Toradora!: Volume One- Premium Edition, Early Review
By Marc | June 27th, 2010
A new company arrives with a series that has a bit of a following.
Toradora! is finally coming to the USA via NIS America. Rather than just getting the vanilla treatment though, NIS is going the premium route for their anime releases. Does Toradora! (last time I use the exclamation point…) end up being a good start for them?
The packaging for Toradora is quite nice. It’s more like what you get when you buy a DC Comics Absolute Edition book than an anime set. And it’s quite brilliant packaging (fantastic that NIS had press assets, cause while I’m trying to improve my camera skills… well, let’s just say their pictures came out way better than mine.) In the box that holds everything we get a nice big image of the primary cast. The print and color quality is very good. On the backside we get a purpley monochrome version of the front picture. Inside of the box you get the book and the disk cases. They actually slide in from the top, which in a tall case like this is something a bit new and interesting. The only problem with the main box is that if you want to stand it up on a bookshelf and slide it in sideways, there is copyright info on one side and… nothing on the other. It would have been nice if the show logo was on that side for display purposes, or maybe silhouettes of the characters like they appear in the intro.
Each of the disks is stored in a basic clear thinpak. The cases themselves are good quality. They won’t give you any problems holding or releasing the disks. The art on the front of each is good art used on the cover of volume one and volume two in Japan. On the back of each you get a basic description of the disk contents and some screenshots. Unfortunately there is a mistake here. The screenshots for episodes five, six and seven on disk one are reused for episodes eight, nine, and ten on disk two. Another thing to note is that the case actually lists the disks as letterboxed widescreen but the video itself is anamorphic. On the positive though, each insert on the other side has a monochrome version of another Japanese volume (three and four.) The packaging is quite good, but it is a bit disappointing that a few bits were missed in quality control.
The menu for Toradora is quite clean, and as a bonus it is styled similarly to the Japanese disks. Everything is done in clean readable text with sub-menus getting rounded buttons. An instrumental of the theme is playing. A simple menu, but quite pleasing. Should probably mention though that for whatever reason it seems to skip the menu and just go straight to the episode when you play the disk. For some people that’ll be a positive, for others a negative.
Toradora is a fun series that does a decent job of mixing comedy and drama. It doesn’t really break any new ground or even try to. It does something we’ve seen plenty of other times, and just does it as well as it can. It results in an enjoyable series.
The primary reason the series is enjoyable is because of the characters. The two main characters work well as a duo because they both polar opposites and mirrors. Ryuji is a hardworking guy who everyone assumes is a delinquent because of his ‘evil looking eyes’. Taiga is a tough girl who looks cute. They both have crushes and haven’t gotten the courage to say anything about it. And ironically (is this sorta plot still considered ironic with anime?) their crushes are each the other’s best friend. Due to various events they end up helping each other (mostly Ryuji helping Taiga…)
While I wouldn’t say the show itself is realistic, the characters act in a manner that will likely remind people of themselves and their worries and various things they did when they were teenagers. Halfway through the set a childhood friend of one of the crushes appears which provides a foil for Ryuji and Taiga: For Taiga it’s someone to headbutt with. For Ryuji it’s someone who doesn’t necessarily listen to him and pushes other potential paths for him and things to consider and deal with.
The show is entertaining and we get its version of the expected tropey cliche episodes that many series go with (at the pool, beach house, school festival, etc.), but the way it does makes them seem fresh in that there is always plot and characterization behind events. It’s truly a quality series. I’d likely say even if you don’t like this type of show it’s still worth a look as I’ll go ahead and place a wager that the characters will draw you in.
Video is where Toradora has the biggest problem. Encoded at 480 and interlaced, Toradora has quite a few video problems. Colors have been brightened compared to the Japanese release, which isn’t to big a deal or unexpected. The problem is the blurring, haloing and edge enhancement. It makes lines appear fuzzy and many other things appear murky. While the comparison image of Minorin clearly shows the R1 being substandard in nearly every way to its Japanese counterpart, the lower comparison of Ami shows that some stuttering from the R2 does not appear on the R1 disk, perhaps suggesting an entirely different video source than the R2. It’s also worth mentioning that the framing is slightly different on the R1, with a cleaner frame on all four edges. And I should probably note, those I used in the comparison just happened to be some of the few lossless screenshots I could find of the R2. The video in the release isn’t great, and honestly isn’t even good, but it isn’t horrible or unwatchable.
