24. Toradora! is a unique story. The greatness of Toradora is obscure until you come upon this central realization. It is the only romance story where no one dies, nothing goes wrong, the main characters get together and live happily ever after. This is extremely unorthodox. Most romance stories thrive on tragedy, drama, conflict -- they never allow the heroes to get together, and they most certainly don't allow anyone to be happy. Heroines in romance stories have far shorter lifespans than any hero in a shonen action genre. It's the most deadly job out there.
Toradora! is different. It has a common sense reason why the two main characters, Ryuuji and Taiga, don't immediately get together -- they both have crushes on someone else. They are brought together because they have crushes on mutual friends, not because they are particularly interested in one another. And because of this, it takes a lot of effort to first, fall out of love with their initial loved one, and second, to fall in love with each other. This effort allows a full length series to blossom, where we learn to like all the principal actors, and become fully invested in their welfare. The gentle flow of the plot, like a babbling brook passing by a log cabin, is a joy to immerse yourself within. By the time you notice, the story's over. It offers a decisive conclusion, Ryuuji and Taiga are going to marry, and that's that. This is another feature of a good romance, as opposed to bad ones, that just leave the guy unattached to the very end.
There are so many things to praise about Toradora, like the morality of passing up on a boy because your friend likes him, or whether you should claim him for yourself and may the best woman win. What if both friends pass up on the boy to each other's benefit? Who benefits then? Then everyone's unhappy. There's a place for selfishness in life.
But perhaps my favorite part of toradora is just the art and music. Everything is so light and colorful. The voice actors are so bright and cheerful. It's such a wholesome, joyful experience from start to finish. Yes, there are moving moments. Taiga nearly dies during a ski trip. But even so, just the way the story is presented keeps things on the lighter side. Toradora is like the good twin of Ef. If Ef tries to be the darkest romances possible, then Toradora tries to be the lightest. And to me, Toradora wins thereby. There's enough darkness in this world, that we don't have to go around seeking out more.