Toradora vs. Index

(Spoiler: Toradora wins.)

Last Fall, Dengeki Light Novel series Toradora and Magical Index got the royal treatment from the great J.C.Staff: high production values and notable directors (Toradora director Tatsuyuki Nagai directed the second season of Honey and Clover, while Index director Hiroshi Nishikiori will be forever loved for Azumanga Daioh). Both light novel series are award-winning and highly-ranked.

Brought to you by J.C.Staff, home of all things loli.

Unbelievably spoilerish Toradora, Index, and Digimon Tamers (yes, that’s right) spoilers to follow. This includes who the Toradora end girl will be based on the end of the light novels. You were warned.

But it seems that Index has achieved its high rank due to pandering, random cool details, and the amazing artwork of Kiyotaka Haimura, more than actually being a well-written story.

J.C.Staff and Nishikiori cannot escape blame for the slow pacing of Index overall and execution errors (although really the first half of Episode 6 is the only serious execution error I can think of at this moment), but many of the major errors in Index can be traced all the way back to the source material. I’ll admit I haven’t read the novels, but professional translator Andrew Cunningham has, and he lets the Index novels (vol. 7 in particular) have it:

To Aru Majutsu no Index 7 is, hopefully, the worst book in the damn series, committing a litany of sins that essentially define everything wrong with the series and why I am forced to refer to it as a guilty pleasure.

* Pedo miniskirt nun. Pander more, I dare you.

* Virgin porn – accidentally stumbling into the bathhouse, waking up to find her sleeping on top of his futon in her underwear. Less and less tolerable as time goes on. Seriously, can we just have some fucking once in a while?

* Exposition from hell. I swear, virtually nothing happens for half the fucking book while all kinds of shit gets explained at great length.

* Purple prose attack. While ridiculously obvious psychological attacks being the single best way to make a character’s feeble mind crumble is a long standing tradition in Japanese fiction, Jesus Christ does that shit get laughably overwrought in this fucking series.

What’s wrong with Index? Pacing? Touma being overly preachy? Extended exposition? Index herself not playing a major role after the first six episodes despite being the title character? Explanations that contain too much dialogue and too little demonstration, and eventually boiling down to “because we said so, deal with it”? Gratuitous pandering? From what I have heard people say about the novels on various forums, and from what I have read of the manga, the problem is in the source. And when you adapt faithfully from a source that has problems such as these, it can only mean trouble.

This hate on Index (which I am actually still enjoying, for the many good points that it does have) and its source contrasts with the fact that its fellow award-winning light novel and J.C.Staff project Toradora does not suffer from these problems. You can see for yourself by reading the translated novel or the manga.

Index is reduced to a comic relief character after her arc and Aisa’s arc end. The fact that she has all those books in her head hasn’t mattered at all in the third to fifth novels. I wonder how people felt after Mikoto’s electric entrance in the first novel (which really served no purpose other than to demonstrate Touma’s powers and his bad luck) followed by her disappearing for a whole book and a half before her arc started. In contrast, Toradora‘s heroines are relevant all the time, and even the side character who disappears, Sumire, leaves a lasting impact on the main cast (as opposed to say, “shrine maiden who shrine maidens just for the sake of shrine maidening” Aisa, who was so irrelevant they skipped her novel in the manga adaptation of Index.)

Toradora also has the superior male lead. Touma was cool until the “villains” showed up, and his true nature was revealed: he will preach long annoying sermons to anyone he perceives as being on a lower moral ground. The Railgun spinoff manga showed that Kazuma Kamachi learned his lesson: Touma is better off as a side character. While Toradora‘s Ryuji will get preachy at times (see when he convinced Taiga to try and make up with her father) his sermons are shorter and more natural – in his place I could see myself telling Taiga off in the same way. And really, it comes down to gut reaction: even if Ryuji is being stupid and dense, you feel for him, whereas J.C.Staff depicted Touma getting killed twice in Index-tan because people wanted to see him shut the hell up.

Index has a problem with telling rather than showing. The Accelerator’s story is the classic story of a shonen action villain who desires power over everything else, but after his defeat comes to learn that true strength comes from having someone to protect, and turns out to be more like the main hero than we suspected he would be. What actually comes to mind is Impmon from Digimon Tamers (don’t laugh, it works).

Watching as the protagonists’ Digimon “digivolve” to stronger forms while he’s stuck in his wimpy imp form, Impmon jumps at the chance when a dark entity offers him power, evolving to Beelzemon. It’s an established fact of the world that a Digimon can download the data of a defeated Digimon to grow stronger, but Beelzemon seems to gain the powers of the Digimon he defeats in addition to the conventional strength boost. He gains Leomon’s Fist of the Beast King attack, and Makuramon’s Primal Orb attack by killing those Digimon, and doesn’t hesitate to use those powers when a relevant situation arises. But eventually, after his defeat at the hands of Gallantmon, Impmon returns to his Tamers, Ai and Mako, who he has rebelled against all this time. Realizing that his defeat was a result of Gallantmon’s bond with his Tamer Takato (driven home by the fact that digivolving to Gallantmon involves Takato physically merging with Guilmon) Impmon makes up with Ai and Mako. Impmon’s Tamers then give him a toy gun, which he merges with in order to become Blast Mode Beelzemon, and ends up being a strong ally for Takato and the others.

