series that’s great to binge watch – including some I’ve not previously mentioned. I’m focussing on shows that give you a feel-good vibe once credits roll on the final episode (though fair warning, some may put you through the wringer getting there). All are really good productions and I’ve chosen a wide range of genres.

Anime spectacular images

Don’t expect these shows to be a shot-for-shot transfer of TV drama into cartoon form – this is animation for heaven’s sake, and there’s certain tricks they always use, even if anime is better than most Western animation! And if you think some shows will be childish in parts – again, well of course they will be now and then! But I can guarantee great stories, a diverse range of characters, and some really well-rendered artwork.

My first recommendation is a show called Toradora.


…if the Christmas episode doesn’t have you both smiling and welling up just a tad, you’re not human…”

Toradora TV show poster

Toradora: J.C. Staff Studio 2008, 25 episodes, 8/10 on IMDB.

As you can probably tell by the image, Toradora is a school set romcom – but seriously, don’t let that put you off. Its quirky characters, humour and bittersweet moments made it feel to me like watching Friends, and there’s some absolutely beautiful segments of animation.

Toradora centres around Ryuji and Taiga, both in their last year at school in Tokyo and recent neighbours. Ryuji’s thuggish appearance scares most people, even though his temperament is the exact opposite, whilst Taiga is nicknamed the ‘Palm-top Tiger’, on account of her short size and even shorter temper. Neither particularly likes the other on their first meeting, but they are romantically interested in each other’s best friend (Yuusaka and Minori), so agree to work together to solve their problems.

Various images from Toradora

There’s not necessarily any huge surprises in the way the story goes, but that doesn’t lessen the enjoyment. As the show moves on you slowly learn more about each of the main characters, and even if you didn’t like them at the start (you probably won’t), that will change as the plot develops. Above all else, Toradora understands relationships: not every character gets the happy ending they want; there’s no sudden magic wand to make things the way they want them to be; and it takes time and effort for true relationships to be formed.

This isn’t to say the show isn’t without its down sides. The character of Ryuji’s mother could have been much better developed earlier on; there’s a whole sub-plot involving Ryuji’s friend Yuusaka that came almost out of nowhere; and typically of anime, the first few episodes are slow as they build both characters and setting, although there’s huge payback in the second half of the series. And what is it with that parrot?

Various images from Toradora

But these criticisms are churlish. Toradora is a charming likeable show, suitable for adults and older children. The overall story arc is really well written, now and then venturing into some dark pits before pulling back. And honestly, if the Christmas episode doesn’t have you both smiling and welling up just a tad, you’re not human! This is easily the best romcom I’ve encountered so far in Anime, and its tale comes to a very satisfying and definitive ending.

At the time of writing, Toradora is available on both Amazon Prime and Netflix. (Or you can borrow my DVD…!) The English dub version is pretty good, though I think watching it in Japanese with subtitles works better.

A very different show next week…!

Anime landscapes

Page updated 30/01/2021