I should preface this by saying that Toradora is my favorite anime of all time. So maybe, admittedly, I’m a little bit biased. However, I think Toradora gets unfairly criticized at times.
The main criticism I see is that Taiga is a jerk who constantly punches and hits the main character. They basically say that she’s no different from all the violent tsunderes that are a dime a dozen. However, I feel she’s different from a lot of the other violent tsunderes that were prevalent in the 2000s. For starters, she isn’t punching the main character, Ryuuji, because she’s in love with him. She doesn’t fall in love with him until roughly 1/3rd of the way through the series. Her anger comes from her inability to properly process emotions and her lack of trusting others. She was never taught by her parents how to properly deal with her feelings. On top of that, her dad has abandoned her countless times when she really needed him. That is sure to make anyone an insecure mess.
Second, and I think this is very important, she does change and grow as a character. A couple years ago, I counted the amount of times Taiga hit, smacked, or punched Ryuuji. And in the first three episodes, the total was something like 40. However, near the end of the series, Taiga didn’t really punch Ryuuji anymore. Maybe once an episode, but that’s it.
I know the criticism then is “Oh, but one is still too much.” On top of that, you’ll have people saying “If she truly changed, how come she headbutted Ryuuji when he said he loved her?” But I view that as more of an involuntary reaction. When you spend your whole upbringing unsure of how to deal with your feelings and being scared of having your heart broken again, it takes a long rebuilding process to build back up that trust. It’s not just something that randomly goes away.
If you’re timid and frightened and feel the best course of action is violence, thereby making the people run away before they get too close to you, you can’t randomly stop being violent. You have to continuously work on it.
Controlling one’s temper is a lot like recovering from alcohol. It requires a lot of mental and physical preparation. I speak from experience, as I have major anger issues. When you’re of a mindset where you have to be violent in order to make people not want to be around you, it’s really tough when you finally decide to let your guard down and they do something nice for you. Because you’re waiting for the shoe to drop and for them to stomp all over your heart.