As for the Accelerator, he supposedly gains strength whenever he kills a Misaka clone, and if he kills enough, he will reach a new level of power. But since the Accelerator never started out weak (and in fact, is so strong no other esper can think of defeating him) his increase in power with each kill is never apparent. We are simply left to believe that once he reaches 20,000 he will digivolve, and supposedly a random supercomputer on a satellite calculated this and Mikoto thinks that because she’s worth 10,000 of her clones she should let herself get killed so the Accelerator can gain more power without having to kill any more clones. But all the details about the tree diagram and the experiment and Mikoto’s intended sacrifice are meaningless because we are never convinced that killing 20,000 clones will power up the Accelerator in the first place. What is the use of a long and detailed explanation if all it boils down to is “Because we said so, deal with it”?

The demonstration of the Accelerator’s change of heart after his defeat at the hands of Touma, also has issues. The story of the Last Order definitely shows that the Accelerator is like Touma in that he has to make a great sacrifice in order to protect a certain loli. But unlike Impmon, who became more powerful as a result of seeing the light, the Accelerator’s powers were nerfed as a result of him saving the Last Order. I know it’s because the Accelerator’s powers were so great that not limiting them in some way would unbalance the story, and he gained a friend from his actions, thus learning the lesson that even if he lost a lot of his power, he had gained something of greater importance. Although I think it would be better if he wasn’t punished for doing the right thing.

Seriously, Kamachi and Haimura, what the hell. The Accelerator’s story is the best story in Index, and yet freaking Digimon did it better. Although I must say it’s a good sign that serious moe-pandering can make up for deficiencies in story and raise Index to almost as high a rank as Toradora. I’ll make sure to abuse this fact in my next project.

Although there is still definitely moe-pandering in Toradora, it doesn’t exist for the sake of moe or for the covering up of the lack of literary merit. Taiga doesn’t just say that Christmas is special to her. It’s cliche for someone to suddenly turn good for Santa, but when you see how Taiga behaves during the holiday season versus how she behaves by default, you know it’s special to her. The dialogue is never “because we said so, deal with it”, and always works to build the image of the characters, unlike Touma who simply takes one side of a moral dilemma and recites it out loud. Ami’s subtle (and overt) flirting. Minori’s analogy about ghosts and UFOs. Minori’s sudden gloominess when she realizes, with her typical uncanny insight, that the Inevitable is happening between the Tiger and Dragon. It gives us insights into their characters that Touma’s preaching never did for Touma.

Tsundere love. Isn’t it sweet?

Sankaku Complex suspects a deliberate coordination between J.C.Staff and the Toradora author Yuyuko Takemiya. This consumes the source material at a quick rate that never allows the story to stagnate. Toradora is covering 10 novels in 24-26 episodes, while Index has been taking 3 to 6 episodes per novel and will probably only cover six novels. And, more importantly, Toradora will end cleanly and with finality. Those of you who, like myself, were disappointed in Index being merely a guilty pleasure and not becoming J.C.Staff’s next classic after Potemayo can take heart: Toradora is that new classic.

Toradora has unexpected depth, humor, and heart that set the new standard for tsundere love stories. Ami starts out as two-faced, Taiga as bitchy and violent, and Yusaku as boring. But before you know it, you care about what’s happening to them. As the AkibaBlog put it, “Toradora is the tsundere anime that surpasses everything”.

For those who were worried about Toradora having an ambiguous or unsatisfying ending, the 10th and final volume, which will be the conclusion of the anime adaptation, should put your fears to rest for great justice. Seriously, the ending should surprise no one. Ami-chan and Minorin fans, did you really think it was going to end any other way?

Tora x Dora ending. Which is as it should be.

What have you got, Index?

7 Responses to “Toradora vs. Index”

  1. Samu-kun says:

    Long post is long. =w=

    Awwwww, Taiga wins? I get the hunch that maybe things will turn out differently in the anime…

  2. Samu-kun says:

    And uguuu, I got spoiled. I thought you meant Toradora anime spoilers, and I’m all caught up, so I wasn’t expecting the ending to the light novel. -_-;

  3. Sixten says:

    Okay then, I’ll make the warning more explicit.

    But did you actually think it would be a Minori or Ami ending? The only beast that can stand beside the Tiger is the Dragon.

  4. Author says:

    If may be a fun job for an obssessive fan to identify who among J.C.Staff’s staff belong to the first string. They are so big now that it clearly is time to subdivide. I think they do at least two shows next season as well.

  5. TheNewHorde says:

    I really like that image you have that has Taiga lying on Ryuuji.

    Do you by any chance have a higher resolution one?

  6. Sixten says:

    I got that image here.

  7. Max465 says:

    I know it was expected that Taiga and Ryuuji got paired in the end, but if always felt a little off to me. I never felt natural and felt more like puppy love than true love, and sometimes Ryuuji’s feelings seemed forced, almost like he was with Taiga because he felt he had to be. I don’t think Ami x Ryuuji would have been any more believable(Although it was the pair I was supporting), but I do think Minori x Ryuuji was the most natural pair.

    I love both Toradora and Index and think they’re both amazing. I think you praise Toradora too much and lower the greatness that it’s Index. I agree that the characters in Index aren’t as good as the ones in Toradora, but the story is much better. Toaradora’s story, although certainly having certain twists in turns goes in a very linear direction and the ending that happened doesn’t feel surprising at all. While I still have no clue where index is going, and it keeps me entertained trying to figure out where the story is going to go.

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