Update- NIS America has announced a recall program due to the video problems. When the new disks are available I plan on doing an updated review.
The audio on the other hand has no real problems, even if it isn’t fantastic. For Toradora we get a Dolby 2.0 track at 192k. Audio is clear and clean. It’s about on par with what is expected for anime DVDs. It’s probably helped by the fact that a good chunk of the series is characters talking and interacting with each other.
Being sub only, Toradora obviously does not have a dub (although if it’s obvious you have to wonder why I felt the need to say that…) The subtitles are quite clean and readable and I found that they read very naturally. At times slang appeared to be used, and since I can’t understand Japanese I can’t say if that is accurate or a bit of creative translating. Regardless, I felt it was worth mentioning because the subtitle script reads very well and made the experience more enjoyable. Names are kept in Japanese order and honorifics are used in the subtitles. It’s a subtitle track that stands out compared to some recent DVDs. The only thing I can recommend for future NIS releases is perhaps using a secondary color for when two people are talking at once, especially in a show like Toradora where characters often have arguments and discussions where people talk over each other.
It’s also worth mentioning… I tested the disk in multiple players, both standalone and on a computer. With one PC based player subtitles had a bit of crossover happening a decent amount (but played fine on all the other software players I tried.) It appears to be a glitch with how that player reads the timing of the subtitles (possibly with a slight error on the disk itself that most players can correct, but I’m not sure about that.) Just be aware the issue may exist and if you run into it, play it on something else.
Toradora has decent extras. We have the standard clean opening and closing. Both of these are interesting catchy songs with good animation behind them, so it is definitely nice to get that clean version of each. We also get two shorts with the characters as chibis with minor animal features. These are comedy shorts that are interesting if not exceptionally great. After that we get the book that helps make this package the premium release it is. It’s wider than it is tall, much like I remember Garfield collections be, but with a hardcover. We get lots of artwork with characters in various outfits, descriptions, character charts, and episode details for all the episodes in the set. It adds a significant amount to the package and is beyond the bonus items that were the norm when we had special and limited edition releases for nearly every show.
Toradora is one of the initial wave of releases from NIS America. It’s better than the first attempts we’ve expected from a few anime companies that jumped in feet first and vanished relatively quickly. Despite being a premium package the price isn’t as high as some of the more niche releases we saw from Bandai Visual USA, and is a small price premium over normal anime releases nowadays. The release only really has two flaws. The first is that the video quality is relatively poor for such a recent show. The other is that the packaging could have used one more round of quality control.
The show itself is great and I’d even say it’s a little bit special among a genre that tends to have quite a bit of trash. For a first try NIS didn’t hit the ball out of the park, but I’d say they are holding their own (a soccer reference would be more timely, but everything I could think of has to do with those damn horns.)
Show: A (It’s a great show. Worth a look)
Packaging: A (Great packaging, definitely worthy of that premium label. Reminiscent of premium graphic novel releases. Would have been an A+ if not for a few mistakes.)
Video Quality: C (The video could definitely be improved. It doesn’t look great, but it doesn’t look horrible either. Just disappointing that it wasn’t better.)
Audio Quality: B+ (Audio is clean and sounds good.)
Extras: A (The book alone adds so much to this release, but then you add on the shorts and you have quite a nice package here.)
Overall (not an average): B+ (It’s a good release for a great show. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a great first try and I think it’s a show that has a lot of rewatchability due to the fact that it’s just enjoyable.)
Gallery and copyright information under ad. All caps are lossless PNGs taken in MPC-HC, feel free to request more. (Caps are sized 853×480 so as to display properly on computer monitors, they were modified to this resolution via Photoshop CS4 as MPC-HC takes screen captures at 720×480 on the disc. Having the caps be 853×480 makes them appear at the properly intended aspect ratio.)
This show was reviewed using a screener in retail packaging.