Time for the last of the character introduction episodes—we get the final member of our main cast, Ami Kawashima. I know Ami is pretty well-beloved of the Toradora! fandom in general, but overall I wasn’t totally enamored with her character after my first watch. That being said, I think she’s pretty darn fascinating, both as a character in her own right and as a subversion of the dojikko trope. Sometimes, I even think that Ami might be a more tragic character than anyone else in this show…
0:13—Ryuuji’s pretty much to the point where he can handle Taiga’s whining without letting it affect him. That’s what we call acclimation, folks.
0:45—This is a pretty innocuous start to an episode that’s going to introduce an entirely new character. Just some fun banter…kids these days, never respecting their elders.
1:13—Deals are pretty hard to strike with someone like Taiga, but Ryuuji knows which buttons to push.
3:46—The pride of a tiger. Remember, Taiga moved away from her family of her own volition. She’s proud of being independent even as so much of her behavior begs for family and community and acceptance and love. They aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive things, but for Taiga they might as well be.
4:13—How’s that for foreshadowing?
4:52—Childhood friend? Aww man, you just know she’s doomed in whatever relationship she chooses to pursue.
5:09—Which is such a shame for a nice, innocent girl like her.
5:52—But wait! We already have a clumsy airhead around here!
6:07—And then Kitamura just ditches Ryuuji, very obviously. If he didn’t have a plan, you’d say that was a jerk move.
6:48—And this is such a curious moment if you don’t know what’s coming. After all, what’s the point in spying on a airhead like Ami? She’s not likely to do anything interesting at all.
7:21—And then here it comes. The unveiling of the best. It’s pretty interesting that she immediately targets Taiga while holding the assumption she won’t ever see her again. Like, there’s a difference between being a nasty personality and actively going out of your way to attack other people. Ami does the later.
7:24—But Taiga’s reaction to Ami is almost…bored? Is it because Taiga is ordinarily so harsh herself that she’s easily able to shrug off most of Ami’s abuse?
7:36—To be honest, this is one of those few lines in Toradora! that I wish weren’t around. It’s a little too conscious of being a story and it doesn’t really sound all that much like something Ryuuji would actually say.
7:52—No reaction to somewhat indirect abuse? Ami changes tactics and directly attacks Taiga. She’s really just searching, looking for the thing she can say that will hurt the most. It’s really a pretty nasty way to relate to people, one that kind of shoots indiscriminately until it finds a weak spot, then targets that mercilessly.
8:06—Taiga is super thoughtful. It’s actually interesting how rattled Ami is after Taiga retaliates, as if she’s used to people just cowering before her.
8:49/8:58—Emotionally, Taiga’s all over the place in this scene, oscillating between anger and worry and everything rapidly. I think this kind of highlights nicely Ami functions as a counterpoint to Taiga. They both really struggle to relate well to people and both have a nasty side to them, but they go about seeking connection in very different ways. Ami just makes fake connections while Taiga pushes anything disingenuous away.
9:51—This is a really cleverly done scene. We get all the cheery Ami smiles and the teacher’s positivity and the class’ thrilled reactions, but its undercut by the darker music and by what we already know about Ami.
9:58—It seems like Taiga really has the upper hand in the battle between her and Ami; she can rattle the model with only look.
10:50—Well, she must be a bad lady then!
11:04—So interesting to see the dojikko trope treated like this, played fake (which it is, because it’s a genre construct designed to appeal to a certain type of person!) by someone who’s exactly the opposite. It’s kind of a circling meta-reversal thing; playing with expectations, I think, is the phrase people would use. And this isn’t even the most interesting thing about Ami. Sure, it’s cool that she sort of modulates the trope in a way that reveals its inherent nature as a fictional construct, but why is she like that? That’s the more interesting question.
11:41—Honestly, that’s kind a questionable decision Kitamura is making. I understand the sentiment of what he wants to have happen to her, but having no problems with the way she treats people? Eh….
13:08—She doesn’t even know that every extra lie she tells undermines her relationship with him. It’s a fascinating dynamic between what she knows and what we and Ryuuji know. It almost feels like she wouldn’t care even if she knew.
13:30—The best lies, they say, always have an element of truth in them
14:08—This is like General High School Relationships with Girls 101: don’t hang out with girl the girls you’re friends with hate.
14:31—For a genki, Minori has pretty darn good people sense.
15:21—NO AIRHEADS. You’ve all seen the gif. The real kicker, for me, is that this happens while the teacher’s back is turned.
16:02—This is a cool shot, and it’s followed by the neat moment of Taiga acknowledging, if only a bit, that she’s warming up to Ryuuji.
16:47—Taiga DOES NOT like her, to the point of being excited to see Ami’s inevitable fall. But it also displays a surprising amount of people sense from Taiga in that she’s aware how unsteady Ami’s facade is.
17:37—I really like that Ami gets a chance to even the playing field between her and Taiga here. Again, she just shoots until she hits a sensitive spot, but there’s more give and take in this relationship than Taiga being able to blackmail Ami with the knowledge of her true nature and her physical intimidation.
18:22—Well said, Yasuko.
19:23—Despite her tough exterior, Taiga folds pretty easily when you hit her in the right place: her crush. Giving your love to someone is, by nature, a vulnerable moment, and it does make you susceptible to the types of people who are willing to exploit that emotion (and to the unpredictable waves of your own feelings).
20:07—More of Taiga’s insecurities leaking out in comedic scenes.
20:35—An ironic truth. Well, at least the first half of it.
21:29—Oh. And there’s the first clue we get about what’s really going on with Ami.
22:19—The foils, the foils! Or, perhaps Ami is just similar enough to Taiga that it’s easier for Taiga to understand what’s happening.
And that’s the introduction of our final ingredient to this mix of lovable, but flawed, high school kids. I honestly don’t remember all that much about how the details of Ami’s arc play out, so I’m excited to get to experience them again. After watching this episode, I will say that I am a lot more fascinated by Ami at this point than I was back when I first watched the series. There’s an internal logic to the way she acts that makes her feel consistent, but her reasons are pretty effectively shrouded in mystery at this point. I can’t wait for the next episode.