Fun fact: of all the notes I’ve taken on this show thus far (12.5 pages thus far), these were by far my most neatly written ones. That might seem kind of random and trivial, but it’s pretty surprising how particular episodes or particular shows can inspire me to write differently, whether that be in my prose or my handwriting. This episode is one such episode—nuanced and subtle when it needs to be, painfully obvious when the time comes for it to be so. At this point, I pretty much feel like Taiga’s real feelings are crystal clear to the audience, even if she hasn’t figured them out herself.
(I’m a really big fan of the camera work for these three cuts out of the OP, so I thought I’d feature them here before the OP changes in just a few episodes.)
0:29—Ami’s really playing dirty now, threatening Taiga with taking Takasu away, not Kitamura. She doesn’t even really have to be using a real possibility, just threatening, and its enough to irk Taiga.
0:37—To reference my notes from last episode: it’s companionship, the act of being together, on which Taiga and Ryuuji’s relationship is built. Ami’s threatening the very foundation of what brings them together.
3:35—Ryuuji sticks up for Taiga when no one else will; here, there’s a shift from the way comedy’s been used in past episode. Previously, it’s frequently been used to dampen the impact of some truly sad things the characters say. This time, it kind of glosses how touching this action is. It should be obvious by this point that Ryuuji reaching into Taiga’s isolation is a huge deal for Taiga, even if she can’t admit it.
4:22—You have to wonder if their classmates want to lose their money by provoking Taiga like this…
4:51—This shot mirrors the overhead shot from the last episode: again, it’s just the two of them, each doing their own thing, but together.
5:28—That would make sense, Ryuuji, but…
5:41/5:58—Somebody sneaky snuck in just a few notes from the melody from the Chariots of Fire theme song. It’s even in the same key! Cool to have a little reference like that in the music for Taiga’s training montage.
6:21—I love that Kitamura comes over to mention his own bet. It’s kind of a win-win for Kitamura; he gets to help prop Taiga up and work to break down Ami’s barriers at the same time.
6:40—A+ wingman work from Ryuuji.
6:56—Yup, she is. And this is a cute little parallel from the way Taiga treats Ryuuji, just colored by his own personality.
7:43/7:49—There are a lot of important lines that cross shots in this episode. Ami’s kind of on the border between her fake and real personalities in this scene, but it’s pretty apparent that this whole deal isn’t just about beating Taiga to her. You can see it in her face. That’s an authentic smile, not a constructed grin.
8:46—What does it mean to love someone, guys?
9:04/9:08—This is really a beautiful gesture from Minori. It’s been made pretty clear that, before Ryuuji, Minori was all Taiga had. But there’s not much room left for Minori to do now with all that Ryuuji does for Taiga, so she gracefully steps aside, placing her precious friend into Ryuuji’s care. It’s a lovely display of friendship and true caring. Minori’s not thinking about herself here, only Taiga. Again, this is why I love Toradora! so much. It proves, time and time again, that loving someone isn’t just being in love with them. It’s much more than that.
10:42—You would know, yeah?
11:37—I actually ended up watching this scene a couple times because I couldn’t make myself pause to take screencaps at first. It’s such an important conversation that contains so many of the good things and bad things about their relationship. Right here, Ryuuji’s missing the first clue that he needed to stop.
12:08—It’s not that he’s wrong. In fact, he gets closer with every guess he makes, but Taiga keeps trying to tell him she wants him to stop without actually saying it.
12:45—This is the first time she’s lied in this conversation. Until this point, she’s been totally honest.
13:01—And this isn’t an unfair question. To some degree, Ryuuji has invaded her life, sometimes without regards to how she feels, all in the name of supporting her. A lot of things Taiga has told him straight up already (“I’ve never been a burden on anyone.” “You should stop making assumptions.”) are getting played out here.
13:28—What does it mean to understand someone? It doesn’t mean to assume you know what they’re thinking. It means you listen to them and understand what they tell you.
13:38—This is the right question to ask. You give the other person the option to let you in.
13:56—Yup. Taiga’s definitely wrestling with a muddle of confusing, maybe even opposing emotions right now. Having someone else tell her how she is…that’s exactly what she doesn’t need right now.
14:26—If you have to ask this question, you already know the answer.
15:01—Everything besides the words she actually said protest this very idea.
15:21—Yasuko agrees with me.
15:27—A wonderful moment of parenting from Yasuko through an oblique reference to how families work.
16:22—And he says exactly the right thing this time. Here’s another reason to love Toradora! The characters actually learn from their interactions with each other and actively work to restore their relationships.
17:19—We won’t know until she tries. She has to choose not to be alone.
17:29—More proof that Ryuuji learns. He listens. He tries to understand her as best he can.
18:30—Because why not
19:39—Yup. Taiga probably tries harder than anyone else.
20:22—First time watchers, I’m so glad that you got to see what’s coming next.
20:48—Where is Taiga always looking? Where is her foundation?
20:57—No explanation needed. It’s all out now.
21:57—This is what it means to not understand yourself, desho~?
22:13—More of Ami not acting. Ryuuji may not be able to tell the difference, but at this point it’s pretty much obvious that Ami isn’t joking around about this.
Man, this is such a killer episode for this show. It’s not just the pool scenes. It’s Kitamura and Minori both being incredibly generous with their friendship and trust; it’s Yasuko giving Ryuuji incredible relationship advice even as she’s falling asleep. Honestly, this Minori’s conversation with Ryuuji almost steals the end of the second pool scene’s place as the highlight of the episode for me. Minori is such an incredible example of a good friend; the purity of her friendship and person just glow in that scene. Taiga’s really lucky to have her.