When NIS America first announced their ingress into the realm of anime, enthusiasts were slightly perplexed. Although the incorporation of Persona -trinity soul- had an connection to the admired Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series of games, the publisher’s other commencement selection lacked a relationship to any stateside diversions. Whereas the cautious choice would have been to secure the rights to Makai Senki Disgaea from the now-defunct Geneon USA, Nippon Ichi’s American arm chose to take a chance on an unfamiliar romantic comedy.
With the recently released second half of Toradora!, it’s evident that NISA made an inspired decision. Although I was initially skeptical of the series’ high school setting and adolescent-age drama, Toradora!’s central and peripheral characters were rendered with an intriguing amount of depth. The first thirteen episodes introduce viewers to protagonist Ryūji Takasu, an industrious seventeen year old who has a crush on popular classmate. Instead of expressing his affections directly, Ryūji confers with the girl’s fiery best friend, Taiga. Despite an initial conflict, the two withdrawn students began opening up, and attraction inevitably develops. Where the first few episodes of Toradora! offered a watchable, if predictable comedy of errors, the later installments provide a captivating character study. Other series, such as School Rumble and Lovely Complex have offered comparable situations with contrived results, making Toradora!‘s depiction of the couple’s uneasy relationship wondrously refreshing.
One of the earmarks of gifted writing is a convincing and rewarding character arc. With the last twelve episodes of Toradora!, viewers are able to see how the series’ events subtly shape each protagonist, culminating in an effective, and aptly foreshadowed conclusion. Fortunately, the series animation, composed of vibrant colors, memorable character designs, and the occasional dazzling shot is equally as impressive.
One of the overarching complaints with the first volume of Persona -trinity soul- was the sporadically plodding pace. A few episodes boiled to an absorbing simmer, ended with a cliffhanger- then returned to the same brooding tempo. It was if the director, Jun Matsumoto wanted to deliberately avoid the tidy cadence of serialized anime. With the remaining thirteen episodes, the momentum picks up, concluding with a riveting multi-episode denouement.
The second half opens with Shin Kanzato, his brother Jun, along with family friends Takurō , Megumi and Kanaru both mourning and attempting to recuperate after a devastating attack in the thirteenth episode. The Marbito- youths who have received synthetic implantation, are becoming increasingly desperate for suppressant medication to control their Personas. To further complicate these evils, a mysterious rift universal consciousness represents a escalating threat to humanity; tribulations are teeming in Trinity Soul.
With impending catastrophe, artificial humans, consciousness jumping across characters, as well as the psychic alter-egos, Persona requires a viewers devoted attention. While some of the characters are given illuminating backstories, the series often delivers just as many uncertainties as explanations. As such, the audience must adjust to the series deliberately measured expositions. Smartly, the second disk contains a Perfect Guide, where producer Omatsu Yutaka offers additional elucidation.
Both Toradora! and Persona‘s second volumes are complements by gorgeous , hardcover art books which offer character biographies, artwork, interviews with voice actors, and an episode synopsis. I especially appreciated the Toradora! tome’s explanation of double entendres as well as Persona‘s architectural drawings. Each substantial box is elegantly detailed, with room to hold the book, as well as two THINpak cases. The only complaint with the packaging was the slight wrinkling on the plastic of the each DVD holder. Like the first volumes, each set contains subtitled episodes; NISA has decided to forgo the conventionally inferior English dubbing process.
Although the forty-eight price for the second volume of Toradora! and Persona -trinity soul- may seem elevated, be aware that each edition is exquisitely packaged, with a level of dedication which rivals the best box-sets. With the price of the first volumes already escalating, those interested in adding either of these two engaging anime to the their collection should probably act immediately. Until NISA gets around to putting an entire season of a series on a single Blu-ray, these will be the definitive disks.